b-hebrew digest: December 13, 1999

Bill Rea cctr114 at its.canterbury.ac.nz
Tue Dec 14 15:19:43 EST 1999

Dave Washburn wrote:-

>If he means "precise" in mathematical terms, I agree.  However, 
>most English speakers intuitively know the difference between 
>"bald," "balding" and "not bald."  While these ideas can't be 
>quantified in terms of how many hairs are the upper and lower 
>limits of each, we know examples of each one when we see them 
>(one of my uncles was bald, another was balding, and my father 
>was not bald).  This raises the related question of how far we can 
>legitimately take mathematical quantification in linguistics.  I tend 
>to disagree sharply with most other generative grammarians on this 
>point, and it's a big reason why I rejected Government-Binding and 
>most everything that has ensued from it.

There is a relatively new branch of mathematics dealing with fuzzy sets
and fuzzy logic which was created to handle these types of problems.
A quick example. While we know that a whale is not a fish, there is
something rather fish-like about a whale, so in terms of a fuzzy
set we might assign a whale to being 80% a member of the set of

I don't know if fuzzy sets and logic have been applied to languages
such as Hebrew, but there is no reason why it shouldn't.

Bill Rea, Information Technology Services, University of Canterbury  \_ 
E-Mail b dot rea at its dot canterbury dot ac dot nz                 </   New 
Phone   64-3-364-2331, Fax     64-3-364-2332                        /)  Zealand 
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