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Chapter 4: How Language Works. Prof. Julia Nee Comparative Linguistics Spring 2014, LaSalle University Based on The Language Instinct by Stephen Pinker. Quiz!. Quiz, Part 2. Form two words using the rules below. Explain the meaning of the words.

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chapter 4 how language works

Chapter 4: How Language Works

Prof. Julia Nee

Comparative Linguistics

Spring 2014, LaSalle University

Based on The Language Instinct by Stephen Pinker

quiz part 2
Quiz, Part 2
  • Form two words using the rules below. Explain the meaning of the words.
  • Forma dos palabrasocupandolasregulasabajo. Explica el significado de cadapalabra.

Nstem Stem Nstem

Vstem  Stem Vstem

tak: Stem; means “blue-green color”

-nis: Nstem; means “quality of X”; attach me to a stem

-ir: Vstem; means “to make X”; attach me to a stem

connecting sound to meaning
Connecting Sound to Meaning
  • Step One: Sound is arbitrarily assigned a meaning.
    • Learned in childhood (or later in life as L2)
    • Memorized; no connection between sound and meaning
  • Step Two: Grammatical structure relates elements (generative grammar)
    • Discrete combinatorial system
    • Infinite possibilities in combination
connecting sound to meaning1
Connecting Sound to Meaning
  • Each individual has:
    • Lexicon: mental dictionary of word roots and affixes with particular meanings
    • Grammar: set of rules for combining the elements from the lexicon
  • We can create and understand a near-infinite number of sentences
  • 100000000000000000000 sentences!
grammar and cognition
Grammar and Cognition
  • Grammar and understanding are not the same
  • Some sentences which are not grammatical are understandable:
    • Is raining.
    • The child seems sleeping.
    • Welcome to Chinese Restaurant. Please try your Nice Chinese food with Chopsticks: the traditional and typical of Chinese glorious history and cultural
grammar and cognition1
Grammar and Cognition
  • Some sentences which are not understandable are grammatical:
    • Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
  • Clear that the sentence is grammatical:
    • What slept?
    • How?
    • What kind of ideas were they?
word chain devices
Word-chain Devices
  • Lists of words or phrases and a set of directions from moving from list to list
  • Based on the frequency of how likely a word is to follow another word

happy

boy

girl

dog

ice cream

hot dogs

candy

The

A

One

eats

problems with word chain devices
Problems with Word-chain Devices
  • A sentence of English is not the same as a string of words chained together based on transition probabilities
    • Probability of “Colorless green” = zero, but it’s still grammatical
    • Things that are probable may not be grammatical: House to ask for is to earn out living by working towards a goal for his team in old New-York was a wonderful place wasn’t it even…
problems with word chain devices1
Problems with Word-chain Devices
  • People don’t learn language by learning what words to put in order
  • Learn what categories to put in order:
    • Strapless black dress
    • Adjective adjective noun
    • Colorless green idea
  • Sentences are build with an overarching plan, not based word-by-word
problems with word chain devices2
Problems with Word-chain Devices
  • Either the girl eats ice cream, or the girl eats candy.
  • If the girl eats ice cream, then the boy eats ice cream.
problems with word chain devices3
Problems with Word-chain devices
  • Does our solution seem redundant?
  • It gets worse…
  • What if we embed the sentence:
    • If either the girl eats ice cream or the girl eats candy, then the boy eats hot dogs.
    • We have to “remember” the “if”!
  • Long distance dependencies cannot be handled by word-chain devices
problems with word chain devices4
Problems with Word-chain Devices
  • Long distance dependencies are perfectly natural
  • “Daddy, what did you bring that book that I don’t want to be read to out of up for?”
    • Read to
    • Read out of
    • Bring up
    • What for
syntactic trees
Syntactic Trees
  • Words are grouped into phrases (branches)
  • Phrases build up a larger tree
  • NP  (det) A* N
    •  = “consists of”
    • () = “optional”
    • * = “as many as you want”
  • “A noun phrase consists of an optional determiner, followed by any number of adjectives, followed by a noun.”
syntactic trees1
Syntactic Trees
  • Rules create trees:
  • S  NP VP
  • VP  V NP

