LINGUIST List 3.239

Wed 11 Mar 1992

Disc: Natural Language, E-Prime, Rules

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Directory

  1. "Michael Kac", Re: 3.214 Responses: Imperatives, Aphasia, Natural Language
  2. David Powers, ITK Visiting Fellow, E(nglish)-Prime
  3. H.Samual Wang (035, Re: 3.235 The Psychological Reality of Rules
  4. , Re: 3.235 The Psychological Reality of Rules
  5. , the psychological reality of rules
  6. "Michael Kac", Re: 3.235 The Psychological Reality of Rules

Message 1: Re: 3.214 Responses: Imperatives, Aphasia, Natural Language

Date: Sat, 7 Mar 92 14:43:21 -06Re: 3.214 Responses: Imperatives, Aphasia, Natural Language
From: "Michael Kac" <kaccs.umn.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.214 Responses: Imperatives, Aphasia, Natural Language

A little more about the term 'natural language'. My personal recollection
is that I first ran across it in the context of studying logic, the idea
being to contrast an 'invented' language like predicate calculus, which
comes with a completely specified and explicit syntax and semantics, with
the kinds of languages that people acquire natively.

>From somewhere I recall someone defining natural languages as those which
humans acquire as part of the normal socialization process; by this de-
finition pidgins are not NL's but Esperanto is given that there are now
native speakers of the language.

The term 'human language' doesn't really equate to 'natural language' since
predicate calculus is a human language whereas one might argue that computer
languages are not. True, humans are called upon to use these languages when
they write programs, but this is expressly for purposes of communicating with
nonhumans, not other humans.

Michael Kac
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Message 2: E(nglish)-Prime

Date: Mon, 9 Mar 1992 10:50:08 ME(nglish)-Prime
From: David Powers, ITK Visiting Fellow <powerskub.nl>
Subject: E(nglish)-Prime

[In the message entitled "3.211 Linguistics in the Popular Press",
GA5123SIUCVMB.bitnet writes

> which seems to have been lost (or I missed it for some other reason)
> I pointed out that National Public Radio's "All Things Considered"
> recently interviewed a fluent speaker of E-Prime, the be-less English.
> He made two interesting points: (1) that in his opinion the necessity
> to find alternatives to constructions with "be" forced him into clearer
> and more honest expression; and (2) that most people don't notice that he
> is speaking a "different" language until it is pointed out to them.
> ^^ ^^
> As I listened to the interview, I found the second assertion quite credible.
> He also mentioned a book on E-Prime, produced by the International Society
> for General Semantics, entitled "To Be or Not".
>
>
> The International Society for General Semantics is at

> P. O. Box 728
> Concord, CA 94522 U.S.A.
> (510) 798-0311
> The Polish-American linguist who founded General Semantics is
 ^^
> Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950).
> ----------------
> Lee Hartman ga5123  siucvmb.bitnet

 -- End of excerpt from The Linguist List ]

As far as I can see, Lee himself used precisely four (unquoted)
instances of "be" - I don't know to what extent that was influenced by
his subject matter, but by and large it supports the second
contention raised above. However a complete absence of "be" will
require elimination of whole families of tenses (and aspects and
modes and voices) which hardly seems to support the claim of additional
precision in the first contention quoted.

The only instances of Lee's usage of copular constructions
are in his postscript with their concise information disseminations.
The participular constructions earlier seem particularly difficult
to transform away though. I'd be interested to see a long
unconstrained passage in E-prime. Speaking it fluently may well
be comparable to the work involved in achieving fluency in a foreign
language. But I would hazard that it leaves a language which is
not "natural" in the sense that it omits universal features and
lacks efficiency in these areas as a result. I wonder how stable
it would be (in a community - how fast would it redevelop the
missing aspects).

Thanks for the stimulation.
dP

--
Dr David M. W. Powers	 Email: powerskub.nl
Visiting Fellow,	 	 	 	 SHOE E xtraction
ITK, Tilburg University, Tel: +31-13 663116	 O f
P.O. Box 90153		 Fax: +31-13 663019	 H ierarchical
5000 LE TILBURG		 Sec: +31-13 663060 S tructure

SHOE is an international project in Machine Learning of Natural Language
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Message 3: Re: 3.235 The Psychological Reality of Rules

Date: Mon, 9 Mar 92 20:12:59 -06Re: 3.235 The Psychological Reality of Rules
From: H.Samual Wang (035 <onghiokling.nthu.edu.tw>
Subject: Re: 3.235 The Psychological Reality of Rules

In response to Jon Aske's comment on the reality of rules, I recently
presented a paper in Bankok (Pan-Asiatic Linguistics) where I demonstrated
that the tone sandhi phenomenon in Taiwanese, though completely regular
phonologically (though there are some irregularities in the phonosyntactic
aspects), is anything but rule-like.

Sam Wang
onghiokling.nthu.edu.tw
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Message 4: Re: 3.235 The Psychological Reality of Rules

Date: Mon, 9 Mar 1992 21:26 EST Re: 3.235 The Psychological Reality of Rules
From: <FASOLDguvax.georgetown.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.235 The Psychological Reality of Rules


Is psychological reality the only reality to be contemplated? I think it is
entirely possible that linguistic grammars might be much more elegant than
whatever goes on in human brains when people talk to each other.

Ralph Fasold
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Message 5: the psychological reality of rules

Date: Tue, 10 Mar 1992 11:57 CDTthe psychological reality of rules
From: <JCMAF4DPANAM.bitnet>
Subject: the psychological reality of rules

RE: J. Aske's interesting comments, do we not refer to the fact that,
though we would say "colors" in English as the plural of color, and
"colores" in Spanish as the plural or color, what is operational is our
"unconscious grammar?" And is not the purpose of certain new methods
of second language teaching, at least in part, to foster an "unconscious
grammar" rather than one to which we have to refer, consciously?
J.C. Maloney
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Message 6: Re: 3.235 The Psychological Reality of Rules

Date: Mon, 9 Mar 92 18:09:19 -06Re: 3.235 The Psychological Reality of Rules
From: "Michael Kac" <kaccs.umn.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.235 The Psychological Reality of Rules

Those interested in this issue should note that this year's UWM
linguistics symposium is devoted to precisely the question at hand.

The issue raised by Alexis Manaster-Ramer in his recent posting on this
question is partly addressed in an article by Steven Pinker that appeared
in Science several issues ago. Joe Stemberger also has an interest in this
question, if I'm not mistaken.

Charles Laughlin's posting reminds me of an interesting symposium I attended
some years ago at the Minnesota Center for Research in Learning, Perception
and Cognition on musical perception. I went partly because I'm interested
in music but also partly because I wanted to see if the same kinds of issues
that obsess us linguists would arise in that context. Damned if they didn't.
Here's one for instance:

A speaker whose name I now forget who is by profession an engineer for 3M but
whose hobby is barbershop quartet singing did an analysis of the way in which
top quality b.q.'s approach temperament -- that is, the slight deviations from
true pitch that are sometimes necessary in order to keep the sound from being
too bland. He determined that the system in use by all the best groups was
one called Equal Beating, an obscure one which he found described in a musico-
logical journal and which the author of the article had presented as only a
theoretical possibility.

At the conclusion of the talk, someone from the audience got up and said
'I don't hold with all this numerological nonsense. Those guys don't know
that that's what they're doing.' To which the speaker replied 'I agree with
you. They don't know that that's what they're doing. But it IS what they're
doing.' I'm still thinking about that one.

Michael Kac
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