Roy Harris Issues "The Language Machine," a Critique of Computational Linguistics


In 1987 Integrational linguist Roy Harris published The Language Machine.

"This volume completes the trilogy which began with The Language-Makers (1980) and The Language Myth (1981). The Language Machine examines the impact of the electronic computer on modern conceptions of language and communication. When Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels the notion that a machine could handle language was an absurdity to be satirized. Descartes regarded it as foolish to suppose that a robot could ever be built that would answer questions. But today it is widely assumed that mechanical speech recognition and automatic translation will be commonplace in tomorrow’s technology. Underlying these assumptions is a subtle shift in popular and academic conceptions of what a language is. Understanding a sentence is treated as a computational process. This in turn contributes powerfully to accepting a mechanistic view of human intelligence, and to the insulation of language from moral values" (, accessed 07-23-2010).

Timeline Themes