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[Daniel:] > And since I think this version of the language can be used, well, I
still say you haven't been specific in exactly which semantics define
FL2. I listed 3 options, but there are clearly more.

The way I see it I've made something that seems to work as it gives a functional parse tree, but why it works is a matter of theoretical interpretation. I might not want to mention this in the article, but from a Finnish point of view you could say that FL2 has two parts of speech: genitives and locatives. This would be a matter of having a postpositional language where the postpositions are actually adverbials:

talon vieressä
house-of beside-in
in the beside of the house
"beside the house"

vs. 

vieren talossa
beside-of house-in
in the house of the beside
*house the beside

Note that verbs can also be inflected, although the root is basically a noun: just one choice for a translation of "a see" is näkemä, and some derivations in active use in Finnish are näkemässä (in), näkemästä (from in), näkemään (to in or into), näkemällä (on), näkemältä (from on). I remember reading a long time ago that proto-Finnish didn't even have conjunctions although I doubted it then.

So here's the old example sentence in "Finnish":

[näkemän [talon [mäen päällä] akkusatiivissa] [pojan nominatiivissa] puheenaiheessa]
[seeing's [house's [hill's top-on] accusative-in] [boy's nominative-in] topic-in]

where all [-words are genitives or nouns in the genitive, and all ]-words are locatives or nouns in locative cases (mainly the inessive).

I did this for the first time just now, but when you copy-paste the "Finnish" sentence to http://ironcreek.net/phpsyntaxtree/ it gives you a plausible FL1 tree where sub-sentences are read top-down, and the "verb" is the root. It seems just perfect.

Also important: don't forget that if you told a syntactician to analyse the structure, without any introductory talk of the semantic formula, they would do it like this:

conjunction - subject - object with place adverbial embedded - verb

The grammar makes no formal distinction between conjunctions/prepositions, verbs/nouns and objects/adverbials, but that doesn't strictly mean they aren't there.

> For example we can make the "is-a" one less flat by using the two
relationship, "is" and "in", which sounds like it would match your
original intent. Let's see if I can define it...

> FL2.4 (I'm going to start naming these for easy comparison)
S -> aXb: (X there is a, namely b)
S -> SS:  S and S
X -> S:     S, within which,
X -> (empty): (empty)

> Then we'd get:
- ((There is nom, namely boy) and ((there is on, namely hill), within
which, (there is acc, namely house)), within which, there is topic,
namely see.)

Sure, using equals (=) would seem to eliminate semantic ambiguity. But are you sure that the 'on' is 'hill'? That would imply that the interior of a house is a house.

> I'll retroactively name this FL2.2

That's what I'm talking about :D
You've started making FL grammars! There are an infinite number of possibilities, but I think some of them may turn out more useful than others.

> We can see that there is an acc which belongs to house, and within
that acc, hill has an "on". This requires a different conceptual
framework; a different definition of the words involved. The way I was
thinking of it, "acc" is a role which the house has; it can play that
role in different contexts of course, which is why we say the role
belongs to the house; and it is only within the context of that role
that "hill has an on". The "on" needs to function in a way similar to
the "acc" and the "nom": since this language isn't claiming directly
that the house is on the hill, 

True, it says that the house has a hill. I think this may be a case of vagueness rather than ambiguity, and if you want to be more precise, you'll have to mention in what way the house has the hill. In this case the house would have the hill under it; it could also have a hill behind it etc. Genitive doesn't have to be a matter of legal possession; you can for instance have a home country without owning it.

>> I think both should be acceptable as they produce the same language, right?
>

> I hope I've convinced you they do not! The intent of my post was to
offer 3 different "FL2-type" languages.

I was thinking maybe the formal language would look the same. I'm still waiting for my copy of Languages and Machines…

[Logan:] > To produce a useable language, you need to know not only what order
words can be allowed to appear in, and what parse trees those
correspond to, but what *meaning* is associated with the syntactic
structures produced by each production rule. That's part of what
Daniel Demski has been exploring, and you'll note that he tried out
several different possible formulations of the production rules for
FL2 in order to try out different formulations of the semantic
interpretation rules that need to be associated with them.

Right, this is what I should be learning now.

> If I've been following correctly, the syntax of FL1 is supposed to be
given by S -> aS | <empty>; in other words "sentences are strings of
words, one after another". Surprisingly, that actually does tell you
More Than Nothing- it means that words can't occur interdigitated with
each other (which is *not* the case in, e.g., iljena!)
But if that's the best we can do for a minimal universal grammar, it's
not very interesting. It's quite in line with what somebody else
recently said in another of these threads on language universals- true
mathematical universals are likely to be trivial and uninteresting.

> If it turns out both that FL1 really is usable, and that the syntax
really is that free, and it possible to give a sensible interpretation
to every possible string of linearly ordered words in FL1, then I
suspect we will find a great deal more complexity in the
interpretation rules.

I had the compounding semantics as a grammar rule last year, but this time I omitted it - I'm now thinking of it as a convention rather than a rule - although it can easily be added as a strict rule without making the language too complex for any purpose. It seems to follow from the decision of top-down vs. bottom-up reading.

Other than that, you remember in the first message I said something like "Here's a language that takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to explore" although I was lying - there were two language (now called FL2 and FL1). You can study their behaviour endlessly, but they're still based on the given rules. It's as if a programmer codes an algorithm that generates kaleidoscopic pictures endlessly; it's no use saying they couldn't have made "all that" with "just these" command lines, and claim that they should make the algorithm more complicated in the name of fairness!

You see, the language is much simpler than natural languages because it has fewer rules, but it's also much more dynamic for the very same reason. For instance in English you can say "a cat caught a mouse in the barn", but you can't say "a catch moused an in barn the cat". However the latter can be a perfectly valid sentence in an FL-type language. This does not mean you'll have to add all those rules to make it possible. It means you didn't add all those rules in the first place, and that allows unusual ideas to be grammatical.

> One possible interpretation rule is provided by David Gil's IMA
(Isolating-Monocategorial-Associational) framework- the association
operator, which just says "the meaning some phrase followed by another
word 'a' is something that is associated with both the meaning of the
previous phrase and the meaning of the word 'a'." It is proposed that
that is the ultimate basic semantic rule of all human languages-
sticking words together makes new meanings that have "something" to do
with the meanings of the parts- and everything else is just ways of
narrowing down exactly what the "something" is. 

Thanks, I might be able to use that as a source. In FL1 you make compound words where each word or morpheme modifies the one after it, and each word is related to the one before it. In agglutination, words are put together - there are famous examples of this in Welsh and German. In English they are most often written as separate words; e.g. wildlife reserve + reserve legislation + legislation session gives you the semantics of (wildlife (reserve (legislation (session)))). That's basically FL1.

> But all by itself,
it's not really enough for a useful human language. The IMA model
comes from an analysis of Riau Indonesian, but even Riau Indonesian
isn't actually quite that simple- it does have extra bits of grammar,
in the form of a closed class of function words, to narrow down the
ambiguity.

That's just perfect for my theory! Avoiding ambiguity is one key to explaining _why_ things happen as they do. The way it would look good for me is if there's one fundamental language that all languages are based on, even toy grammars that accept any strings, and that's FL1. If a language like Riau didn't have function words at all, it would branch off to a different kind of FL2 language. But if any of the function words are case markers, it's very likely to continue on the same branch with (all?) other languages. I don't have enough knowledge to demonstrate the point where languages like Riau and Salish will branch away from each other, but it's doable with the FL method.