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Stack-based human languages? (was Re: My Three Assertions)

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Sunday, February 27, 2005, 13:52

On Fri, 25 Feb 2005 11:29:06 -0800,
Sai Emrys <saizai@...> forwarded the following to the list:

> ---------- Forwarded message ---------- > From: Henrik Theiling <theiling@...> > Date: 24 Feb 2005 23:49:17 +0100 > Subject: Re: My Three Assertions > To: > > > Hi! > > Sai Emrys <saizai@...> writes: > > > stack syntax > > > > Isn't that just a matter of staying within 7+-2 bounds? I don't see > > anything inherently more difficult about the *syntax* that makes it > > human-incompatible. > > I think so, too. SOV and OSV syntax are just like Fithian.
I don't think so. Fith allows a kind of stack acrobatic that goes well beyond anything possible in human languages, in fact going beyond what human minds can process in real time. The resemblance of Fith to verb-final human languages is only superficial.
> A typical > *long* Japanese sentence (or a long German sentence, too) uses a stack > quite heavily. It first pushes the nouns, then pops them with a verb, > pushes back the combined concepts, pushes more nouns, and finally pops > the rest.
This is the first time I see any human language being described as stack-based.
> Only a human language has a principle limitation in both the amount of > words a concept can be remembered when it is not used (=life time of a > stack cell) and the amount of data that can be remembered at the same > time (=stack depth).
These "limitations" are of such an importance that they render the stack model of little use for describing human languages of any kind, even verb-final ones.
> Stack modification is strange, however. Although voices often come > close. > > E.g. > > ... daß Peter Maria Rolf Essen kochen helfen sehen kann. > push push push push poppoppush poppoppush poppoppush poppush
This is a rather contrived example. Few if any German L1 speakers talk that way. And while a Fithian would parse it that way, I doubt that any human would. Human languages have tree-based structures with depth limitations, not stack-based ones.
> German has no strict stack-based approach since it uses adjective and > articles to the left.
It has no stack-based approach at all. It is funny to see someone describing his own L1 as stack-based! It's my L1, too, and I must say that I see no reason to describe it that way.
> Also note that such natlangs keep concepts on the stack for quite a > considerable amount of time: > > ... daß Peter Maria Rolf tolles Essen, mit ganz viel Pfeffer, Gewürzen, > Fleisch und Gemüse, daß sie nachher gegessen und genossen haben, > kochen helfen und dann abwaschen und wieder in den Schrank einräumen > sehen kann. > > No problem: 'Peter' is pushed at the very beginning and popped by > 'sehen'. This is quite the structure Fith has: first push all the > nouns, then pop them in the course of the sentence.
This is the same contrived example as above, only embellished with attributes and subclauses, and only found in written language. Due to the recursive nature of human syntax, *any* human language allows for constructing bizarre sentences that don't violate the rules of the grammar, but are hardly parseable in real time. Such sentences are never used in spoken language, however. Greetings, Jörg.


Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>