Language and Linguistics

Formal language characteristics and examples in detail

Formal language

The formal language is a set of linguistic signs exclusive use in situations where natural language is not appropriate. In general, language is divided into natural or informal, and artificial. The first is used for common situations in daily life. Meanwhile, the artificial is used in specific situations outside the scope of everyday life. Formal language characteristics and examples

In this way, formal language is part of the group of artificial ones. This is used, especially, in the formal sciences (those whose field of action is not the realities of the physical world but of the abstract world). Some of these sciences include logic, mathematics, and computer programming.

In this sense, this kind of language uses linguistic codes that are not natural (they have no application within communications in the ordinary world). In the field of formal sciences, a formal language is a set of chains of symbols that can be regulated by laws that are specific to each of these sciences.

Now, this type of language uses a set of symbols or letters as an alphabet. From this, the “language chains” (words) are formed. These, if they comply with the rules, are considered “well-formed words” or “well-formed formulas.”


Restricted environment

The formal language aims to exchange data under environmental conditions different from those of other languages. For example, in programming language, the end is communication between humans and computers or between computerized devices. It is not communication between humans.

Thus, it is an ad hoc language, created with a specific objective and to function under very specific contexts. Also, it is not widely used. On the contrary, its use is restricted to those who know both the objective of the language and its particular context.

Grammar rules a priori

Formal language is formed from the establishment of a priori grammatical rules that give it the basis. Thus, first the set of principles that will govern the combination of elements (syntax) is designed and then the formulas are generated. Formal language characteristics and examples

On the other hand, the development of formal language is conscious. This means that sustained effort is required for their learning. In the same vein, its use leads to a specialization in the regulations and conventions of scientific use.

Minimal semantic component

The semantic component in formal language is minimal. A given string belonging to the formal language has no meaning by itself.

The semantic load they can have comes in part from operators and relationships. Some of these are: equality, inequality, logical connectives, and arithmetic operators.

In natural language, the repetition of the combination of “p” and “a” in the word “papa” has the semantic value of parent. However, in formal language it does not. In the practical field, the meaning or interpretation of the chains resides in the theory that one tries to define through that formal language.

Thus, when used for linear systems of equations, it has matrix theory as one of its semantic values. On the other hand, this same system has the semantic load of logic circuit designs in computing.

In conclusion, the meanings of these chains depend on the area of ​​formal science in which they are applied.

Symbolic language

The formal language is totally symbolic . This is made from elements whose mission is to transmit the relationship between them. These elements are the formal linguistic signs that, as mentioned, do not generate any semantic value by themselves.

The form of construction of the symbology of formal language allows calculations and establishing truths depending not on the facts but on their relationships. This symbolism is unique and far removed from any concrete situation in the material world.


The formal language has a universal character. Unlike the natural one, which, motivated by its subjectivity, allows interpretations and multiple dialects, the formal one is invariable.

In fact, it is similar for different types of communities. His statements have the same meaning for all scientists regardless of the language they speak. Formal language characteristics and examples

Precision and expressiveness

In general, the formal language is precise and not very expressive. Its formation rules prevent its speakers from coining new terms or giving new meanings to existing terms. And, it cannot be used to convey beliefs, moods, and psychological situations.


As progress has been made in the discovery of applications for formal language, its development has been exponential. The fact that it can be operated mechanically without thinking about its content (its meanings) allows the free combination of its symbols and operators.

In theory, the scope of expansion is infinite. For example, recent research in the field of computing and informatics relates both languages ​​(natural and formal) for practical purposes.

Specifically, groups of scientists work on ways to improve equivalence between them. In the end, what is sought is to create intelligence that can use formal language to produce natural language.



In the string: (p⋀q) ⋁ (r⋀t) => t, the letters p, q, r, t symbolize propositions without any concrete meaning. On the other hand, the symbols ⋀, ⋁, and => represent the connectors that link the propositions. In this particular example, the connectors used are “and” (⋀), “or” (⋁), “then” (=>).

The closest translation to the string is: if any of the expressions in parentheses are true or not true, then t is true or not. The connectors are in charge of establishing the relationships between the propositions that can represent anything.


In this mathematical example A = ❴x | x⦤3⋀x> 2❵, a set with name “A” is involved that has elements of name “x”. All elements of A are related by the symbology ❴, |, ⦤, ⋀,>, ❵.

All of them are used here to define the conditions that the elements “x” have to fulfill in order for them to be from the set “A”.

The explanation of this chain is that the elements of this set are all those that meet the condition of being less than or equal to 3 and at the same time greater than 2. In other words, this chain defines the number 3, which is the only element that meets the conditions.

Computer programming

The programming line IF A = ​​0, THEN GOTO 30, 5 * A + 1 has a variable “A” subjected to a review and decision-making process through an operator known as “if conditional”.

The expressions “IF”, “THEN” and “GOTO” are part of the operator syntax. Meanwhile, the rest of the elements are the comparison and action values ​​of “A”.

Its meaning is: the computer is asked to evaluate the current value of “A”. If it is equal to zero, it will go to “30” (another programming line where there will be another instruction). In case it is different from zero, then the variable “A” will be multiplied (*) by the value 5 and the value 1 will be added (+) to it. Formal language characteristics and examples

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