Livre: Beyond Grammar

Philippe Blache pb at
Fri Apr 30 15:15:12 UTC 1999

From: L W M Bod <rens at>

(March 1999)

BEYOND GRAMMAR - An Experience-Based Theory of Language
Rens Bod
CSLI Publications / Cambridge University Press, xiv+168 pp.
Paperback ISBN 1-57586-150-x $19.95
Hardcover ISBN 1-57586-151-8 $59.95

>From the Blurb:

During the last few years, a new approach to linguistic analysis has
started to emerge. This approach, which has come to be known under various
labels such as "data-oriented parsing", "corpus-based interpretation" and
"treebank grammar", assumes that human language comprehension and
production works with representations of concrete past language
experiences rather than with abstract linguistic rules. It operates by
decomposing the given representations into fragments and recomposing those
pieces to analyze (infinitely many) new utterances.

This book shows how this general approach can apply to various kinds of
linguistic representations. Experiments with this approach suggest that
the productive units of natural language cannot be defined by a minimal
set of rules, but need to be defined by a large, redundant set of
previously experienced structures. Bod argues that this outcome has
important consequences for linguistic theory, leading to an entirely new
view of the nature of linguistic competence.

"Beyond Grammar should be read by all theoretical linguists who feel
intrigued or threatened by the renaissance of statistical natural language
processing. Bod argues for the provocative thesis that knowledge of
language should be understood not as a grammar, but as a 'statistical
ensemble of language experiences that changes slightly every time a new
utterance is perceived or produced'. By building a conceptual theory that
integrates formal language theory with statistical linguistics, he also
shows why the coming statistical revolution need not put theoretical
linguists out of business.

This is a beautifully written, important, and accessible work."

				-Joan Bresnan
				Stanford University

"Bod develops a theory of human language based on linguistic experience.
Instead of rules or principles, previously derived chunks of
representations constitute the knowledge base for language use. With
empirical rigor and compelling argumentation the author develops the
theoretical foundations for his data-oriented approach and extends it to
semantics and the processing of spoken dialogue.

All computational linguists with a sincere interest in corpus-based
methods should definitely read this well-written book. Theoretical
linguists and psycholinguists will find it illuminating and

				-Hans Uszkoreit
				DFKI Saarbruecken & Saarland University

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