The Living Thing / Notebooks : Syntax

What’s so special about speech anyway?

Sam Kriss calls the spamularity the language of god. See also Feral, Thomas Urquhart.

They’re using phrase-structure grammar, long-distance dependencies. FLN recursion, at least four levels deep and I see no reason why it won’t go deeper with continued contact. […] It doesn’t have a clue what I’m saying.”


It doesn’t even have a clue what it’s saying back,” she added.

—Peter Watts

Dan Stowell summarises a neural basis for recursive syntax:

For decades, Noam Chomsky and colleagues have famously been developing and advocating a “minimalist” (BTCB14) idea about the machinery our brain uses to process language. […] They propose that not much machinery is needed, and one of the key components is a “merge” operation that the brain uses in composing and decomposing grammatical structures.

Then yesterday I was reading this introduction to embeddings in artificial neural network and NLP, and I read the following:

“Models like [this] are powerful, but they have an unfortunate limitation: they can only have a fixed number of inputs. We can overcome this by adding an association module, A, which will take two word or phrase representations and merge them.” (Bott11)


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