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Re: way-OT: regularity of german v. english [was: Re: OT - Programming Languages w/o English Syntax]

on Sun, 19 Oct 2003 12:38:45PM -0700, Erik Steffl insinuated:
> Nori Heikkinen wrote:
> >on Sun, 19 Oct 2003 04:10:38AM -0700, Erik Steffl insinuated:
> >
> >>Monique Y. Herman wrote:
> >>
> >>>On Fri, 17 Oct 2003 at 22:37 GMT, Erik Steffl penned:
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>>english has a fairly simple a regular grammar so it's fairly
> >>>>easy to create english based programming language - the basic
> >>>>control structures are pretty much english sentences.
> >>>>
> >>>>This would be fairly hard todo in other languages that has more
> >>>>irregular grammar (the ones I know anything about have a lot
> >>>>more complicated/irregular grammar).
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>Hrm.  German and Latin are much more regular than English.
> >>>French is, too, iirc.  English has a *lot* of irregularity.
> >>
> >> german is regular? 
> >
> >more so than english, yes.
> >
> >>with each word changing depending on how it's used in sentence
> >>(case)??? 
> >
> >that's quite regular -- it's called declension, and is
> >well-documented in any introductory german text.
>   ok, let me give you a random word, let's say 'xxx' how much
>   information do you need to use it in german? how much information
>   do you need to use it in english?

in both:
- is it a noun or a verb?
  * if a verb, is it transitive or intransitive?
    o if transitive, does it take a prepostion?
      x if yes, what preposition?
      x if more than one, what do the different ones mean?
  * if a noun, how do you pluralize it?[1]
  * if a noun, does it have inherent gender?
    o if yes, what?
    o if yes, in what circumstances do you use a pronoun with it?
    o if yes, can it take multiple genders? 
      x if yes, what are the differences in these genders? are they
        nuanced semantically?

... do you really want me to go on?

> >>gender being pretty much random?
> >
> >that has nothing at all to do with the grammar -- you're talking about
>   it doesn't matter what it is. I was claiming that german language is 
> a lot more complex than english... grammar is part of it... genders
> are part of it...

psychologically, to a native speaker, gender is not "extra
information" about a word -- it's just part of the information about a
word that makes it that unique thing.

> >> in english there are few cases of irregularity (past tense/past 
> >>participle of some verbs, few words have non-standard way to create
> >>plural and that's pretty much it). each words has at most few forms,
> >>easily recongizable (as in: the forms are created in same way for
> >>almost all the words). 
> >
> >again, lexicon.  this point has nothing to do with the "regularity" of
> >language.
>   ok, it makes understanding the language a lot harder, because there 
> are a lot more rules that you need to apply, each (most?) having
> exceptions etc. so for each word you not only need the word but all
> its forms (some of them can be derived based on rules, but how do
> you know which ones?)

all your arguments apply for english as well as german, to an equal if
not greater extent.

> >>and the structure of the sentence is pretty simple as well.
> >
> >clearly, you've never tried to map it out.  go on, then, i dare you --
> >write me a regular grammar that can express the grammar of english.
>   of course, you can create various complex and ambiguous sentences in 
> english, the point is that you can take few forms of sentences and
> have a working language (that's pretty much what BASIC (talking
> about programming language) is).

you can do that in both languages.

> >> compare that to german where each words has number of forms 
> >>(depending on what it relates to), 
> >
> >declension
>   naming it doesn't make it simpler

we do it in english, too -- who/whom.

> >> example: in english, if I know the verb (one word) I can pretty
> >> much use it in a sentence. how many forms of each verb in german
> >> do you need to know to be able to use it in a sentence?
> >
> >a root form (lexical); a knowledge of its behavior (also lexical);
> >the basic rules for declension (a regular part of grammar).
> >answer: one.
> not true.
> you're joking. you need to know the word, and depending on the word
> you need to various bits of info: gender, which rules of declesion
> to use (or specific forms for words then do not follow general
> rules)...

see my fragment of a list above -- you need to know these in both.

> and when using words you need to know how they related to other
> words... you need to know gender of those other words... etc. in
> english the words stay pretty much unchanged and the grammar is
> defined by structure of the sentence. 

that makes no sense.  "grammar" is a basket term encompassing the
structure of the sentence -- m-w says "the study of the classes of
words, their inflections, and their functions and relations in the
sentence" -- therefore, encompassing syntax.  grammar can't be defined
by syntax.

> in german the grammar is defined by changing the words, often
> according to general rules but fairly often not following the
> rules...

there are myriad exceptions to the rules in both english and german.

> think about it: when learning english the only challenge is to learn
> how to pronounce words (and learn irregular verbs). you built
> vocabulary by learning words, where you pretty much only need to
> remember the word itself (in its basic form). while when learning
> german... I don't even want to think about it.

have you ever?


[1] see recent thread on plural of "virus" in English -- no more
    regular than any other language, and arguably less so!

    .~.      nori @ sccs.swarthmore.edu
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