Logical transductions: Bats, butterflies, and the paradox of an almighty God

🕑 14 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 September 21, 2020 in Tutorials • 🏷 formal language theory, transductions, subregular, first-order logic

Since we recently a had a post about Engelfriet’s work on transductions and logic, I figured I’d add a short tutorial that combines the two and talks a bit about logical transductions. I won’t touch on concrete linguistic issues in this post, but I will briefly dive into some implications for how MGs push PF and LF directly into “syntax” (deliberate scare quotes). I also have an upcoming post on representations and features that is directly informed by the logical transduction framework. So if you don’t read anything here unless it engages directly with linguistics, you might still want to make an exception this time, even if today’s post is mostly logic and formulas.


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A tribute to Joost Engelfriet

🕑 6 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 September 02, 2020 in Discussions • 🏷 formal language theory, tree transductions

Ed Stabler sent me a link to the most recent paper by Joost Engelfriet, which concludes with the following message:

That’s all folks! This was my last paper. Thank you, dear reader, and farewell.

That’s bitter-sweet. On the one hand, I admire that he can draw a line in the sand like this. On the other hand, I wish he’d erase that line and keep going for a few more years. Even though Engelfriet isn’t a mathematical linguist — and might not even be aware of the more linguistic side of that field, the one that we serve here at the Outdex Café — he has had a profound influence on the field, including a lot of my own work.


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Phonetic vowel charts in LaTeX

🕑 12 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 August 26, 2020 in Tutorials • 🏷 student advice, LaTeX, phonetics

It’s nice to have loyal readers. One of them wrote me an email a few days ago that starts as follows:

Hi, hope all is well with you. I notice Outdex has been silent for longer than usual but I prefer to assume that that is because you are doing something more fun.

Guilty as charged. In anticipation of my 1-year sabbatical (*gloat*), I have used this summer for an extended vacation from everything linguistics and academia. Well, not quite, there was something fun I did that is sort of related to linguistics, but more on that in an upcoming post. Anyway, this loyal reader knows how to reel me back in: a LaTeX question! More precisely, the best way to typeset a vowel chart in tikz, which is the standard solution for graphics in LaTeX nowadays. Challenge accepted.


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LaTeX pet peeves

🕑 12 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 July 07, 2020 in Tutorials • 🏷 student advice, LaTeX

Somehow I wound up with five students writing their theses this Spring semester, and you know what this means: lots and lots of reading. And when reading, I can’t help but get riled up every time I see one of my LaTeX pet peeves. I also like to read the source files in parallel with the PDF, and over the years I’ve come across some nightmare-fuel coding in those files.

So, in a (futile?) attempt to save my future self’s sanity, here’s a list of all my LaTeX pet peeves. Many of them are covered in your average LaTeX tutorial, but people rarely read those cover to cover and instead just go to specific parts that they need to solve whatever problem they’re wrestling with. Compiling it all into a single list might make for a more useful reference. Future students of mine, read this and adhere to it. You have been warned!


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When parsing isn't about parsing

🕑 7 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 June 18, 2020 in Discussions • 🏷 syntax, morphology, parsing, formal language theory, movement

As a student I didn’t care much for work on syntactic parsing since I figured all the exciting big-picture stuff is in the specification of possible syntactic structures, not how we infer these structures from strings. It’s a pretty conventional attitude, widely shared by syntacticians and a natural corollary of the competence-performance split — or so it seems. But as so often, what seems plausible and obvious at first glance quickly falls apart when you probe deeper. Even if you don’t care one bit about syntactic processing, parsing questions still have merit because they quickly turn into questions about syntactic architecture. This is best illustrated with a concrete example, in that abstract sense of “concrete” that everyone’s so fond of here at the outdex headquarters.


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MR movement: Freezing effects & monotonicity

🕑 8 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 May 19, 2020 in Discussions • 🏷 syntax, movement, freezing effects, monotonicity

As you might know, I love reanalyzing linguistic phenomena in terms of monotonicity (see this earlier post, my JLM paper, and this NELS paper by my student Sophie Moradi). I’m now in the middle of writing another paper on this topic, and it currently includes a section on freezing effects. You see, freezing effects are obviously just bog-standard monotonicity, and I’m shocked that nobody else has pointed that out before. But perhaps the reason nobody’s pointed that out before is simple: my understanding of freezing effects does not match the facts. In the middle of writing the paper, I realized that I don’t know just how much freezing effects limit movement. So I figured I’d reveal my ignorance to the world and hopefully crowd source some sorely needed insight.


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Martian substructures

🕑 2 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 May 06, 2020 in Discussions • 🏷 fun allowed

Sometimes students get hung up on the difference between substring and subsequence. But the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs have given me an idea for an exercise that might just be silly enough to permanently edge itself into students’ memory.


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Categorical statements about gradience

🕑 14 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 April 28, 2020 in Discussions • 🏷 phonology, syntax, algebra, gradience

Omer has a great post on gradience in syntax. I left a comment there that briefly touches on why gradience isn’t really that big of a deal thanks to monoids and semirings. But in a vacuum that remark might not make a lot of sense, so here’s some more background.


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Just your regular regular expression

🕑 6 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 April 24, 2020 in Discussions • 🏷 coding, fun allowed, methodology

Outdex posts can be a dull affair, always obsessed with language and computation (it’s the official blog motto, you know). Today, I will deviate from this with a post that’s obsessed with, wait for it, computation and language. Big difference. Our juicy topic will be regular expressions. And don’t you worry, we’ll get to the “and language” part.


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Against math: When sets are a bad setup

🕑 11 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 April 06, 2020 in Discussions • 🏷 methodology, syntax, set theory, Merge, linearization

Last time I gave you a piece of my mind when it comes to the Kuratowski definition of pairs and ordered sets, and why we should stay away from it in linguistics. The thing is, that was a conceptual argument, and those tend to fall flat with most researchers. Just like most mathematicians weren’t particularly fazed by Gödel’s incompleteness results because it didn’t impact their daily work, the average researcher doesn’t care about some impurities in their approach as long as it gets the job done. So this post will discuss a concrete case where a good linguistic insight got buried under mathematical rubble.


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