Language tree

– “Natural language”: constitutes a part of what we would call “human languages” (vs “computing” or “artificial” languages) but ultimately aligns with the fact of what you were born into or more specifically, what “language” you were born into. 

(i.e. what language did your parents/guardians speak to you when you were a newborn? What was the language of the cultural community you were born into? etc.)

Essential features: 

– A language would have to be able to create/produce/entail: sound (phonology), form/”shape” (morphology), meaning (words, lexicon, dictionary, vocabulary), order (syntax), symbols of guidance(?) (semantics), expressionisms/”particularistics” (pragmatics) 

– Grammar, structural features Generative, rules & constrains 

– Combinatoriality: rules & procedures, building blocks, you need to combine thing in order to form something 

– Recursion: looping, nesting, embedding 

– Discrete Infinity, Creativity, Productivity: “combinatorial function”, myriad of possibilities of what you can form 

– Intersubjectivity, collective cognition: shared, does not belong to one person but also could not constitute a language if only one person spoke it (excluding languages that are unfortunately dying/getting lost) 



It was interesting comparing the results from the XLE-Web parser and seeing how deep you can delve into the analysis of a sentence. I added the sentence “My bark is worse than my bite.” (Grandmother Willow – Pocahontas) and I was surprised to see a different break down than I would have imagined based on my interpretation of the video. However this speaks to the complexity of language and testifies to its aforementioned features. I was surprised because you can interpret language in so many different ways because of the plethora of combinations that can occur/be formed. Many times, especially when it comes to our natural language, we don’t often question the detailed analysis of the sentences and phrases that we form when we speak. Anything from our intonations to our tone of voice, to vocal expressions will usually naturally establish themselves in specific circumstances, moments and occasions. The same sentence or meaning of a sentence can be expressed in a variety of ways that allows for the syntax, grammar and other characteristics of the specific sentence to shift. 

For example in “My bark is worse than my bite.” you can also consider both “My bark” and “my bite” as two distinctive NP where “My” and “my” are the determiners and “bark” and “bite” are the nouns. The “is worse than my bite” would be the VP with the verb being the “is”, and so on and so forth, with the possibility for that to be broken down into different language components and sentence properties. 

Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.” – Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. 

“When it comes to snacking, we tend to follow our instincts.” – Second Nature, Wholesome Medley packaging description slogan. 

Some more examples of the different combinations of a sentence’s grammatical properties. It was interesting trying to break these down following the Tree Diagramming Practice video before seeing the “results”/breakdown on the XLE-Web parse and different notions can form different views even in language. 



Andrew Radford, et al. Linguistics: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Excerpts.

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

Pinker, S. (2012). Linguistics as a Window to Understanding the Brain. Youtube Video

Pinker, S. (2011) “Language as a Window into Human Nature” 

Pinker, S. (1999). Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. New York, Basic Books, 1999. Excerpt, Chapter 1.

Tuzy, F. (2014) Tree Diagramming Practice.