[Corpora-List] RE : Chomsky and computational linguistics

Yorick Wilks Yorick at dcs.shef.ac.uk
Sun Sep 2 06:49:32 CEST 2007

For anyone interested in the history of these issues and the original
split, one might call it, between Chomsky and computational linguistics,
a key witness is Vic Yngve, who was at MIT in the earliest days of CL
[he is in one sense the founder of CL--as distinct from MT] and broke
with Chomsky over the key
issue of syntax and processing. You can see Yngve's reminiscences of
the row at http://www.dcs.shef.ac.uk/~yorick/YngveInterview.html
Yorick Wilks

On 2 Sep 2007, at 05:14, Terry wrote:


> The assertion that "discussions of personal attitudes by Chomsky

> (such as

> whether he recognized he was wrong or not) strikes me as

> uninteresting"

> strikes me as being consistent with Chomsky's own method of

> procedure. (For

> the record, though, he has not.)


> Chomsky's work is replete with strong attitudinal judgments about what

> linguistic work is ‘vacuous’ or ‘empty’ or has ‘no

> bearing’ (Aspects of the

> Theory of Syntax 40, 204, 54, 20, 41, 53, 126f). This mode of

> rhetoric is

> simply a means for dismissing whatever area of work Chomsky himself

> has no

> interest in exploring. And, as everyone on this list knows, one of his

> favourite areas for discouraging exploration was ... corpus

> linguistics!

> Good job no one was listening to his advice too closely.


> Terry



> -----Original Message-----

> From: corpora-bounces at uib.no [mailto:corpora-bounces at uib.no] On

> Behalf Of

> Santos Diana

> Sent: Saturday, September 01, 2007 10:48 PM

> To: Rob Freeman; Mike Maxwell; CORPORA at UIB.NO

> Subject: Re: [Corpora-List] RE : Chomsky and computational linguistics


> Although I have not participated -- mainly because I came from

> holidays

> already in the middle of it -- I tremendously enjoyed it, and agree

> with

> CÚcile and Rob that this is the (one) right place to discuss such

> issues.


> So please go on!


> I avow that discussions of personal atitudes by Chomsky (such as

> whether he

> recognized he was worong or not) strike me as uninteresting. Much has

> already been written about the (science) political atitudes by

> Chomsky as a

> scholar (see e.g. Geoffrey Sampson's books) and his influence in the

> linguistics discipline. But a question that may still be pertinent

> to ask --

> and discuss -- was whether anything he suggested is relevant to corpus

> linguistics.


> (Incidentally, I hate this designation, our discipline should be

> called

> "empirical linguistics" or at least "linguistics using corpora" or

> "corpus-based NLP"...)


> To add my own bit of discussion, the "corpus of a language" is not the

> reason we do corpus linguistics -- my impression being that a

> corpus is to

> be thought as a sample, a sample that we can manipulate and observe

> externally (and, therefore, discuss with others our findings on

> that corpus,

> and replicate them.)


> I am not sure, either, that anyone is looking for a complete

> grammar - or

> the most compact description of a corpus (this last one seems to me


> suspicious, if a corpus is a sample).


> I think that most people doing corpus linguistics see a corpus as a

> (near)

> perfect exploratory testbed, where instantaneous access to a lot of

> intuitions and speech practices can be found, as well as a good

> (although

> carefully dealt with) testbed for more developed hypotheses. (For

> this one

> you might require carefully designed new corpora, in fact...)


> There is also another branch (flavour) of corpus linguistics (?)

> where you

> just test and train your own systems, of course, and then the goal

> is to aid

> system development. This is the engineering side of corpus

> linguistics, that

> again is not well described by its name. "Corpus-based testing &

> development" might a better name?


> In any case, if the corpora-list only had conference announcements and

> requests for particular applications for particular languages, it

> would not

> be half as interesting (IMO) as it is now, thanks to Mike Maxwell, Rob

> Freeman and others:-)


> Diana



> ________________________________


> From: corpora-bounces at uib.no [mailto:corpora-bounces at uib.no] On

> Behalf Of Rob Freeman

> Sent: 1. september 2007 05:48

> To: Mike Maxwell; CORPORA at UIB.NO

> Subject: Re: [Corpora-List] RE : Chomsky and computational

> linguistics



> For me the question of interest is the complexity of descriptions of

> corpora. Is a complete grammar possible, or is the corpus of a

> language is

> the most compact description of itself?


> If Chomsky's work is relevant to that, why not talk about it?


> Personally I could do without the "he was right"/"he was wrong"

> stuff too. It buries the interesting issues and is meaningless in the

> abstract.


> So let's keep it tight to the science/engineering issue.


> But let's talk about it.


> If the completeness of grammatical descriptions of corpora is not an

> appropriate topic for the Corpora list, what is?


> -Rob



> On 8/31/07, Mike Maxwell <maxwell at umiacs.umd.edu> wrote:


> CÚcile Yousfi wrote:

> > I'm a mere user of the BNC and I'm no Chomsky specialist,

> but I do enjoy

> > reading interesting discussion on the subject. So please

> go on

> > discussing the matter on the list.

> >

> > It's intellectually stimulating to have a genuine dialogue

> on a

> > theoretical subject, and to be confronted to different

> points of view.


> As one who posted on this subject a couple months ago (and

> probably

> posted too much :-), not to mention representing the

> strident minority

> on this list), I have to say that there's probably a better

> forum. This

> list is, after all, about corpora; and while the discussion

> could have

> been about whether modeling corpora is about science or

> engineering, it

> tended to be more about whether Chomsky's approach had any

> validity, or

> whether he should have admitted defeat, or about other

> issues that (at

> least IMO) have less to do with corpora.


> I would welcome suggestions for a more appropriate forum.

> --

> Mike Maxwell

> maxwell at umiacs.umd.edu

> "Theorists...have merely to lock themselves in a

> room

> with a blackboard and coffee maker to conduct their

> business."

> --Bruce A. Schumm, Deep Down Things


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