Chutong, Week 5

What is natural language:
  • human language (eg: English, Chinese, Japanese, etc)
  • contrast to artificial language (eg: programming languages) or other animal communication (eg: bee dance, whale whistling, bird singing)
What is a language
  • consist of words (lexicon, dictionary of symbols) and rules (syntax, semantics, morphology, phonology, etc), as well as interfaces (connect to the objective world)
  • Creativity, productivity, combinatorial system (can create sentences never exist before)
Essential features of language:
  • Symbolic: based on human symbolic cognitive system, a layer of abstraction
  • Arbitrary: vague, ambiguous, dynamic
  • Recursion and combinatoriality
  • Generative and productive
  • Discrete infinity: limited units, but unlimited expressions, indefinitely extended)
  • Intersubjectivity: collective cognition
  • Reflexivity
This is the Tree Diagram I draw followed the instruction of Tree Diagramming Practice video: 
” The future of health is on your wrist. ” — Apple Watch’s slogan, 2020
And this is the screen shot of XLE-Web:
I am really bad at grammar. Even now, I still can’t tell the attributive or predicative of a sentence. Surprisingly, I can speak fluent Chinese without knowing these rules. For me, it looks like a superpower I never noticed before, just like human beings weren’t aware of the existence of air for a long time. And the mastery of language rules is not entirely acquired. As the reading (Linguistics: An Introduction, p8) mentioned, grammatical correctness is not parent’s target when teaching language. But every little baby scans the expression rules of the people around and almost spontaneously master the language that the most advanced computer could not crack!
After the readings I was still confused and captivated by human’s ablitiy of learning language. So I want to discuss more on:
  1. Does the readings mean that our ability to learn languages is rooted in our genes and body structure (such as gray matter in our brain)?
  2. Could we discuss more about Ray Jackendoff’s “parallel architecture” in class? Does this model means we mix pragmatics, semantics, syntax, morphology and phonology simultaneously when we understand a sentence?  Hope I understand this model in the right way.
  3. Could we discuss more about efforts on Natural Language Processing? What stage have we reached and what is the biggest barrier right now? And does machine need to learn both C-structure and F-structure?


Irvine, M. Linguistics, Language, and Symbolic Cognition: Key Concepts

Intoduction, Linguisitcs: An Introduction

Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language

Pinker, S. (1999). The Infinite Library. In Words and rules: The ingredients of language.

Natural language processing. (2020). In Wikipedia.

Steven Pinker: Linguistics as a Window to Understanding the Brain | Big Think. (2012, October 6).

Tree Diagramming Practice. (2014, October 31).