Rules vs. Lists

A. Katz amnfn at
Wed Jul 9 14:02:38 UTC 2008

Okay, Rob. So you would like to stick with your topic.

Do you have a formalism to deal with the more-rules-than-examples

How do we count the examples and the rules? What are the more specific
implications to any particular language? Have you already (or are you in
the process of) applying this outlook to a single natural language in
order to harvest all the examples and all the rules?

If you have written any papers on this topic, would you care to share them
with us?

I am currently in the process of writing a book entitled CYCLES IN
LANGUAGE. The topic is language change/evolution, and the main observation
is that as much as language changes, it stays remarkably the same.

In some of the beginning chapters, I and my co-author June Sun,
discuss different formalisms for accounting for grammar, and we
specifically discuss the concept of functional equivalence. We would be
happy to include your outlook on more-examples-than-rules, if there are
papers to cite.



On Wed, 9 Jul 2008, Rob Freeman wrote:

> You keep wanting to change the subject, Aya.
> It is good that you accept "the grammar of any language at any given
> point is somewhat indeterminate."
> I wonder how many people would agree.
> But note, I'm not only suggesting the existence of indeterminacy in
> human language, I'm suggesting a model to explain it. This is
> something which has historically fallen between complete explanation
> in terms of rules and lists/usage. In fact nearly everything about
> language has fallen between complete description in terms of rules and
> lists/usage. I suggest this is because we have not considered the
> possibility of a list which implies more rules than it has elements.
> If you want to address that hypothesis, or its consequences, I would
> welcome your feedback.
> It seems you want to talk about cognitive or social constants in language.
> We can start another thread to talk about cognitive or social
> constants in human language if you like. Though really, I think many
> people have done quite a thorough job on that aspect of language
> already. Perhaps you have a new perspective. By all means start a new
> thread and present it.
> -Rob
> On Tue, Jul 8, 2008 at 11:35 PM, A. Katz <amnfn at> wrote:
> > Okay. So your other point is that the grammar of any language at any given
> > point is somewhat indeterminate, because it just misses resolving itself
> > one way or the other. That's true, of course. Sapir made that point when
> > he spoke of linguistic drift.
> >
> > What I find more interesting, (while acknowledging your point), is that
> > languages don't just drift. They cycle. They keep coming up with the same
> > ways of resolving the indeterminacy, after having seemingly gone in a
> > different direction for a while.
> >
> > The reason I find that interesting is because all the while language
> > appears to be evolving, it's really staying the same more or less.
> >
> > Show me one primitive language! There is none to be found. We have people
> > with primitive material culture in isolated pockets of the world, but NO
> > primitive languages.
> >
> > Best,
> >
> >      --Aya

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