[b-hebrew] U-DOP was Generative Grammar

Eric Inman eric-inman at comcast.net
Thu Jun 24 21:18:59 EDT 2010

Hi James,
Yes, German is inflected, but only moderately, and its word order seems very
constrained in comparison to Greek.
I agree that the rule sets created by automated tools should be made
explicit and traceable by theoretical linguists. There could be a product
feedback loop between the two.
Eric Inman


From: James Christian [mailto:jc.bhebrew at googlemail.com] 
Sent: Thursday, June 24, 2010 9:15 AM
To: Eric Inman
Cc: dwashbur at nyx.net; b-hebrew
Subject: Re: U-DOP was Generative Grammar

Hi Eric, 

I don't know if you noticed but the U-DOT paper was specifically about
translation between the English-German language pair. German is an inflected
language. There is a very specific reason why this language was chosen. The
state of the art in machine translation has been statistical machine
translation for some time now. SMT works well on language pairs with similar
word order (e.g. the English-Italian language pair) but performs less well
on the English-German language pair because of long range dependencies.
U-DOT and a similar approach which proceeded it (synchronous CFG's) were
designed to tackle this kind problem and push technology frontier even

The main problem with these two methods is not so much the methodology as it
is the lack of suitable quantities of training data. This problem becomes
even more so evident with Biblical Hebrew as we have so little data to train

The real problems with U-DOT and SCFG's is that they are not accessible to
linguists. That is to say that while they create for themselves a complex
implicit rule set more complex and better defined than any human attempt
linguists are alienated from these approaches as there is no explicit rule
set to interact with. It may be interesting if the extracted rule set were
made explicit in some way such that theoretical linguists could interact
with the rule set and identify bugs and be able to suggest improvements. 

James Christian

On 24 June 2010 05:25, Eric Inman <eric-inman at comcast.net> wrote:

Hi Jim,
I read the papers and found them interesting.
I think the issue of non contiguous phrases is related to but different from
the issue of relative freedom of word order. Even though these papers made
it a point to address non contiguous phrases, I feel the techniques that
were used would still need to be modified if they were to be used on
(relatively) free word order languages.
To put it another way, a number of grammars and techniques are based on word
order and the part of speech of each word. In inflected languages (which I'm
assuming here to have greater freedom of word order), however, some of the
information that is provided by word order in non-inflected languages is
instead provided by inflectional affixes. Therefore grammars and techniques
that are based only on word order and part of speech are working with less
information when it comes to inflected languages. It would seem that they
would need also to be based on inflectional affixes in order to be as
effective with inflected languages as they are with non-inflected ones.
I found the method of unsupervised learning for parsing and of determining
the most probable parse trees to be very interesting. In general I think we
need more approaches like this to help increase the level of objectivity of
So, with respect to Classical Hebrew, I think the U-DOP and U-DOT approaches
would need to be adapted somehow to look at the inflectional affixes as well
as the parts of speech and word order.
Eric Inman


From: James Christian [mailto:jc.bhebrew at googlemail.com] 

Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 6:08 AM

To: Eric Inman
Cc: dwashbur at nyx.net; b-hebrew

Subject: U-DOP was Generative Grammar

Hi Eric, 

forgetting about the exercise some of your comments made me feel you may be
interested in reading the following papers:



It is clear, as you hinted on in earlier posts, that a number of linguistic
phenomenon can be best described by non contiguous phrases. Standard
attempts at defining CFGs don't even tend to acknowledge the existence of
these kind of linguistic phenomenon. Anyway, have a read of those papers. I
get the feeling they might be more to your liking. They certainly are to

Obviously, there is no simple way that comes to mind of organising a simple
exercise for list members to participate in. It would certainly be
interesting to extend the U-DOP and U-DOT approaches to Classical Hebrew but
doing so requires solid programming skills and a lot of time and patience.

Let me know what you think about those papers. I would be interested in
hearing your comments.

James Christian

On 21 June 2010 00:51, Eric Inman <eric-inman at comcast.net> wrote:

Hi James,
I don't have any alternative suggestions as to what technology to use for
the type of exercise you're trying to set up. I don't think the issues I
raised earlier would prevent what you're doing from being a valuable
learning exercise.


From: James Christian [mailto:jc.bhebrew at googlemail.com] 

Sent: Sunday, June 20, 2010 1:36 PM
To: Eric Inman
Cc: dwashbur at nyx.net; b-hebrew 

Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Generation grammar and b-hebrew

Hi Eric, 

as I explained to you off list this isn't my approach. It was intended as a
simple exercise to inspire list members to get their hands dirty with
turning theoretical knowledge into something practical. Prolog (a technology
I would never use for a serious system) is an ideal starting point because
of its built in DCG handling which means no programming skills needed to get
started playing with a toy grammar.

Now, as far as I know the leading approaches at the moment involve using
either the LFG or the HPSG formalisms and there are quite large projects in
both technologies which are attempting to define wide coverage grammars of
modern languages. For a system driven by LFG see:


 <http://decentius.aksis.uib.no/logon/xle.xml> For information on systems
using HPSG see:


 <http://www.delph-in.net/> Now, I'm not sure what you mean by using an
approach that has been adapted for languages with a high degree of freedom.
If you have any suggestions of a technology we could use which is friendly
to list members who may have no computational linguistics experience or
programming skills then I'm open to suggestions. The two technologies
mentioned above for HPSG and LFG imply a steep learning curve and XLE is not
freely available anyway.

James Christian 

On 20 June 2010 14:38, Eric Inman <eric-inman at comcast.net> wrote:

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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