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Author Topic: Morse Code as Language  (Read 10947 times)
AB2T
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« Reply #15 on: October 25, 2010, 12:03:46 PM »

First off, thanks for these challenges to the premise that CW is a language.

I'd say that Morse is not a language, but simply a means of encoding a language for transmission. In that respect its no different than Baudot or ASCII. If I transmit the English text from a book via Morse, someone who does not understand the English language will not understand what I sent. If Morse were actually a language then they should understand it without knowing English.

Is Morse code itself a language or merely a means for coding languages?  I go back and forth on this question.  Perhaps it is something like the physics question: does light consist of particles or waves?
 

Maybe there are two aspects of Morse Code: one of coded information and the other of language.  All morse code is the production of a keyed, on/off signal.  There are two code units: dit and dah.  Encoding can take one of two forms: the conversion of the English language directly into the morse code, or the use of the abbreviations and unique words that comprise many radio contacts.  Sending Moby Dick through a computer code program would require both the ability to mentally decipher code and understand the English language.  Still, many hams of different language backgrounds can understand the use of an artificial and specific "language" that often form CW contacts.  This language is unlike an organic verbal and written language like English, Spanish, etc.

Maybe this could work as a revised premise: Morse code is a form of data encoding that can, but does not always, have a linguistic component.     

I'd offer that perhaps Morse code is a language for those who KNOW this particular language.  At the United Nations, there are translators working feverishly, translating what is being said in whatever language into several other languages.  Of these other languages, most are "gibberish" to those who don't speak those languages, but have perfect meaning for those who do. 

That's very true.  If the code itself can't be understood, than any language contained within it can't be understood as well. 

So, let's add this idea to the mix: Morse code is a form of data encoding that can, but does not always, have a linguistic component for those that have the ability to decode Morse Code data and not just comprehend a spoken or written language.

It's also important to remember that what the translators at the United Nations pipe into the earbuds of diplomats is not a literal representation of the original language.  Rather, the "translation" is really an interpretation that carries the biases of the interpreter/translator.  Even the most literal translation inevitably contains some distortion.

73, Jordan
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AA4PB
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« Reply #16 on: October 25, 2010, 01:06:52 PM »

I submit that Q-signals and procedural signs are NOT a part of Morse code but a "shorthand" used by radio operators. Different radio services over the years have used some different signals. Many of those and similar signals can be and have been used on voice radio services as well.

If I say to a ham who doesn't know a word of English "I had a nice QSO with a DX station using QRP", he can probably pick out QSO, DX, and QRP and get the main idea I am trying to get across. That would be a limited language - but I see that as separate from Morse. Basic Morse Code is simply a way to encode the characters of a language so that it can be transmitted via some type of on/off keying. The primary difference between Morse and Baudot is that Morse is much easier to decode with the human brain.

I submit that it is the Q signals and such that makes it possible form hams to communicate somewhat without having any other common language rather than the Morse code.

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W0XI
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« Reply #17 on: October 25, 2010, 03:14:31 PM »

The primary difference between Morse and Baudot is that Morse is much easier to decode with the human brain.

Wait one here. This may not be true at higher speeds. I don't see why a person could not learn to copy a QSO using Baudot, since QRQ operators routinely copy in the 60 to 70 WPM range. If equal effort were taken to learn Baudot [at equivalent of 60 WPM], why not. I can copy the RYRYRYRY rythm. In fact, Baudot might be easier, since all characters have the same length. CW characters vary considerably in length, creating "code length" noise, or volatility in character rate. 73. Phil.



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AB2T
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« Reply #18 on: October 25, 2010, 03:23:23 PM »

I submit that Q-signals and procedural signs are NOT a part of Morse code but a "shorthand" used by radio operators. Different radio services over the years have used some different signals. Many of those and similar signals can be and have been used on voice radio services as well.

