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29Apr/104

Forest behind trees: Story of Enterprise Architecture

I was listening to Story of Human Language audio course the other day. Dr. John McWhorter was explaining how European languages came up with the idea of gender for inanimate objects. The example he was using was silverware in German, with spoon being “he” (der Löffel), fork being “she” (die Gabel), and knife being of neuter gender (das Messer). The current theory maintains that this is the result of gradual changes, small steps taken one at the time that lead to the situation as we see it now. And each of the steps made perfect sense to the people at the time. Yet, the notion of gender in a language, left alone attribution of a specific gender to an object, appears manifestly arbitrary to non-native speakers.

It had occurred to me that this could be a perfect metaphor for ad-hoc Enterprise Architecture without roadmaps: a series of decisions that were a good idea at the time leading to a sorry state of chaos because there was no life-line stretching from "as-is" into the future state

The second distinction made by the professor was that of a language complexity inversely reflecting advancement of a society. Despite popular notion that the more evolved society would have more complex languages, in fact the opposite is true. A language used in a fast paced society loses many accoutrements considered necessary in less advanced societies (e.g. compare the etiquette of a French Royal court of Louis XIV with that of modern France) .

Applied to Enterprise Architecture this would imply that in the organizations with evolved EA programs the IT systems landscape will be less – not more – complex, and more efficient at the same time.  

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  1. We would like to say that the writer of this blog should consider the Norwegian language for it’s simplicity and then reflect upon his estimation of the evolutionary state of that society. True, there are effectively two versions of the recognized Norwegian language, Nynorsk and Bokmal, and this could disorganize his critique, but still, it bears thinking about.

    Would the writer care to consider common parlance versus the full scope of a given grammar, or even more simplistically, written versus spoken language. Methinks it might tire his brain.

    The analogy was manfully attempted, but human language is always more complex that computer languages, and further, appropriately so because the human mind, and heart, evolves, while the typical IT system devolved until it must be recoded and replaced.

  2. Dr. John McWhorter would say that there are two Norwegian dialects of Scandinavian language, others being Danish and Swedish 🙂

    I think you might have missed my point.
    The analogy while triggered by this lingustic discourse has nothing to do with languages, machine or otherwise. I just as aptly could apply marxist formulation of quantity transitioning into quality… (oh, and Marx stole it from Lao Tzu).

  3. Peter, considering himself a Somebunny, and therefore being very interested in esoteric things, is paying very close attention. Flopsy has her mouth full of carrot, and Mopsy is busy looking in her mirror. Cottontail couldn’t care less.

    Peter, did you want to say something?

    “Yes I do! That man is very smart to have such big thoughts. Can I ask that man a question?”

    Yes, Peter. I’m sure he’ll answer you.

    “What was the point, please, about computers and people? Is computers people or is people computers–or something like that?”

  4. 🙂 Thoughts come and go; big, small, and everything in between… This particular thought had not yet occured to me, so Peter would have to wait.


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