My skepticism about chinese language

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Re: My skepticism about chinese language

#41  Postby mawanli » May 19, 2011 4:17 am

epepke wrote:I've always been a fan of deep case grammars (a la Fillmore) and HPSG to represent them (though I think the HPSG people have gotten a bit, shall we say, elaborate.) I'm not so convinced by the Language of Thought hypothesis. It seems to me that is of the class of ideas that sounds good in general, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Of course, these tools may just have been the best I could find for what I was trying to do, which was language-based user interfaces. In a computer, the problem of internal representation of knowledge has already been solved (with any luck), and it's a matter of translating it to and from a human language. So I viewed language generation and understanding as an algorithmic process, with a conversational context. This seems to me to work well to describe some fairly common things about language, such as when pronouns are used. For example:

1) Fred opened the door, and a bucket of water fell on his head.
2) A bucket of water fell on his head, and Fred opened the door.

are both fine syntactically, but in terms of conveying meaning, they're rather different.

Anyway, our friend mawanli has caused me to wonder if deep cases and HPSG would be good for Chinese, or if something else might be better.


How does the computer understand the tense? Is there someone who begin to research this question?
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Re: My skepticism about chinese language

#42  Postby epepke » May 19, 2011 4:19 pm

mawanli wrote:How does the computer understand the tense? Is there someone who begin to research this question?


That's actually quite easy. Time-stamping and -tracking are pretty common these days.
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Re: My skepticism about chinese language

#43  Postby mawanli » May 20, 2011 3:54 am

epepke wrote:That's actually quite easy. Time-stamping and -tracking are pretty common these days.

Is what you mean that computer begin to understand the tense?
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Re: My skepticism about chinese language

#44  Postby Zwaarddijk » May 20, 2011 12:09 pm

mawanli,
do notice that the English tense system forces some statements to have a tense even when there is no sense in them having tense, such as "five plus five is ten" and a bunch of other statements - in some situations such as understanding relativity theory, the English tense system may actually subtly nudge the mind to make mistaken assumptions! Also, the idea that tense somehow is better than other categories that a language can mark, or that mandatory marking is better than optional marking is stupid and misguided. Furthermore, you seem to think that morphological marking is superior to periphrastic constructions - which is also a misguided idea.
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Re: My skepticism about chinese language

#45  Postby UndercoverElephant » May 21, 2011 1:16 am

mawanli wrote:
epepke wrote:That's actually quite easy. Time-stamping and -tracking are pretty common these days.

Is what you mean that computer begin to understand the tense?


That depends what "understand" means. Computer systems can comprehend time, but only in the same way they can comprehend anything else they are programmed to comprehend. But to a computer, now is just a number and I think humans can understand now in ways that a computer cannot.
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Re: My skepticism about chinese language

#46  Postby epepke » May 21, 2011 1:50 am

mawanli wrote:
epepke wrote:That's actually quite easy. Time-stamping and -tracking are pretty common these days.

Is what you mean that computer begin to understand the tense?


I was interested in translating from the information stored in a computer to English (and Spanish and German) utterances for the purposes of user interfaces. Mostly it was for automatically generating responses and menu choices for adventure games. The time information is quite easy to store in a computer. Translating to tenses is another issue, but the basic information is there.

I established some deep tenses and translated them to the target language. Note that English has more ways of expressing time than tense. (Of course, actually, there is no future tense in English; we use the helper verbs "will" and "shall.")

Also note that in English there are lots of ways of dealing with time. For example:

1) I go to the store. (from time to time, or habitually)
2) I am going to the store. (present continuous or immanent or specific future)
3) I went to the store. (simple past)
4) I had gone to the store. (I went to the store before doing something else)
5) I have gone to the store. (completion of an action)
6) I just went to the store. (very recent past)
7) I will/shall be going to the store. (future, maybe continuous, maybe coinciding with something else)
8) I will/shall go to the store (future)

Of course, that's not an exhaustive list, and there are many ways to indicate time that don't have much to do with the verb (such as "Tomorrow I go to the store" or "So, last week, I'm going to the store, when I see a spotted dog.")

I had to use deep tenses and translating them because I needed the program to say different things. For example, if you try to open a door and it is locked, the program would say "The door is locked." If, however, you just locked it, it would say "the door is now locked." (The word "say" was sometimes literal, as I used the language of a speech synthesizer. The ability to do emphasis, which is better than plain text interfaces, as I could indicate emphasis from the deep structure.)

In any event, representing the basic information in the computer was easy. It's information that is readily available or adaptible that you need to write the program anyway. Writing the language generator was a lot harder.
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Re: My skepticism about chinese language

#47  Postby mawanli » May 21, 2011 7:38 am

epepke wrote:I was interested in translating from the information stored in a computer to English (and Spanish and German) utterances for the purposes of user interfaces. Mostly it was for automatically generating responses and menu choices for adventure games. The time information is quite easy to store in a computer. Translating to tenses is another issue, but the basic information is there.

