MGs do not struggle (as much as you think) with multiple wh-movement

🕑 15 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 July 23, 2021 in Discussions • 🏷 Minimalist grammars, movement, multiple wh-movement, transductions, first-order logic

In February I had a nice chat with Bob Frank and Tim Hunter regarding their SCiL paper on comparing tree-construction methods across mildly context-sensitive formalisms. Among other things, this paper reiterates the received view that MGs cannot handle unbounded multiple wh-movement. That is certainly true for standard MGs as defined in Stabler (1997), but my argument was that this is due to what may now be considered an idiosyncrasy of the definition. We can relax that definition to allow for multiple wh-movement while preserving essential formal properties of MGs. However, friendly chats aren’t a good format for explaining this in detail, so I promised them an Outdex post with some math. Well, 5 months later, I finally make good on my promise.

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Handbook chapter on Minimalism and computational linguistics

🕑 4 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 March 30, 2021 in Discussions • 🏷 Minimalist grammars, formal language theory

Aah, the soothing sound of crickets. In case you’ve been wondering about the recent radio silence at this prestigious online soapbox, my todo list finally caught up with me and I had to spend the last few weeks writing up/revising some papers that were way overdue. It was a matter of life and death — the editors were already contemplating Satanic blood sacrifices, and while I enjoy a good Black Mass as much as the next guy, I’d rather not be its subject matter. In this post I’d like to talk a bit about one of those papers, a chapter on Minimalist grammars in an upcoming handbook on Minimalism. Though I have to admit that it’s mostly a ruse to get some of you to give it a read and leave some feedback in the comments section.

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Synchronous movement: What could go wrong?

🕑 7 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 October 12, 2020 in Discussions • 🏷 syntax, movement, Minimalist grammars, subregular

I know I promised you guys a follow-up post on logical transductions and the status of representations, but I just have to get this out first because it’s been gnawing at me for a few weeks now. There’s been some limitations of the subregular view of syntax in terms of movement tiers, and I think I’ve found a solution, one that somehow ends up looking a bit like the system in Beyond Explanatory Adequacy. The thing is, my solution is so simple that I fear I’m missing something very basic, some clear-cut empirical phenomenon that completely undermines my purported solution. So, syntacticians, this is your opportunity to sink my current love child in the comments section…

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🕑 8 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 November 06, 2019 in Discussions • 🏷 syntax, Larsonian shells, constituency, CCG, Minimalist grammars

This semester I am teaching a seminar on computational syntax. It’s mostly on subregular syntax, but I started out with a discussion of CCG. CCG is noteworthy because it is a theory-rich approach that has managed to make major inroads into NLP. It would be cool if we could replicate this with MGs, but in order to do that you need a killer app. Subregular complexity might just be that because CCG doesn’t have a regular backbone, so it can’t have a subregular one either (more on that in a future post). CCG’s killer app was flexible constituency and a one-to-one mapping from syntax to semantics. You combine that with a corpus (CCGbank) and an efficient parsing algorithm (e.g. supertagging with A* parsing), and you have something that is both linguistically sophisticated and sufficiently fast and robust for practical applications. Anyways, this post collects some of my thoughts on flexible constituency and how it could be emulated in MGs. Spoiler: shells, lots and lots of shells.

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The subregular complexity of Merge and Move

🕑 9 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 September 18, 2019 in Tutorials • 🏷 subregular, syntax, locality, strictly local, tier-based strictly local, Minimalist grammars, Merge, Move

Alright, syntax. Things are gonna get a bit more… convoluted? Nah, interesting! In principle we’ll see a lot of the same things as in phonology, and that’s kind of the point: phonology and syntax are actually very similar. But syntax isn’t quite as exhibitionist as phonology, it doesn’t show off its subregular complexity in the open for the world to see. So the first thing we’ll need is a suitable representation. Once we have that, it’s pretty much phonology all over again, but now with trees.

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Some musings on corpora

🕑 9 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 September 05, 2019 in Discussions • 🏷 syntax, corpus linguistics, Minimalist grammars, Combinatory categorial grammar

Pro tip: Don’t start a multi-part series of posts on locality right before the beginning of the semester and when you have a pile of papers to review. On the upside, this will give you guys some extra time to digest all the concepts in the three previous posts. In the meantime, here’s a quick and dirty post on corpus linguists and why it should be part of our syntax curriculum. I didn’t even proofread it, so beware.

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