NP

det

A

N

the

happy

boy

mental dictionary
Mental Dictionary
  • Tells us which words belong to which category
  • N  boy, girl, dog, cat, ice cream, candy…
  • V  eats, likes, bites…
  • A  happy, lucky, tall…
  • det  a, the, one
draw a sentence diagram
Draw a sentence diagram!
  • S  NP VP
  • VP  V NP
  • NP  (det) A* N
  • N  boy, girl, dog, cat, ice cream, candy
  • V  eats, likes, bites
  • A  happy, lucky, tall
  • det  a, the, one
why is the tree structure better
Why is the tree structure better?
  • Once a kind of phrase is defined, it doesn’t have to be defined again
  • Eliminates the redundancy of the word-chain system
  • We can use the same type of phrase in different parts of the sentence:
    • [The happy boy] eats ice cream.
    • I like [the happy boy].
    • I gave [the happy boy] ice cream.
why is the tree structure better1
Why is the tree structure better?
  • The whole sentence has an overarching plan!
    • S  either S or S
    • S  if S then S
  • Things within phrases are related closely to each other
constituency
Constituency
  • Branches of a tree are composed of words that are bound together
  • They are known as constituents
  • Can be isolated through constituency tests
constituency tests
Constituency Tests
  • Fronting/Topicalization:
    • He sneaks into people’s houses at night for fun.
    • For fun, he sneaks into people’s houses at night _____.
    • At night, he sneaks into people’s houses ______ for fun.
    • *Into he sneaks____ people’s houses at night for fun.
  • Clefting:
    • The girls should have taken a taxi.
    • It was the girls who _______ should have taken a taxi.
    • It was a taxi that the girls should have taken _____.
    • *It was should have the girls _________ taken a taxi.
constituency tests1
Constituency Tests
  • Substitution:
    • If you can substitute a string of words with a single word.
    • If you can substitute this with that…
    • If you can do so…
  • Question formation:
    • He sneaks into people’s houses at night.
    • When does he sneak into people’s houses _______?
    • Who __ sneaks into people’s houses?
constituency tests2
Constituency Tests
  • Deletion:
    • Yesterday I met a friend who likes dogs for lunch.
    • Yesterday I met a friend ____________ for lunch.
    • ________ I met a friend who likes dogs for lunch.
    • *Yesterday I met __________________________.
    • *Yesterday _ met a friend who likes dogs for lunch.
test for constituency
Test for Constituency
  • If it passes a test, it’s a constituent!
  • If it doesn’t pass, we don’t know 
  • The girl named Sally ate a cold ice cream cone for dinner yesterday afternoon.
  • Mivecinoviejocomiótres tortillas para el desayuno el miércolespasado.
ambiguity
Ambiguity
  • Sometimes, there are two or more possible constituents.
  • “Tonight’s program will discuss stress, exercise, nutrition, and sex with Ryan Seacrest.”
    • [discuss stress, exercise, nutrition, and sex] with Ryan Seacrest
    • Discuss stress, exercise, nutrition, and [sex with Ryan Seacrest]
parts of speech
Parts of Speech
  • What is a noun? Verb? Adjective?
  • “A noun is a word that does noun-y things.”
    • the destruction of a city (action)
    • the way to San Jose (path)
    • whiteness of the sky (quality)
    • three miles to Oaxaca (distance)
    • three hours to get to Puebla (time)
    • She is a fool (category)
    • A meeting (event)
heads of phrases
Heads of Phrases
  • Just like words have a head, so do phrases
  • “The cat in the hat”
  • “Fox in socks”
  • Information from the head moves up to the highest node
  • What the phrase is about is what the head word is about