If I say to a ham who doesn't know a word of English "I had a nice QSO with a DX station using QRP", he can probably pick out QSO, DX, and QRP and get the main idea I am trying to get across. That would be a limited language - but I see that as separate from Morse. Basic Morse Code is simply a way to encode the characters of a language so that it can be transmitted via some type of on/off keying. The primary difference between Morse and Baudot is that Morse is much easier to decode with the human brain.

I submit that it is the Q signals and such that makes it possible form hams to communicate somewhat without having any other common language rather than the Morse code

I think "shorthand" is a good definition of what CW communication is, if one even exists.  Leave it to me to make things more complicated than they are by imputing to CW the characteristics of language!  I like linguistics but it's better to leave it aside. "Keep it simple stupid".  It's probably better for the moment to go with your position. 

You're right that the very basic abbreviations on CW let most hams around the world maintain a minimum level of communication whether CW is a language or not. Contests are the epitome of basic communication.  In fact, once a person knows the exchange participation is almost mindless.  But I agree that the CW shorthand is pretty bare-bones, if that.  Then again, simplicity doesn't diminish use.  Some cultures have numerical systems that resemble "1, 2, 3, a lot ..." and have no need for higher mathematical notation or concepts.

Supposedly there are a few people that can decipher Baudot by ear or by reading a punch tape from an old teletype.  Do you know about this?  If you can or know someone that can, that's pretty awesome. 

Let's say there was a method to teach humans to comprehend Baudot by ear.  Even if it were easier to learn faster Baudot rather than slower CW, would there be an advantage to listening to a 5 bit system rather than a dit/dah binary system?  Or, would enjoyment be the only reason to prefer one method over another? 

73, Jordan   
« Last Edit: October 25, 2010, 03:32:48 PM by Jordan » Logged
W0XI
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« Reply #19 on: October 25, 2010, 04:41:56 PM »

...I think "shorthand" is a good definition of what CW communication is, if one even exists.... I like linguistics but it's better to leave it aside......Supposedly there are a few people that can decipher Baudot by ear or by reading a punch tape from an old teletype.  Do you know about this?  If you can or know someone that can, that's pretty awesome......Let's say there was a method to teach humans to comprehend Baudot by ear.  Even if it were easier to learn faster Baudot rather than slower CW, would there be an advantage to listening to a 5 bit system rather than a dit/dah binary system?  Or, would enjoyment be the only reason to prefer one method over another? 73, Jordan 

Don't be in a hurry to leave your definition aside. Let's each go off and see - via googling - how  psychologists, linguists, and neurologists define what a language is.

There are several advantages of character codes with a constant length; for one error checking - at least when a machine (microprocessor) is decoding, and for two a steady beat is easier to follow. If the starter bit is always the same, focus is assisted. I was coauthor of the G-TOR protocol so appreciate that side of the question. However, not sure if our minds could take advantage too? Phil.
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N2EY
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« Reply #20 on: October 28, 2010, 04:30:52 AM »

I don't see why a person could not learn to copy a QSO using Baudot, since QRQ operators routinely copy in the 60 to 70 WPM range. If equal effort were taken to learn Baudot [at equivalent of 60 WPM], why not. I can copy the RYRYRYRY rythm. In fact, Baudot might be easier, since all characters have the same length. CW characters vary considerably in length, creating "code length" noise, or volatility in character rate.

Some folks have been able to develop the ability to recognize Baudot patters to some extent. Back in my days at the U we had a classic RTTY setup and it wasn't long before I could recognize the RYRYRY pattern. Others could understand CQ and the station call, from hearing it so many times.

Full QSO copy is another matter, of course. The big problem I see is that you don't encounter "slow" Baudot very often.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AA4PB
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« Reply #21 on: October 28, 2010, 10:05:58 AM »

I have heard that a few people could copy baudot in their heads. Most RTTY operators soon learn to recognize patterns like "RYRY" and "THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPS OVER THE LAZY DOGS BACK" but that's a complete pattern and not individual words. Someone could change FOX to CAT and they wouldn't recognize the difference.
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KM9R
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« Reply #22 on: October 28, 2010, 02:42:51 PM »

Maybe this could work as a revised premise: Morse code is a form of data encoding that can, but does not always, have a linguistic component.     

