Re: [FACETIOUS] Please pass the text

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Sun, 18 Feb 1996 17:56:21 +1000

I wrote:
> > But what I want to know is: do leptons have grammar, or does grammar
> > require hadrons? And is the surface of a black hole a text?

Thomas Rimkus replied:
> In trying to be funny you make the point. Of course leptons and hadrons
> carry information the grammar and text (if you feel the need to
> distinguish) of which we are just now beginning to understand (some think
> that a form of information is all they really are.)

No No No No No!!

By all means study overlaps and links and connections between grammars
and information and texts. To blindly equate them all achives nothing,
just deprives us of several extraordinarily useful concepts and
gives us in return only a vague, amorphous "text/grammar/information"
of no use for anything at all.

Earlier I read:
> The attempts of formal linguists of early Computer Sciences to
> divide and conquer (which still prevails as the only "true path")
> by divorcing content from context has led to really minimal success
> in mechanistic understanding and use of natural language (which I
> assume is the goal in that field).

I don't know about "early Computer Science", but modern linguistics,
using many ideas and techniques derived from computer science, has had
immense success in explaining features of natural language. Terms like
"context-free grammar" and "stack" and mathematical definitions of
things like "information" *are* useful and *do* produce real results.
It seems to me that postmodernists reject all of this mostly because
they don't understand it and they hate the idea that anything they
don't understand could actually be so powerful. On the other hand,
they have nothing at all to replace it with.

> Sure, the surface of a blace hole has text, because we communicate the
> expectation of its existence. But that is about all we may ever be able to
> glean from it I suspect.

So black holes have text? So what do we do with that? Deconstruct
a quasar, I guess. What good is that to anybody (let alone to
physicists)? And if leptons have grammar, then we need a new word
for what we used to call grammar, so it continues to make sense
to ask of any grammar whether it is context-free or not. (If you
think it makes sense to ask whether a lepton is context-free or not,
please provide a decision procedure for doing so. A model where
all entities possess all properties can probably be made consistent,
but is hardly going to be edifying.)

This is the sort of vacuousness I hate about "postmodernism" - big
ideas that are completely content-free.

Danny Yee.

P.S. On a less serious note. Is deconstruction of a Foss text
possible? I know *everything* is supposed to be deconstructable,