This post is about phrase-structure grammars, which can be both entertaining and educational.
If you're a linguistics student, you will be interested in this. We’re going to learn how to define
a little set of rules for a made up language, and then generate possible sentences in that
language based on the rules. We can also use it to test if something is grammatical in our
You may already be familiar with phrase structure from linguistics class, or parsing in programming. Regardless, this introduction is accessible for everyone - including novices.
We will first learn the basics of these little rules, and then illustrate by generating random plot summaries for possible episodes of the TV show Midsomer Murders
(à la the Midsomer Murders Bot on twitter) and also Beatles lyrics.
Even Barnaby can see the templatic nature of the show. How many nas do we need to generate this song? Nearley parser We will be using the Nearley parser, a computer program that helps parse se…
I was a reviewer for the Evolution of Language (Evolang) conference for the first time this year, a tedious-sounding task that turned out to be hilarious. The conference attracts some bizarre manuscripts on the origins of language, one particularly imaginative one I wanted to devote a blogpost to, but regretfully cannot because of reviewer confidentiality.
Also in my inbox to review was the most exciting paper about language that I’d ever seen. I recommended acceptance obviously, even though it was only tangentially related to the theme of the conference, and it was accepted as a poster and published in the conference proceedings (available here).
The paper was by Gerhard Jäger and Søren Wichmann, about constructing a world family tree of languages using a database of basic vocabulary, the ASJP database. Claims about how language families may be related are nothing new but are normally statistically uninformed (such as work by Merritt Ruhlen and Joseph Greenberg). The amazing thing…