There's a nice question I thought about, and I'd like to know more about it. I would assume it has been discussed many times, but I'm not sure what its called so I'm having trouble finding any texts that discuss it. Could someone kindly refer me to a relevant text?
Suppose one wanted to learn a natural language solely from a dictionary of that language (e.g. learn Greek from a Greek-Greek dictionary). Would that be possible? We assume that the learner is a normal person, but he doesn't know anything about the target language (e.g. there are no similar words between his language and the target language and the characters are all different).
On the one hand, it could be argued that this is impossible. If one does not know any Greek at all, a dictionary written entirely in Greek cannot add any new information, and hence is useless.
On the other hand, the dictionary might be sufficient. For example, one might argue that there exists a rather limited core vocabulary of say 2000 words, and that these words are used to define all the other words in the dictionary, and exist pretty much in any language. So one could in theory test all the possible matches between these words in the target language and the known language. Any match that is incorrect would yield definitions that are clearly nonsensical, so it would be possible to eventually settle down on the right fit.