[Lexicog] polysynthetic languages and dictionaries

phil cash cash pasxapu at DAKOTACOM.NET
Thu May 27 21:56:54 UTC 2004

thanks Bill,
why have a powerful lookup tool when the operations which emulate the 
rules of the grammar are non-transparent to the dictionary user?  or is 
this again a wrong impression?  i mean this as a harmless question as i 
am just curious.  though i am no computational linguist, i would like 
to "model" nez perce verb morphology someday as i think i am getting 
closer to the core issues relating to the "rules" of composition and 
concatenation.  however, in the nez perce scheme of things (i.e 
polysynthesis: fusional) the morphology is tends to be more about the 
syntax-semantic interface, not to mention the input-output to 
phonological being just as complex if not more so.  the classic 
polysynthetic mohawk model of noun-incorporation (via Baker) just does 
not work for nez perce.

qó'c (later)
phil cash cash (cayuse/nez perce)

On May 27, 2004, at 2:11 PM, William J Poser wrote:

>> I am under the impression that the particular strategies proposed by
>> the human language technology camp are not in anyway related to the
>> intralinguistic system of polysynthesis.  rather the "rules" or 
>> parsing
>> strategies that are applied towards generating surface forms or what
>> have you are a consequence of the programming language itself and have
>> very little to do with polysynthetic systems.
> This is a mistaken impression. What we're talking about is the idea
> that an electronic dictionary that is able to emulate the rules
> by which we produce and understand the very complex words of
> polysynthetic languages provides a solution to the problem of looking
> up such words. In a language like English, it is possible to list
> verbs under their infinitive, for example, because English verbs don't 
> have
> very many forms and are put together in a fairly simple way, so it
> doesn't take a lot of effort or training on the part of the user to
> figure out how to look up an inflected verb form. For instance, 
> although
> "parses" is not listed, it isn't very hard to learn to look it up under
> "parse". But in a language in which verbs have large numbers of forms
> that are not put together in a simple way, it is problematic to figure
> out what to look up, and you can't list every possible form because
> there are too many. A morphological parser, however, can analyze a
> fully inflected verb form, figure out where to look it up, and return
> to the user both the basic dictionary entry and information about the
> whole complex form.
> Far from this being something that flows from programming languages
> rather than from human language, it is quite the opposite. The
> structure of complex words and the rules that govern it is something
> that is part of language and we are talking about how computers can
> be used to deal with this. Indeed, part of the discussion that has gone
> on here is about the fact that some tools for doing morphology
> on a computer are better adapted to the way human language works
> than others. One person commented that so-called Two Level morphology,
> as used for example by Kimmo Koskenniemi, is computationally very
> efficient but not very well adapted to human languages. Mike Maxwell
> replied that not all finite state tools are Two Level and in particular
> pointed out that Xerox's xfst program is much better adapted.
> Questions of efficiency and storage do of course come up, just
> as there are practical concerns with anything you do, but they
> have come up in the context of asking whether it is currently
> practical to use this approach to dealing with the dictionary
> lookup problem. In sum, we're starting from the nature of the languages
> and asking how we can solve the problems that it poses for
> dictionary lookup.
> Bill
> --
> Bill Poser, Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania
> http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~wjposer/ billposer at alum.mit.edu
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