Resources for Communication Problems

Monday, March 10, 2008



(1) colorless green ideas sleep furiously

(2) furiously sleep ideas green colorless’

Of these two strings 1sounds more like a sentence than2. Thus we may say that1is grammatical but2is not . Although neither 1nor2says anything about the physical world , it may be conceded that1is more likely to have meaning , say to a modern poet , than2. There is , then , a certain affinity between meaning and grammatical structure . However , it is also clear from these examples that meaning could not be used as a criterion for grammaticality , for1may have no meaning to a prosaic person , but he would nevertheless be perfectly capable of deciding which of the two strings sounds more like a sentence in English than the other .


How does an adult speaker of English decide on the matter of grammatical structure? Certainly not by estimating the probability of occurrence of the sentence as a whole , because sentence (1) as well as sentence (2) had a zero probability of occurrence before Chomsky made them famous . Thus the difference between (1) and (2), which is fairly obvious to most speakers of English , can not be due to a difference in transitional probabilities of individual words (see also Miller , Galanter and Pribram , 1960) . Jenkins and Palermo (1964)*sought to account for the interpretative difference between the two sentences by postulating transitional probabilities between parts of speech . If this were so , speakers of English would always perceive a chain consisting of adjective , noun , verb , and adverb as grammatical , whereas the reverse order should result in the perception of grammatical chaos . But take the sentences

(3) occasionally call warfare useless


(4) useless warfare call occasionally

一個會說英文的成人是如何決定文法結構的問題?無疑地,整體來看並非藉由評估句子發生的機率,因為在Chomsky (喬姆斯基) 讓他們有名前,句子(1)和句子(2) 是零發生率。因此,(1)(2)之間的差異,對大部分母語是英文的人來說是相當明顯,無法歸結於個別詞上的過度可能性的差異。Jenkins and Palermo 企圖藉由假設詞性中的過度可能性以說明這兩句子的解釋差異。如果是如此,說英語的人會認為形容詞、名詞、動詞、和副詞組成的鏈為文法,而相反的順序會導致文法混亂的理解。但以這些句子(3) occasionally call warfare useless(4) useless warfare call occasionally為例

String (3) might occur in an instruction booklet on pacifistic rhetoric ; it is judged to be grammatical , and it is susceptible to semantic interpretation . None of this is true of (4) . But the order of parts of speech of (3) is that of the ungrammatical string (2) , whereas the grammatical string (1) has the order of (4) . Clearly , the transitional probability of parts of speech is irrelevant either to our understanding of grammar or to semantic interpretation of a sentence . Nor is it possible to assume that the order of morphemes –less , -s , -ly determines grammaticalness because the sentence

(5) Friendly young dogs seem harmless .

orders these morphemes as in (2) , not (1) .

條件(3)可能會發生在教學冊子裡的和平主義修辭;他被認為是合乎文法且易受語意解釋的影響。(4)中沒有一個是正確的。但是(3)的詞性順序就是不合文法的條件(2),而合文法的條件(1)(4)的順序。顯然地,詞性的過渡可能性對於我們的文法理解或句子的語意解釋是毫無關係的。也不可能假設詞素–less , -s , -ly的排列決定了文法,因為句子(5) Friendly young dogs seem harmless . 排列這些詞素是在(2)而非(1)

One of the many problems that an infant who is learning to speak must face is the fact that the meaning of individual words can not ordinarily give a clue to the meaning of a sentence . This is easily seen by citing such sentences as

(6) The fox chases the dog .


(7) The dog chases the fox .

The complexities involved in understanding sentences may be further illustrated by the sentence

(8) The dog is chased by the fox

which is understood as having the same meaning as (6) even though the order of subject and object is that of (7) .

