Archive for Parsing

Garden paths galore

In two successive comments on different posts (here and here), Jarek Weckwerth asserts that this garden path post is "a timely follow-up" to the exuberant discussion on the parsing of a Classical Chinese / Literary Sinitic (CC/LS) book title that took place in this post and the plethora of readers' remarks that followed it.  This is an interesting proposition, and it makes me wonder if CC/LS is prone to this sort of ambiguity because of the inexplicitness of its grammar.

During the more than half a century that I have been studying and teaching CC/LS, it has always seemed to me that checking out different possible "garden paths" is a sine qua non for responsible reading of such texts.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2)

Ravens on the garden path

I just ran across a particularly impressive garden path sentence in Bernd Heinrich's book RAVENS IN WINTER (p. 268); it took me several tries to get this sentence to parse grammatically:

"Even the wolverine is said to do nothing to drive ravens off that land beside it and steal its food."

(Of course parsing is no problem if the sentence is spoken.  But in written form, for me at least, "and steal its food" just didn't seem to fit at first.  My mis-parse was reading "off" as the head of a prepositional phrase.)

Comments (19)

Chinese characters and the messiness of Chinese culture

Is it really so?

Uncannily and independently, Apollo Wu* sent me the following note before I made this post:

Hànzì bǐ bù shàng zìmǔ wénzì de guānjiàn lǐngyù zàiyú páixù jiǎnsuǒ hé réngōng zhìnéng děng fāngmiàn. Fùzá fánsuǒ nán xué nán yòng shì dāngqián miàn duì de kùnnán. Hànzì wú xù gěi Zhōngguó wénhuà dǎshàng língluàn de làoyìn!

汉字 比不上 字母文字 的 关键 领域 在于 排序 检索 和 人工智能 等 方面。复杂 繁琐 难学难用 是 当前 面对的 困难。汉字 无序 给 中国 文化 打上 凌乱 的 烙印!

Google Translate:

The key areas where Chinese characters are not as good as alphabetic characters are sorting, retrieval and artificial intelligence. Complicated, cumbersome, difficult to learn and difficult to use are the difficulties we are currently facing. The disorder of Chinese characters marks Chinese culture as messy!

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

Upaya: the joy of teaching Classical Chinese

One of my favorite books for everyday living is Irma S. Rombauer's Joy of Cooking.  The author's cheerful approach to her craft in the kitchen is similar to my jubilant upāya उपाय ("expedient pedagogical means; skill-in-means; skillful means" > fāngbiàn 方便 ["convenient"]) in the classroom.

In my classes, especially Introduction to Literary Sinitic / Classical Chinese (LS/CC), we don't just read through texts with the aid of vocabularies, commentaries, annotations, and grammar notes.  We live the texts, act them out, draw them on the board, debate them, chant them, analyze them, get at their profound philosophical significance, plumb their esthetic depths.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

Omnibus Chinglish, part 2

Comments (7)

Close enough: glossing Sinographic Mandarin with Pinyin Mandarin

Intriguing t-shirt that is making the rounds these days:


Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)

Parsing puzzle of the week

"Short Wave: A Physics Legend", NPR Up First 4/3/2022 [emphasis added]:

In the 1950's, a particle physicist made a landmark discovery that changed what we thought we knew about how our universe operates. Chien-Shiung Wu did it while raising a family and an ocean away from her relatives in China. In this episode from NPR's daily science podcast Short Wave, we delve into the life and impact of Chien-Shiung Wu, widely considered the "queen of nuclear physics."

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)

Garden path of the day

This NYT link text needed a second reading for me to break the initial prepositional phrase after "Bruce Springsteen", and start the main-clause subject conjunction with "Bob Dylan":

Like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tina Turner and others have all sold rights to their music for eye-popping prices.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (33)

Nordic amorous room

@JDMayger May 4:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (14)

Ted Cruz in big trouble

Ben Hull writes:

In our Computational Linguistics class we were discussing different methods of segmenting Chinese character texts. Today I came across a terrific example of the problems of segmenting left to right, in the first sentence of the attached image. I hope you find it as amusing as I did.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)

Chinglish cornucopia

Photos taken and curated (also here) by Ruan Qi:

1. "Chī duōshǎo ná duōshǎo 吃多少拿多少" – "Take as much AS YOU CAN" –> "Take as much as you eat".

This is from a hotel in Shaoxing, Zhejiang, serving buffet.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

Mandarin tongue twister

Trending on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website:

[So as not to give anything away, all syllables are separated and not divided into words.]

Nǐ de huò lā lā lā bù lā lā bù lā duō? Huò lā lā lā bù lā lā bù lā duō yào kàn nǐ de huò lā dé duō bù duō. Rú guǒ lā dé bù duō jiù lā nǐ de lā bù lā duō, rú guǒ lā dé duō jiù bù lā nǐ de lā bù lā duō.


Google Translate:

"Your cargo pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls more? If you pull too much, it won’t pull you.

Before turning the page, if you know Mandarin, try to parse and translate the above sentences.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

Dependency Grammar v. Constituency Grammar

Edward Stabler, "Three Mathematical Foundations for Syntax", Annual Review of Linguistics 2019:

Three different foundational ideas can be identified in recent syntactic theory: structure from substitution classes, structure from dependencies among heads, and structure as the result of optimizing preferences. As formulated in this review, it is easy to see that these three ideas are completely independent. Each has a different mathematical foundation, each suggests a different natural connection to meaning, and each implies something different about how language acquisition could work. Since they are all well supported by the evidence, these three ideas are found in various mixtures in the prominent syntactic traditions. From this perspective, if syntax springs fundamentally from a single basic human ability, it is an ability that exploits a coincidence of a number of very different things.

The mathematical distinction between constituency (or "phrase-structure") grammars and dependency grammars is an old one. Most people in the trade view the two systems as notational variants, differing in convenience for certain kinds of operations and connections to other modes of analysis, but basically expressing the same things. That's essentially true, as I'll illustrate below in a simple example. But Stabler is also right to observe that the two formalisms focus attention on two different insights about linguistic structure. (I'll leave the third category, "optimizing preferences", for another occasion…)

This distinction has come up in two different ways for me recently. First, ling001 has gotten to the (just two) lectures on syntax, and because of the recent popularity of dependency grammar, I need to explain the difference to students with diverse backgrounds and interests, some of whom find any discussion of syntactic structure opaque. And second, someone recently asked me about whether anyone had used dependency grammar in analyzing music. (The answer seems to be "mostly not" — though see this paper —  but the relevant question really is what the advantages of dependency models in this application might be.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (14)