[b-hebrew] Generation grammar and b-hebrew

Eric Inman eric-inman at comcast.net
Sun Jun 20 07:38:56 EDT 2010

Hi Jim,

When referring to free word order languages, no one is using the term "free"
in an absolute sense but rather in a relative sense. In addition, no one is
using the word "free" to indicate that there are no rules or contraints
governing the word order. From my review of your comments along with a
quick, cursory review of what I could find by googling, my conclusion for
the time being is that it would be a good idea to use a an approach that has
been adapted for languages with a relatively high degree of freedom in word

Your approach may very well prove productive if you carry it out, I just
think there might be more efficient ways of proceeding. If you do proceed
with this, I'll be interested in seeing what the results are. 


-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of James Christian
Sent: Sunday, June 20, 2010 2:48 AM
To: dwashbur at nyx.net
Cc: b-hebrew
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Generation grammar and b-hebrew

Hi Eric,

in my honest opinion there is no such thing as a free word order language.
Yes. It is true that when we compare English word order with that of Koine
Greek then the Koine Greek does exhibit more 'freedom' in its word order.
But just what exactly do we mean by 'freedom'. Were the composers of Koine
Greek documents just randomly throwing out declined noun phrases? Hardly!
There are clearly patterns which are more dominant and patterns which are
less dominant and guided decisions were made when these documents were
generated. We even see similar phenomenon in English, a language we consider
to not have free word order. Consider the following:

1) Mary went to school
2) To school went Mary
3) To school did Mary go
4) To school Mary went

Sentence 1 is clearly the variant we would most likely encounter and yet
there are contexts were 2, 3 and 4 could be naturally produced. However,
this is certainly not a random pattern. There are clear reasons described by
patterns which dictate when form 4 would be preferred over form 1.

In any case, I cannot emphasize to you enough. Don't worry about the number
of rules. This is not necessarily a bad thing. What you should be worrying
about is whether your rule set over or under generates. Once you've got a
rule set which doesn't over or under generate *then* is the time to start
worrying if you could achieve the same thing with a more compact
representation. However, I promise you this. If you give this experiment a
go you will soon see that being in such an ground breaking position is far
greater a problem than it may seem.

I would rather have 1 million well defined rules that neither over nor under
generate than 1 all embracing rule that produces every conceivable
permutation of words both acceptable and unacceptable.

James Christian
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