.

 
I say that is a valid statement.  I submit, look at two forms of digital code: 1. cw and 2. psk and both being utilized in a contest. As it was alluded to earlier, a cw operator can communicate frustration by utilizing an unsolicited drastic reduction in speed in an effort to complete a contest exchange while such an option is not available to someone using psk. I am not saying that a psk operator can not communicate frustration via psk, but I am saying that a cw operator can but it is unique. In other words, I do not need to know spanish to understand that someone speaking spanish is trying to communicate frustration, but I woud need  to know morse code and the use of it to determine when someone was communicating something beyond the primary message because if I did not then it would be gibberish just like psk tones

     

« Last Edit: October 28, 2010, 02:53:18 PM by Michael Clark » Logged
K4FH
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« Reply #23 on: October 29, 2010, 10:30:54 AM »

If you don't  put the ? after HW then you'll get a syntax error and you'll not be able to send.
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AB2T
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« Reply #24 on: October 29, 2010, 06:19:48 PM »

If you don't  put the ? after HW then you'll get a syntax error and you'll not be able to send.

There's another thread over in Computers called "Adventures in Linux" that deals with questions like these  Wink

I think you're right in a way.  Many operators would feel uneasy if someone were to skip the ? after HW.  I'm sure most ops would understand what the other op means.  Still, there'd be a feeling that something's missing.  That's not "syntax error" but not the accepted protocol.

73, Jordan
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AE6ZW
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Posts: 100


WWW

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« Reply #25 on: November 04, 2010, 11:46:43 PM »

CW remind of me  ( sign language for deaf people )
sign language is very simple
in sign language, stead of saying [  I bought 2 radioS   yesterday ]  it say  [ I buy 2 radio yesterday ]   yesterday determine it was passed.
abbreviation on CW is great, I notice many TEXT message cell phone people use similar abbreviations.
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KA7PLE
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« Reply #26 on: November 06, 2010, 01:28:17 AM »

Great Topic,

If I may offer a quick story. I got my novice license in high school. I walked into my councilor and showed him my ticket, and asked him if I could get a foreign language credit for Morse Code. Being a ham himself he said sure why not, and signed the form. It was pretty cool actually.

Just needed to share that.

73 DE ka7ple SK    Wink
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W0XI
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Posts: 67




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« Reply #27 on: November 06, 2010, 08:01:20 AM »

Just a thought Jordan, etal:

Roughly, code is to English as English is to thought, i.e. meaning of a sentence. If we start with "meaning" or content of a message as communication, then neither English nor code is a language or a first. So is language used to communication thoughts?

A steady tone does not communicate a thought (information theory, EE computer science, etc). However timed dots and dashes or timed tones via frequency shift can contain information (like RTTY), are said to be encoded. As such English is a coding of volumes with frequency (phonation) and by itself is not a language?

This is all sort of garbage. But what if code came first and English came later in history. Hm. Would English then be the process which is considered not a language?

Jordan, I like your latest definition. Interesting stuff.
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N2EY
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« Reply #28 on: November 06, 2010, 08:23:48 AM »


A steady tone does not communicate a thought (information theory, EE computer science, etc).

But a steady carrier can communicate information.

For example, if I receive the carrier of a WWV transmission, it brings with it the information of an accurate frequency reference, and that the path from here to Ft. Collins is open.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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W0XI
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« Reply #29 on: November 06, 2010, 03:18:37 PM »


A steady tone does not communicate a thought (information theory, EE computer science, etc).

But a steady carrier can communicate information.

For example, if I receive the carrier of a WWV transmission, it brings with it the information of an accurate frequency reference, and that the path from here to Ft. Collins is open.

73 de Jim, N2EY

Hi Jim. Yes, about things outside of itself; but, within information theory we are talking about the content of the information contained within the signal. I do like your slight of hand though!
73, Phil, W0XI
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