在眾多問題中的一個是一位正在學習說話的嬰兒必須面對各個字的意義是無法提供線索給句子意義的真相。在引用的句子裡是易見的,像是(6) The fox chases the dog . (7) The dog chases the fox . 這複雜性包含了句子的理解可能進一步地由句子(8) The dog is chased by the fox . 說明。即使句子(8)的主詞和受詞的排序是和 (7) 一樣,句子(8)仍因和 (6)有相同意義而被理解。

Once more it is tempting to explain our understanding of the grammar of these sentences by postulating a simple chain of uni-directional associations between elements .For instance ,take a sentence in which the first noun-phrase is the subject ; here we learn to expect this noun-phrase to be followed by another noun-phrase that serves as object , except if the noun-phrase is followed by an is , the verb by an –ed and the verb-phrase by the word by ; when these morphemes appear , they would signal the reversal of subject and object . Again , the source for our interpretation of the meaning of a sentence must be due to a deeper understanding of grammatical structure than these rules would indicate . The sentence

(9) The fox is interested by virtue of his nature in chasing the dog
may not be elegant and even contrary to fact ; but it is a grammatical string , and its meaning is associated more closely to (6)than to (7) , showing that morphemes do not have the same function in a sentence as , for example , a verbal stimulus in a word-association task . Word association seems to be irrelevant to that process of grammatical analysis which must be performed by ever speaker and language-acquiring infant .

藉由假設要素間的單方向結合的簡單鏈,再一次企圖解釋我們對句子的文法理解。以一句子為例,句中第一個名詞片語是主詞;在這我們可以預期此名詞片語後面會接著另一個名詞片語當作受詞,除了如果第一個名詞片語後接著is動詞後跟著ed,動詞片語後跟著by這個字;當這些詞素出現時,他們會發出主詞和受詞逆轉的訊息。此外,我們對句子意義的解釋的來源必須是由於比這些被指出的規則有更身的文法結構的了解。句子(9) The fox is interested by virtue of his nature in chasing the dog 不能是講究精緻的,也不能和事實相反;但他是合於文法的條件,且他的意義和(6)較有關聯,勝於(7)。這表示,詞素在句子中沒有相同的功用,例如,在字詞結合任務中的口頭刺激。字詞的結合似乎與那些每位說話者和語言獲得的嬰兒所執行的文法分析的過程是毫無相關的。

If phonology and syntax pose many unsolved problems , the association between words and things is by no means less difficult to understand . A great number of different words occur in physical and temporal contiguity with one phenomenon (say a dog ) ; some example are : “ wow-wow , ” bark , naughty , dog , big , up on the … , careful . etc . On the other hand , one and the same word , for instance , “ bye-bye ”(or up , or good , or truck ) , may occur in the presence of constantly changing physical stimulus configurations . Why is the child not confused by this ?

如果音韻學和句法提出許多未解決的問題,則詞和事物的結合絕不會較不難理解。大量的不同詞以one現象發生在物理的和時間的一連串事物中(說一隻狗);一些例子是:“ wow-wow ” 、咆哮、頑皮、狗、大、在上面,小心等等。換句話說,一個和相同的詞,舉例來說,“ bye-bye ” (或上、好、卡車),可能發生在經常改變物理刺激一連串事物的面前。為何小孩不會被此搞混?

We cannot help but wonder how an infant at little over one year of age can ever learn to understand and produce this behavior . The number of articles and books that deal with the development of language goes up into the thousands . But only few authors have seen that there is a formidable and totally unsolved problem here . How does the child develop language ? To say vaguely that it must be discrimination learning , secondary reinforcement , or stimulus generalization does not bring us any closer to a solution , because it is not at all clear what has to be discriminated or what is generalized from or to , nor is it clear what is being reinforced , when and how . Oversimplifications , and even representations that are blatantly contrary to observable facts regarding the nature of language , have often led to explanations for language learning that rest on nothing but fiction .


The problems involved in language development cannot be understood in the absence of an analysis of the structure of language ; and it is quite possible that the proper understanding of language structure is dependent upon empirical investigations into the acquisition process .


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