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Re: colorless green ideas

From:Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>
Date:Saturday, April 10, 2004, 15:41
Quoting John Cowan <cowan@...>:

> Andreas Johansson scripsit: > > > Quoting Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>: > > > > > In view of the richness of our language and the wide use of metaphor > > > in 'ordinary' English (one doesn't have o resort to 'poetry'), > > > I wonder if it is, in fact, possible to produce a sentence using > > > standard English words in acceptable grammatically formed sentence > > > that is completely stupid from a semantic point of view. Now there's > > > a challenge :) > > > > The easy solution would seem to be oxymorons: He's got a five-wheeled > > trike. > > I think it would be worthwhile at this point to recall Chomsky's original > motive for constructing the CGISF sentence. He was not directly concerned > with semantics at all: rather, he was refuting a false theory of syntax. > > A behaviorist (I don't remember who) had proposed that syntax was > associational: in particular, that a sentence was grammatical if and only > if each pair of consecutive words had a high collocational frequency in > the known corpus of the language. But by devising the CGISF sentence, > Chomsky showed that even though "colorless green", "green ideas", > "ideas sleep", and "sleep furiously" were all extremely rare if not > nonexistent collocations, the sentence as a whole was still grammatical. > > Consequently, syntax had to be (broadly) generative: it had to have > the capability of constructing utterly novel sentences.
I might be missing something, but it seems to me that a such hypothesis would be refuted more easily and convincingly by presenting a sentence in which each consecutive pair has a high collocational frequency, but which taken as a whole is flatly agrammatical? (English, with its general lack of agreement, isn't the easiest language to construct such sentences in, but try for instance "I killed themselves".) Andreas