I established some deep tenses and translated them to the target language. Note that English has more ways of expressing time than tense. (Of course, actually, there is no future tense in English; we use the helper verbs "will" and "shall.")

Also note that in English there are lots of ways of dealing with time. For example:

1) I go to the store. (from time to time, or habitually)
2) I am going to the store. (present continuous or immanent or specific future)
3) I went to the store. (simple past)
4) I had gone to the store. (I went to the store before doing something else)
5) I have gone to the store. (completion of an action)
6) I just went to the store. (very recent past)
7) I will/shall be going to the store. (future, maybe continuous, maybe coinciding with something else)
8) I will/shall go to the store (future)

Of course, that's not an exhaustive list, and there are many ways to indicate time that don't have much to do with the verb (such as "Tomorrow I go to the store" or "So, last week, I'm going to the store, when I see a spotted dog.")

I had to use deep tenses and translating them because I needed the program to say different things. For example, if you try to open a door and it is locked, the program would say "The door is locked." If, however, you just locked it, it would say "the door is now locked." (The word "say" was sometimes literal, as I used the language of a speech synthesizer. The ability to do emphasis, which is better than plain text interfaces, as I could indicate emphasis from the deep structure.)

In any event, representing the basic information in the computer was easy. It's information that is readily available or adaptible that you need to write the program anyway. Writing the language generator was a lot harder.


It is my feeling that when I think about the question of language, it seems as if I am walking in a way with only one direction because I always get back to the start of my thinking.
If we can deal the question of language better in computer, virtual human must be needed, so more elements can be thought about.
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Re: My skepticism about chinese language

#48  Postby Loren Michael » Dec 30, 2011 11:05 am

I think that, to the extent that a language is good or bad depending on its efficiency in accurate communication, Chinese is extremely bad except insofar as it's relatively compact on a page relative to non-ideogrammatic languages. I think Korean is about as compact on a page, but they actually use an alphabet. Korean gets the best of both worlds. If only their social hierarchy wasn't so thickly and inextricably integrated into their language.

I don't know that it's possible to actually quantify how much brainspace a language uses relative to its effectiveness in communication, but Chinese can't be worth it.
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Re: My skepticism about chinese language

#49  Postby Zwaarddijk » Dec 31, 2011 10:39 am

Loren Michael wrote:I think that, to the extent that a language is good or bad depending on its efficiency in accurate communication, Chinese is extremely bad except insofar as it's relatively compact on a page relative to non-ideogrammatic languages. I think Korean is about as compact on a page, but they actually use an alphabet. Korean gets the best of both worlds. If only their social hierarchy wasn't so thickly and inextricably integrated into their language.

I don't know that it's possible to actually quantify how much brainspace a language uses relative to its effectiveness in communication, but Chinese can't be worth it.

Of course, one needs to keep in mind that the written form of a language is a later thing, an accident of the language. The Chinese spoken language quite likely is no better or worse than any other language. The written language has some extra challenges that few other written languages need to deal with - it really is a written language for a huge number of divergent dialects. Most other written languages basically just correspond (to some extent) to one or a few prestige forms of the language. (English might be an exception in that its written form doesn't really have a one-to-one correspondence to any form of English any longer.)

As for social hierarchies being integrated into languages, you find that elsewhere, but in a different way. I know Korean and Japanese (as well as some SE Asian languages) have grammaticalized things connected to social hierarchy, but in e.g. English (and many other European languages), it's way more difficult to know if you're using the socially correct forms - your choice of words (e.g. what register you use), your choice of pronunciation, your choice of how educated you actually are when it comes to the language all can influence whether you'll be sneered at for how you speak or considered sufficiently cultured. If Korean social hierarchy doesn't have such effects, but only requires you to use the proper inflections, it's actually remarkably much easier than keeping track of the ins and outs of European linguistic deference.
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Re: My skepticism about chinese language

#50  Postby Saim » Jan 01, 2012 12:47 pm

Zwaarddijk wrote:
Loren Michael wrote:I think that, to the extent that a language is good or bad depending on its efficiency in accurate communication, Chinese is extremely bad except insofar as it's relatively compact on a page relative to non-ideogrammatic languages. I think Korean is about as compact on a page, but they actually use an alphabet. Korean gets the best of both worlds. If only their social hierarchy wasn't so thickly and inextricably integrated into their language.

I don't know that it's possible to actually quantify how much brainspace a language uses relative to its effectiveness in communication, but Chinese can't be worth it.

Of course, one needs to keep in mind that the written form of a language is a later thing, an accident of the language. The Chinese spoken language quite likely is no better or worse than any other language. The written language has some extra challenges that few other written languages need to deal with - it really is a written language for a huge number of divergent dialects. Most other written languages basically just correspond (to some extent) to one or a few prestige forms of the language. (English might be an exception in that its written form doesn't really have a one-to-one correspondence to any form of English any longer.)

Are you sure about that? From what I've heard the idea that written Chinese stands above all the dialects is a myth, and that written Chinese is pretty much just standard Mandarin.
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