Representations as fossilized computation

🕑 13 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 November 30, 2020 in Discussions • 🏷 syntax, morphology, representations, features, category features, selection, subregular, logical transductions

Okay, show of hands, who still remembers my post on logical transductions from over a month ago? Everyone? Wonderful, then let’s dive into an issue that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. In the post on logical transductions, we saw that the process of rewriting one structure as another can itself be encoded as a structure. Something that we intuitively think of in dynamic terms as a process has been converted into a static representation, like a piece of fossilized computation. Once we look at representations as fossilized computations, the question becomes: what kind of computational fossils are linguistic representations?

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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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The anti anti missile missile argument argument

🕑 7 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 June 21, 2019 in Discussions • 🏷 formal language theory, generative capacity, morphology, semantics

Computational linguists overall agree that morphology, with the exception of reduplication, is regular. Here regular is meant in the sense of formal language theory. For any given natural language, the set of well-formed surface forms is a regular string set, which means that it is recognized by a finite-state automaton, definable in monadic second-order logic, a projection of a strictly 2-local string set, has a right congruence relation of finite index, yada yada yada. There’s a million ways to characterize regularity, but the bottom line is that morphology defines string sets of fairly limited complexity. The mapping from underlying representations to surface forms is also very limited as everything (again modulo reduplication) can be handled by non-deterministic finite-state transducers. It’s a pretty nifty picture, though somewhat loose in my subregular eyes that immediately pick up on all the regular things you don’t find in morphology. Still, it’s a valuable result that provides a rough approximation of what morphology is capable of; a decent starting point for further inquiry. However, there is one empirical argument that is inevitably brought up whenever I talk about the regularity of morphology. It’s like an undead abomination that keeps rising from the grave, and today I’m here to hose it down with holy water.

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Underappreciated arguments: Underlying representations

🕑 4 min • 👤 Thomas Graf • 📆 May 28, 2019 in Discussions • 🏷 phonology, morphology, underlying representations, abstractness, bimorphisms, T-model

Time for another entry in the Underappreciated arguments series. This post will be pretty short as it is a direct continuation of the previous entry on how the inverted T-model emerges naturally from the bimorphism perspective. You see, the very same argument also gives rise to underlying representations in phonology and morphology.

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