Re Discrete Infinity

David Tuggy david_tuggy at
Wed Jun 11 19:33:05 UTC 2008

Right. But isn't the point (or shouldn't the point be) that when we make 
original structures of whatever size we typically do so by stringing 
together in novel ways smaller structures or established sequences of 
structures? It seems obvious to me that original morphemes will (in 
every language) be pretty rare, original stems will be a bit more common 
but still likely rarer than original words, original words rarer than 
original phrases, original phrases than original clauses, original 
clauses than original sentences, and so on up the hierarchy of levels of 

(That is of course relatively speaking: i.e. each level will have a 
higher percentage of original structures than the next lower one, not 
necessarily a higher absolute number. I can easily imagine that more 
original sentences than original discourse sections might be produced in 
a language where most utterances did not rise to the level of sections. 
For many languages the stem/word level distinction may be irrelevant to 
such an extent that both levels would be manifest in all of the same 
structures. And of course otherwise comparable levels need not 
correspond all that well in this regard across languages: original 
Nahuatl words are much more common than original English words because 
Nahuatl does so much more in the morphology.)

A structure does not cease to be original because it has pre-established 
parts. I believe it was Langacker who said that "our vaunted linguistic 
creativity typically reduces to stringing a few clichés together to make 
a sentence", and I think there is something very right about that. But 
it certainly does not deny creativity in the stringing of those clichés 
together. And that creativity is a very big deal.

Which I think was your main point.

--David T

A. Katz wrote:
> Good point.
> I'm willing to concede that original sentences as such may not be that
> rare. However, I think many of our colleagues might like to suggest that
> if we did a search, we might find many of the sequences of words occurring
> in these sentences have been used by others.
>   --Aya
> <snip>
> On Wed, 11 Jun 2008, David Tuggy wrote:
>> In what way are original sentences (or even original clauses) rare? How
>> often will any of the sentences in Aya's post, or this one, have been
>> produced in the history of the world? And even if some of them ever
>> were, would that mean that Aya copied them, rather than producing them
>> as, for him, effectively original sentences?
>> --David Tuggy

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