tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Nov 24 20:16:56 2009

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Re: pu'jIn

d'Armond Speers ( [KLI Member]

I am reminded of a center-embedding limitation that linguists like to parade in front of freshman linguistics classes.

The cow kicked the dog.  The dog barked.
(is equivalent to)
The dog the cow kicked barked.

The dog bit the cat.  The cat meowed.
(is equivalent to)
The cat the dog bit meowed.

We have no trouble understanding or saying these sentences.  But try the center embedding twice:

The cat the dog the cow kicked bit meowed.

...and it just sounds like a string of words, with no discernible meaning.  "Word salad."

It's not a limitation of grammar, it seems to be more a cognitive limitation.

Anyway, just an interesting diversion.  :-)


On Nov 24, 2009, at 7:56 PM, ghunchu'wI' wrote:

> On Nov 24, 2009, at 8:08 PM, Christopher Doty wrote:
>>> Loading up on nouns in a noun phrase may make logical sense, but it's
>>> often difficult to parse.
>> I'll probably get in trouble for this, but it is difficult to parse
>> for English speakers because we have two genitive constructions, and
>> we do our best to keep them separate.
> That's an interesting proposal, but I'd venture that long strings of  
> nouns are difficult for us to parse mostly because none of us is a  
> native speaker of Klingon.  The cognitive load on my brain when  
> speaking Klingon is definitely a bit higher in general than when I'm  
> speaking English.  Simplicity is easier to handle than complexity,  
> and small numbers of things are easier than large numbers of things.   
> I don't think a difficulty with phrases consisting of many nouns in a  
> row is due to any more than that.
> It was probably ten or twelve years ago when a few of us tried to  
> quantify our mental "stack size" for parsing nested relative  
> clauses.  In English, six or seven levels was not a big problem.  In  
> Klingon, we started getting lost around four or five.  I wish I had  
> documented it at the time.  Maybe we should repeat the experiment the  
> next time a group of us gets together; it would probably make a good  
> research project.
> -- ghunchu'wI'

d'Armond Speers, Ph.D.

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