Towards a Biologically-Inspired Formal Semantics

  • Neven Knezevic
Keywords: Formal Semantics, Experimental Philosophy, Biology, Language, Linguistics, First-order Logic, Roger Penrose, Wang Tiles, Abstract Tile Assembly Model, DNA Origami, Slime Mold, Microfluidic Gates, Quasicrystals, Aperiodic Crystals, Information Theory


The classical logical analysis of language, dependent on logical translation and a general logical analysis of grammatical connectives in natural language has been shown to be forced at best and tenuous at worst. However, more recent research in biology and in formal semantics has shown that a more nuanced approach to natural language by means of logic may be possible. In this essay, an argument is given for a biologically-inspired formal semantics inspired by the abstract tile assembly model for DNA origami. Tilings provide a rigorous and flexible middle ground between logic and molecules such as DNA. An argument is presented that establishes the possibility of a transitivity of tiling properties between logic, biology, and language, allowing for a logical analysis of natural language in terms of formal semantics built on tiling models, provided this hypothesis is empirically sound. Some further attention is given to the explanatory appeal of such a hypothesis, along with a response to an initial objection centred on the unpredictability of emergent properties.