Rules vs. Lists

A. Katz amnfn at
Sat Jul 5 13:13:52 UTC 2008


MORE rules implicit than examples? That's a stretch, as a list of unitary
items has at most as many rules as examples.

However, I suppose the English derivational system might provide something
like that. If English lexemes are listed one at a time, and most English
speakers are unaware that they have subparts (and I've done research on
this -- monolingual English speakers are amazingly imperceptive about
derivations that are obvious to the rest of us), and if you then add the
derivational rules that might account for some of these words, then you
have a system where each item is a rule in itself, and also some rules for
deriving the items, so there are more rules than examples. But... this is
only so if you try to conflate the derivational insensitivity of the
average English speaker with the patterns implicit in the words.

So, in fact, this is not different from the system where a mathematically
innocent child memorizes a multiplication table of whose derivation he is
completely unaware. Each item listed in the table is a rule, and as he
grows older and wiser, he may discover that there are other rules whereby
the table could be derived.

It's kind of a cheat, because we are listing from the point of view of
more than one speaker, so that two systems overlap. But because the
knowledge of speakers can evolve over time, such an overlap is not
psychologically improbable.



On Sat, 5 Jul 2008, Rob Freeman wrote:

> On Fri, Jul 4, 2008 at 10:42 AM, A. Katz <amnfn at> wrote:
> >
> > On Fri, 4 Jul 2008, Rob Freeman wrote:
> >
> >> On Thu, Jul 3, 2008 at 9:32 PM, A. Katz <amnfn at> wrote:
> >> > ...When
> >> > we speak of list-based system, we speak of a system where there are more
> >> > rules than instances where they are applied.
> >>
> >> Can you give me even one example of such a system, Aya?
> >
> > ... English spelling ... it's almost as if there is a different rule for every word. Not
> > quite, but almost.
> I'm grateful you are thinking about this Aya, and it is indeed what I
> am suggesting that natural language is of this form, but English
> spelling, as you say, is probably only almost this way, but not quite.
> I'm still not sure you see what I mean by a system which has more
> rules implicit in the examples than there are examples themselves.
> Can you show me a system where there are more rules implicit in the
> examples than there are examples themselves, and explain why it must
> be so?
> -Rob

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