By H. Koopman, D. Sportiche, E. Stabler

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Additional info for An Introduction to Syntactic Analysis and Theory

Sample text

Of course, cognition depends on neurophysiology, and neurophysiology depends on the physics of organic matter, and so linguistics is ultimately part of the scientific study of the natural world. Like these other sciences, it is experimental. ” Examining the input we can explore, in the first place, the physical properties of linguistic signals. The relevant output includes our linguistic behavior, but also all the other changes and behavior that are caused by language: what we say, how we say it, how we react to what we hear, etc.

When we put morphemes together, we have seen that some morphemes like -al are very precise about what they will combine with, while others like er and re- are not very demanding at all. A morpheme that can combine with a wide range of things is said to be productive. The English affix -al is not very productive, while English noun compounding is very productive: almost any sequence of nouns can be a compound. The existence of productive affixes in a language opens the possibility for recursion in the morphology of the language.

How many reorderings of these words are also good sentences? It might seem at first that there are only a handful. For each length n, the number of well-formed expressions with n morphemes is called the density of a language, and the study of this mathematical notion has a long history (Salomaa and Soittola, 1978). A language is sometimes said to be slender if there is some fixed number k such that for every number n, the number of well formed expressions of length n is no more than k. With a moment’s reflection, it is easy to see that English and other human languages are not at all slender!

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