LINGUIST List 4.85

Thu 11 Feb 1993

Sum: Telnetting, Leaky grammars

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Tom Cravens, Re: 4.83 Qs: Field schools, Computational, Code mix, Coordinatio
  2. mark, CORRECTION!! Leaky grammars: summary

Message 1: Re: 4.83 Qs: Field schools, Computational, Code mix, Coordinatio

Date: Mon, 08 Feb 93 20:04 CST
From: Tom Cravens <>
Subject: Re: 4.83 Qs: Field schools, Computational, Code mix, Coordinatio

In mid-January I broadcast a request on the LINGUIST listserver for
responses to an informal survey of access to TELNET. The aim was to establish
whether the general norm at academic institutions around the world is to
restrict usage by requiring payment, or to offer open access.The question was
straightforward: "Do you have free access to TELNET, or do you have to pay to
use it?" The question was deliberately simple (too much so for respondents who
understood Internet well), in order to keep answers simple, and, more
importantly, not to confuse those with no knowledge of Internet, but who had
used TELNET to access remote libraries, read news, etc. Recipients were asked
to respond as follows: 1) name (optional), 2) primary department affiliation,
3)institution, 4) pay / free.Fifty-five responses from 49 institutions in
13 countries were received in a period of about ten days. Of the 49 responses
by institution, 46 reported free access to TELNET. Two people from one
institution in the US reported that TELNET was free for undergraduate and
graduate students, but restricted to paying accounts for faculty, and two
answers were discarded because the respondents appeared not to understand
that email access did not necessarily constitute TELNET access, and either
they did not respond or did not respond completely to a request for further
clarification. While the procedure and results are unscientific
in the extreme, the wide range of institution types and locales
would seem to offer some indication of the general trend. The responses
suggest that free faculty access to TELNET is customary, and that free
student access may not be unusual.
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Message 2: CORRECTION!! Leaky grammars: summary

Date: Mon, 08 Feb 93 11:05:31 ESCORRECTION!! Leaky grammars: summary
From: mark <>
Subject: CORRECTION!! Leaky grammars: summary

I asked for the source of the linguistic proverb "All grammars
leak". So far I have received thirteen replies, most of them
pointing to Edward Sapir. The most detailed came from Tony

 I saw your query. Answer's Sapir, in Language (1921), page 39 in
 the original edition. The macrocontext is a discussion of
 morphological exceptionality. The microcontext is: ''The fact of
 grammar, a universal trait of language, is simply a generalized
 expression of the feeling that analogous concerpts and relations
 are most conveniently symbolized in analogous forms. Were a
 language ever completely "grammatical," it would be a perfect
 engine of conceptual expression. Unfortunately, or luckily, no
 language is tyrannically consistent. All grammars leak."

 Nice huh?

David Bergdahl adds:

 I thought it was a plumbing metaphor but former merchant seaman
 Jerry Udell assures me it's nautical.

Randy Harris notes:

 Edward Sapir says it in _Language_ [citation], but it may predate
 him. Maybe it's just the elegance of expression, or the
 familiarity of it for me before I read it, but it just seemed like
 Sapir was employing a proverb rather than coining one. Perhaps it
 was a linguistic commonplace among the Boasians.

Two respondents related it to work by others. Brian White takes
the concept WAY back, judging by the spelling and style of the
Howell epigraph; can anyone supply a date and original source?

 [...] Stockwell, Schachter and Partee's "The Major Syntactic
 Structures of English" (1973), which is based on a 1968 study done
 with Joyce Friedman. I don't know whether the book itself
 actually uses the expression, but its motto comes from James
 Howell: "But the English ... having such varieties of
 incertitudes, changes, and Idioms, it cannot be in the compas of
 human brain to compile an exact regular Syntaxis thereof."

Bob Krovetz submits:

 The notion is that real data will always have exceptions to any
 grammar we construct. There is some discussion about it in
 "Computational Analysis of English", by Garside, Leech and
 Sampson. They use it as a rational[e] for a probabilistic approach
 to parsing.

Many thanks to all who answered:
 Atro Voutilainen:
 Natalie [Maynor?]:
 Shirley Silver:
 Randy Harris:
 Larry Gorbet
 Mike Geis
 John Bro:
 Tony Woodbury:
 Victor Golla:
 David Bergdahl:
 Peter Bakker:
 Brian White:
 Bob Krovetz:

 Mark A. Mandel
 Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 965-5200
 320 Nevada St. : Newton, Mass. 02160, USA
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