tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Sun Jun 23 23:23:10 2002

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Re: yajmeH

>The only reason the sentences the message Alan wrote earlier contained were
>wrong is that native English speakers linguists language competency issues
>interest interview decide intuitively that they're wrong.

Was that contrived to demonstrate the "wrongness" of a grammatically
correct but complicated sentence?  It's certainly very near the limit of
complexity for general understandability, but it follows the rules, and it
can be parsed without ambiguity.  I expect that few people could parse it
as quickly or easily as you could speak it unless you gave extreme cues
about phrase boundaries, but I also fully expect that most people could
parse and understand it given a minute or so.

If it's "wrong", I don't think it's an issue of grammar.  I don't know of
any rules in the books that say that you can't nest relative clauses ad
infinitum.  The only thing making it otherwise is the same sort of limit
that keeps people from remembering more than a handful of numbers at once
-- it's more of a stack size issue in the language-processing hardware.
Give a person the ability to keep track of more things at once, either with
pencil and paper or just with more time to devote to the task, and it's
obviously a perfectly valid sentence.  It's just an overly complex one if
the goal is for people to understand it quickly.

Similar situations occur in Klingon, though the "limit of complexity" is
probably a lot more subjective.  When I was starting out, even a single
relative clause would stump me until I worked it out with paper and pencil.
I would expect the eventual limit to be somewhere around the same 2-3
nested phrases for a human brain.  (The limit for a hypothetical Klingon
brain is a completely separate issue, but based on the relative simplicity
of Klingon grammar and a clear pattern of examples from Okrand, I'd suggest
that it might be smaller.)

Since we've observed that lots of little sentences work at least as well as
a few big ones, and since redundancy in Klingon is not frowned upon, I
propose that the Klingon norm is less tolerant of extremely complex grammar
than the Human norm.  That doesn't make extreme complexity in Klingon
ungrammatical.  It just makes it undesireable.

Which *was* my original point, after all.

-- ghunchu'wI'

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