[b-hebrew] Generation grammar and b-hebrew

James Christian jc.bhebrew at googlemail.com
Sat Jun 19 07:37:30 EDT 2010


by syntax I'm assuming you mean the constituent structure of the sentence.
e.g. things like:

S --> NP VP
VP --> V NP
NP --> (Det) N

In the LFG formalism such rules are referred to as the c-structure of a
sentence. What are your feelings about functional distinctions? e.g.
consider the following sentences:

1) Mary hit the dog on the head
2) Mary hit the dog in the park
3) Mary hit the dog on Monday
4) Mary hit the dog on the head in the park on Monday

Sentences 1, 2 and 3 could be generated with similar c-structures but the
PP's in each clearly have different functional meanings. That is to say that
the PP in 1 indicates the part of the dog that was hit, the PP in 2
indicates where the dog was and the PP in 3 indicates the time the dog was
hit such that we can combine the three different functions and produce
unambiguous sentence 4.

For this reason I find a c-structure definition of PP's to be inadequate.
Different PP's clearly have different functions. The most common functions
being temporal PP's and locative PP's. We even see that there is some
grammatical structure to the way that these PP's can be used. Consider the
following sentences:

5) Mary hit the dog on Monday on the head in the park
6) Mary hit the dog in the park on Monday on the head
7) Mary hit the dog on the head on Monday in the park

While the common meaning behind sentences 4, 5, 6 and 7 can be extracted by
a native speaker of English some version of the sentence is more acceptable
than others as ranking experiments would show.

Obviously, I am more interested in seeing what the data says for itself than
pushing any form of linguistic theory but I predict that we may see some
similar phenomenon when experimenting with generating Hebrew. What kind of
feelings do you have for these kind of functional considerations that
transcend simple c-structure?

James Christian

On 18 June 2010 19:21, <dwashbur at nyx.net> wrote:

> Agreed.  In this vein I should also mention that I maintain a strict
> separation between syntax
> and semantics/pragmatics/discourse/etc.  With the earlier Chomsky, I see
> syntax as a
> distinct component of the internal grammar, and approach it as such.
> On 18 Jun 2010 at 14:46, James Christian wrote:
> > Hi,
> >
> > word order isn't a problem. If you have multiple word orders you can
> > define
> > multiple rules. You just define whatever rules the data supports
> > whatever
> > the language. However, at a higher level of grammar, the discourse
> > level,
> > word orders are not as arbitrary as they may seem. Word order, in
> > many
> > languages, expresses what in English is expressed by accenting an
> > emphasised
> > word or phrase. There may be contextual reasons for producing this
> > kind of
> > emphasis. Defining a contextual rule set that captures these nuances
> > of a
> > language would be challenging. You raise a good point. However, this
> > is all
> > a little too premature. If we've already got to the point where we
> > are
> > worrying about rules at this level then you already have a pretty
> > darn good
> > grammar. I foresee many lower level problems is properly defining
> > rules for
> > smaller chunks of language before we could even dream of being able
> > to boast
> > we are only left with these high level problems.
> >
> > James Christian
> > _______________________________________________
> > b-hebrew mailing list
> > b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> > http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-hebrew
> >
> Dave Washburn
> http://www.nyx.net/~dwashbur
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