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CONLANG  January 2011, Week 3

CONLANG January 2011, Week 3

Subject:

Re: Fixing English

From:

Logan Kearsley <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 19 Jan 2011 16:06:32 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

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> As a retired computer programmer with an interest in artificial
> intelligence, chat-bots, and machine translation, I can use a narrow,
> and purely utilitarian definition of "better" by scoring proposed
> changes on whether or not, and to what extent those changes would make
> the task of computerized parsing and comprehension easier. Difficult
> sentences like "Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a
> banana." must be made unambiguous and easy to parse.

My own experience in this realm indicates that "easy for a computer to
parse" and "easy for a human to parse" are only loosely correlated.
Care must be taken to not make it too difficult for humans to use
while still improving things for the computer (although, reading
further, it seems like you're aware of that).

> In a sense the adverb acts as if it were a prepositional phrase and
> may, like a prepositional phrase, be allowed to float anywhere within
> the phrase structure as long as it is unambiguously marked as an
> adverb: "Quickly I ran to the store."; "I ran to the store quickly.";
> "To the store I quickly ran."; etc... Expressed prepositionally we
> could also say "I ran to the store with quickness."; "With quickness I
> ran to the store."; "To the store I with quickness ran.";... etc. All
> of which assign an unambiguous role to "quickly/with quickness".

This bugs me about English, actually. We usually manage to cram as
much information into the word-order channel as possible, but it's
almost completely missing from the positioning of adverbs.
Additionally, there's a parsing issue with prepositional phrases and
some adverbs, where it's not always clear whether they attach to a
noun phrase or to the whole clause. There ought to be some way to
distinguish adjectival from adverbial prepositions.

-l.

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