[b-hebrew] Isaac Fried's Theory (was Karl's lexicon)

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Aug 31 13:33:35 EDT 2007

Dear James:

On 8/30/07, JAMES CHRISTIAN READ <JCR128 at student.anglia.ac.uk> wrote:
> Just in case you are interested, I view language as a
> sequence of phonemes and pauses. Shamarnu has very
> little meaning on its own but in a real phonetic string
> becomes far more meaningful. I, therefore, take issue
> with the conventional definition of 'words' which is
> quite arbitrary. What makes shamarnu a 'word' but not
> 'nu' other than arbitrary convention? Thus my model of
> language, which you are free to view as completely
> ridiculous, the following are all 'words' with slightly
> different meanings:
> i)   Iwenttotheshop
> ii)  Hewenttotheshop
> iii) Hewentothezoo
> iv)  Shewenttothezoo
> v)   Shewenttothemarket
> vi)  Theywenttothemarket
> I know it may be a little uncomfortable at first to
> read this unconventional way of presenting language but
> this is the way you hear these phrases - as one
> continuous string of phonemes. It is merely by
> convention that we say that 'weguarded' is two 'words'
> in English .....

Are you not confusing the medium with the message?

To give an example from computer communications, all it is is a series
of ones and zeroes. But those are ones and zeroes arranged in a series
of patterns which computers are built to recognize. Each letter is
made up of a pattern. Patterns have been assigned so that programs can
recognize what sort of patterns to look for in a file. If the
identification pattern is wrong, it is possible that no program may be
able to read the data even though the data itself may not be

Human language recognition is a lot more flexible than computer
programs. Just as programs are designed to be able to recognize the
individual byte patterns and pick them out of the data stream, so the
human brain learns first the phoneme patterns that make up discrete
units of meaning, then learns to pick out those patterns from the
phoneme stream that is spoken and heard. That is why we are able to
understand the examples that you give above as discrete words, even
though they were written without the spaces normally used to indicate
the discrete words.

> ... but 'shamarnu' is one 'word' in Hebrew.

But are we not dealing with a different way of recognizing what is
meant by a discrete unit of meaning? In other words, what we in
English would identify as a discrete unit of meaning to be identified
as a separate word, may not be so identified in Hebrew?

> ...  Of course,
> whether you model the elements as 'words' or 'affixes'
> is really irrelevant to the point being made. Such is,
> after all, merely convention.
> -------------------------------------------------------
> -------------------------------------------------------
> James Christian Read - BSc Computer Science
> http://www.lamie.org/hebrew       -  thesis1: concept driven machine translation using the Aleppo codex
> http://www.lamie.org/lad-sim.doc  -  thesis2: language acquisition simulation

Yes, it is convention.

Karl W. Randolph.

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