LINGUIST List 2.714

Sat 26 Oct 1991

Disc: Is language Finite? Motion Verbs

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  1. "Michael Kac", Re: 2.686 Is language infinite
  2. Larry Horn, Come and Bring
  3. "Barbara.Abbott", Bring and come
  4. BARBARA PARTEE, Motion Verbs

Message 1: Re: 2.686 Is language infinite

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 91 14:54:42 -0500
From: "Michael Kac" <>
Subject: Re: 2.686 Is language infinite
In response to Henry Kucera's query re Hockett's baseball/football analogy:
Hockett, if I remember correctly, argues that football scores above a certain
number are impossible because a game of football is played within a closed
time interval (whereas a baseball game continues until one side wins, howe-
ver long it takes). The problem I have always had with this argument is that
I see an equivocation in 'impossible'. It's certainly true that for team of
human football players to score, say, 1m. points in a single game would be
impossible from a performance standpoint. But insofar as the rules of football
are concerned, such a score is perfectly possible. What I mean by this is that
given the rules (particularly as they pertain to what kind of play is worth
how many points) you can, by induction, prove that for any n > 1 there is
a combination of plays that will yield n points. In that sense, all scores
greater than 1 are possible.
And in the SAME sense, a score of 1 is IMPOSSIBLE because while there is
a play worth just 1 point (namely the point after touchdown), this play can-
not be executed until a touchdown (worth 6 points) has already been scored.
I think this makes it clear that two quite different senses of 'impossible'
are involved when you say (a) that 1 is an impossible score, and (b) that
1m. is an impossible score.
As long as I have the floor (metaphorically speaking), let me toss in ano-
ther observation that I don't think has yet been made in this discussion.
Think about what you do when you program a computer to, say, add arbitrary
sequences of numbers: 2 + 2, 3 + 9 + 24 + 837, etc. No actualy computer is
ever going to be given anything but a finite sequence to work with, and no
actual computer will be able to exceed a certain length limit (nor, indeed,
if the sum is too large, a limit on the sizes of the various terms in the
expression). But when you program a computer to do things like this, you
write the program with a control structure that allows in principle for
all kinds of possibilities that are going to be beyond the capacities of
any actual machine. As far as the programmer is concerned, in other words,
there is no upper bound on either the length of the sequence of terms to
be added or on the size of the sum. So as to simplify the task, the programmer
addresses an ideal machine. The analogy to what a linguist does is not pre-
cise, but I think that it is revealing nonetheless.
Michael Kac
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Message 2: Come and Bring

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 91 10:24:11 EDT
From: Larry Horn <LHORNYALEVM.YCC.Yale.Edu>
Subject: Come and Bring
Re Adam Kilgarriff's query on "come" and "bring" patterns: besides the
Fillmore citations, there's a contemporaneous squib in Linguistic Inquiry 2
(1971): 260-65 by Bob Binnick called "Bring and Come" in which a number of
idioms that allow both predicates (come about/bring about, come up/bring up,
come to/bring to) are listed, along with a number that don't (come to
grief/*bring to grief, come clean/*bring clean, come to pass/*bring to pass).
[Fillmore is cited, along with Perlmutter, in a footnote as having come up
with [!] "essentially the same set of facts".] To the Binnick/Fillmore lists
we can now add (at least in some dialects) come out/bring out [as gay, out of
the closet, etc.]. My favorite uncited example of the non-parallel variety is
come a cropper/*bring a cropper. Incidentally, these patterns were
historically important in the support they offered for the then popular view
of lexical decomposition in the grammar, in that an abstract higher predicate
CAUSE seems to have to apply to an idiom chunky, sublexical item "come".
 --Larry Horn
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Message 3: Bring and come

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 91 09:24 EDT
From: "Barbara.Abbott" <ABBOTTMSU.BITNET>
Subject: Bring and come
Another early reference on shared idioms with bring and come is Robert
Binnick's 1971 squib "Bring and come", in LInguistic Inquiry vol. 2.
(I sent this info. to Adam Kilgarriff separately, but maybe others
would be interested.)
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Message 4: Motion Verbs

Date: Tue, 22 Oct 91 22:46 EST
Subject: Motion Verbs
Re "Bring" and "come": Another early reference is Robert Binnick (1971)
"Bring and come", LI 2.2 260-265. That squib contains a long list of
parallel idioms.
 -Barbara Partee
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