Metalogic - Overview - Formal Language

A formal language is an organized set of symbols the essential feature of which is that it can be precisely defined in terms of just the shapes and locations of those symbols. Such a language can be defined, then, without any reference to any meanings of any of its expressions; it can exist before any interpretation is assigned to it—that is, before it has any meaning. First order logic is expressed in some formal language. A formal grammar determines which symbols and sets of symbols are formulas in a formal language.

A formal language can be defined formally as a set A of strings (finite sequences) on a fixed alphabet α. Some authors, including Carnap, define the language as the ordered pair <α, A>. Carnap also requires that each element of α must occur in at least one string in A.

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    It is in the nature of allegory, as opposed to symbolism, to beg the question of absolute reality. The allegorist avails himself of a formal correspondence between “ideas” and “things,” both of which he assumes as given; he need not inquire whether either sphere is “real” or whether, in the final analysis, reality consists in their interaction.
    Charles, Jr. Feidelson, U.S. educator, critic. Symbolism and American Literature, ch. 1, University of Chicago Press (1953)