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- John Goldsmith, Re: 5.118 The Last Phonological Rule: reply to Goldsmith
- Bill Poser, infinite dimensions

The only matter that I'd like to reply to in Alex Monaghan's comments on The Last Phonological Rule is the following one; if it weren't of real importance to linguists -- at least to some linguists -- I'd simply send him my remarks directly. But posting them here might serve some good end. The remark concerns what a finite-dimensional (vector) space is. I'm going to offer a few remarks which are meant to explain; they're pedagogical in character, and are not intended to be interpreted literally, especially by people who already know what we're talking about. To say that we're looking at a point in an n-dimensional space means that we've specified n separate numbers (its coordinates). Even if there were only one dimension to it, we'd be talking about an infinite number of points (there are, after all, an infinite number of points between 0 and 1, no matter how you slice it). But this business of infinity is not as scary (or even as overpopulated) as it might sound at first; a system (whether it's mathematical or linguistic) which is continuous almost everywhere will have the property that large chunks of regions in the space lead to properties that are more or less identical throughout that region. This isn't mysterious in the slightest, though my formulation might make it sound so. But think of the world that we navigate in everyday: it's a 3-dimensional world which, if we forget about quantum theory, contains an infinite number of points in it, even right here in my office. But natural phenomena are continuous almost everywhere, and so we recognize chunks and regions within this space (like my body, the keyboard, etc.) which are recognizeable subregions with specifiable properties. Well! All that is to say that what's important in determining the size of a space is its dimensionality, once we know that we're dealing with a system that is continuous almost everywhere (I've used that phrase three times now, and the reader will no doubt have inferred, correctly, that it is a phrase with a technical meaning). The fact that there are an infinite number of points in an internal (like from 0 to 1) doesn't lead to any theoretical problems.Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

In LINGUIST 5.118 Alex Monaghan writes: >One further brief point. in his reply, Goldsmith mentions "a >finite-dimensional space, the space of connection weights", but as far >as I can tell this space is actually infinite: there is an infinite >range of possible values for each connection weight... There being infinitely many weights makes the system infinite in one sense but it does not make it infinite-dimensional; it doesn't affect dimensionality at all. For example, space-time is only four dimensional even though all four dimensions are continuous. An infinite-dimensional system is one described by infinitely many parameters. The Fourier series representation of a signal, for example, represents it in an infinite-dimensional vector space since there are infinitely many frequencies at which there may be energy, each such frequency consituting a dimension. A perhaps more familiar and elementary example of an infinite-dimensional vector space is the Taylor series representation of the functions of class c-infinity, where each power of X defines a dimension. Bill PoserMail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue