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Re: Is there an inverse relationship between lexical richness and grammatical complexity?

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  • Jim Henry
    ... I m not sure the concept is coherent. If such an entity has perfect knowledge of the language, it must at the very least have a vocabulary as large as the
    Message 1 of 56 , Mar 21, 2013
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      On Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 1:35 PM, Logan Kearsley <chronosurfer@...> wrote:
      > A thought experiment- how well could you get along conversing with
      > someone (or something- an AI program, e.g.) that had a perfect
      > knowledge of your language but absolutely no cultural experience? Not
      > very well, unless you restrict yourself to vegetable-stall sentences.

      I'm not sure the concept is coherent. If such an entity has perfect
      knowledge of the language, it must at the very least have a vocabulary
      as large as the average educated native speaker (not to get into
      issues of what a totally complete lexicon would entail, or how you
      could tell whether you'd left anything out). And if it "knows" those
      words (and set phrases), it must know what they mean and not just what
      part of speech they are and how they inflect (otherwise we could
      hardly call its knowledge of the language perfect). And if it knows
      the meanings of such words and phrases as "opera", "comics", "Internet
      meme", and "talk show", then it must know an awful lot about the
      culture of the people who speak the language.

      One might posit another thought experiment -- suppose there's an
      entity that has perfect knowledge of the language's phonology,
      morphology and syntax, but a very limited vocabulary, or a very
      limited mastery of a larger vocabulary. That's coherent, but perhaps
      less interesting.

      This breaks my suspension of disbelief, sometimes, when I read a story
      in which magic has instantly given some character a full knowledge of
      the language of the people they've fallen in among, but they still
      stumble over the meanings of a lot of words and phrases, and they use
      words and phrases and English idioms which confuse their
      interlocutors, like an intermediate second-language learner. It's
      possible to write such a scenario consistently, but most fantasy
      authors who've used that trope do it inconsistently.

      --
      Jim Henry
      http://www.pobox.com/~jimhenry/
      http://www.jimhenrymedicaltrust.org
    • R A Brown
      ... [snip - all points noted] ... plus was simply taken from Trask, and being used for convenience (i.e. not having to think of something else - the same
      Message 56 of 56 , Mar 28, 2013
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        On 28/03/2013 13:30, And Rosta wrote:
        > R A Brown, On 27/03/2013 15:32:
        [snip - all points noted]

        > I agree with the basic idea, but "plus" needs to be
        > tightened up, in ways too complicated to fit in an
        > off-topic email discussion, but in simple terms "{CAR} +
        > [plural]" means "{CAR} when it is the phonological shape
        > corresponding to a plural noun node in syntax.

        'plus' was simply taken from Trask, and being used for
        convenience (i.e. not having to think of something else -
        the same applies to shape of brackets). Trask, of course,
        was merely giving a fairly simple dictionary entry, rather
        than elaborating any particular theoretic viewpoint.

        > In {CHILD} + [plural], the shape of {CHILD} is the stem
        > //tS.I.l.d// + //rn// (roughly), but I don't see any
        > grounds for saying that [Plural] is instantiated as
        > //rn//.

        I don't think we're many miles apart - probably coming at
        things from different angles.

        But I'm not intending at the moment to work out any
        hard-and-fast system - I haven't got time for one thing.

        It seems that it is only you and I now exchanging emails on
        this off-topic discussion, and it has certainly helped clear
        some of my thinking - not enough, perhaps, but it can wait.

        We are, I think, both agreed that morphemes, whatever they
        are, are not identical to "units of meaning", which is what
        sparked off this thread. As I say, I don't think we're
        miles apart.

        --
        Ray
        ==================================
        http://www.carolandray.plus.com
        ==================================
        "language … began with half-musical unanalysed expressions
        for individual beings and events."
        [Otto Jespersen, Progress in Language, 1895]
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