The Formal Complexity of Natural Language

  • Walter J. Savitch
  • Emmon Bach
  • William Marsh
  • Gila Safran-Naveh

Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 33)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xviii
  2. Prologue

    1. Stanley Peters
      Pages 1-18
  3. Early Nontransformational Grammar

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 19-23
    2. Janet Dean Fodor
      Pages 24-40
    3. Emmon Bach, William Marsh
      Pages 41-55
    4. Gilbert H. Harman
      Pages 87-116
    5. P. T. Geach
      Pages 117-131
  4. Modern Context-Free-Like Models

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 133-137
    2. Geoffrey K. Pullum, Gerald Gazdar
      Pages 138-182
    3. Hans Uszkoreit, Stanley Peters
      Pages 227-250
  5. More than Context-Free and Less than Transformational Grammar

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 281-285
    2. Joan Bresnan, Ronald M. Kaplan, Stanley Peters, Annie Zaenen
      Pages 286-319
    3. James Higginbotham
      Pages 335-348
    4. Christopher Culy
      Pages 349-357
    5. William Marsh, Barbara H. Partee
      Pages 369-386
  6. Epilogue

    1. Gerald Gazdar, Geoffrey K. Pullum
      Pages 387-437
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 439-451

About this book


Ever since Chomsky laid the framework for a mathematically formal theory of syntax, two classes of formal models have held wide appeal. The finite state model offered simplicity. At the opposite extreme numerous very powerful models, most notable transformational grammar, offered generality. As soon as this mathematical framework was laid, devastating arguments were given by Chomsky and others indicating that the finite state model was woefully inadequate for the syntax of natural language. In response, the completely general transformational grammar model was advanced as a suitable vehicle for capturing the description of natural language syntax. While transformational grammar seems likely to be adequate to the task, many researchers have advanced the argument that it is "too adequate. " A now classic result of Peters and Ritchie shows that the model of transformational grammar given in Chomsky's Aspects [IJ is powerful indeed. So powerful as to allow it to describe any recursively enumerable set. In other words it can describe the syntax of any language that is describable by any algorithmic process whatsoever. This situation led many researchers to reasses the claim that natural languages are included in the class of transformational grammar languages. The conclu­ sion that many reached is that the claim is void of content, since, in their view, it says little more than that natural language syntax is doable algo­ rithmically and, in the framework of modern linguistics, psychology or neuroscience, that is axiomatic.


Prolog Syntax complexity formal logic grammar linguistics natural language

Editors and affiliations

  • Walter J. Savitch
    • 1
  • Emmon Bach
    • 2
  • William Marsh
    • 3
  • Gila Safran-Naveh
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  3. 3.Xerox PARCPalo AltoUSA
  4. 4.College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of CincinnatiUSA

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 1987
  • Publisher Name Springer, Dordrecht
  • eBook Packages Springer Book Archive
  • Print ISBN 978-1-55608-047-0
  • Online ISBN 978-94-009-3401-6
  • Series Print ISSN 0924-4662
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
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