Symbol Systems

From: Payne Ben (
Date: Tue May 21 1996 - 13:51:43 BST

   A symbol is a representation of an object, having a
related meaning but without actually resembling or being
causally connected to the object it stands for.
   One example of a system which uses such representations
is language. Each language, whether it is is English,
Chinese or Arabic, uses a system of letters and words as its
symbols which have a set of syntatic rules and semantics. By
applying these rules, these representations can be
interpreted in such a way as to give them meaning, which
forms the basis for reading and writing, allowing people to
communicate with eachother by using symbols.
   Symbol systems are also used in mathematical
applications, such as formulae for simultaneous equations or
the equations of straight lines: y = mx + c. This does not
actually mean anything on its own, but once it is applied to
a set of numbers and values, it represents a specific
object. Also in maths, binary notation uses the symbols "0"
and "1" to represent numbers. Once again, by applying the
relevant rules, a sequence of "0"s and "1"s can be given
some meaning.
   In relation to computation and computers, symbol systems
are used in computer programmes. A set of symbols is given
as the input, which is then manipulated to give a symbolic
output. These symbols, when put together, are a
representation of specific information which by themselves
would mean nothing, but when interpreted in relation to the
rules by which the computer reads them, they can be given
some meaning.

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