Re: [FACETIOUS] Please pass the text

Thomas W. Rimkus (trimkus@COMP.UARK.EDU)
Tue, 20 Feb 1996 03:05:47 -0600

On Sun, 18 Feb 1996, Danny Yee wrote:

> 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.

What successes and to what end, career support or real understanding?

> "context-free grammar" and "stack" and mathematical definitions of
> things like "information" *are* useful and *do* produce real results.

*OK*, in formal contexts I suppose, but you left out mu-recursion and some
other really neat buzzwords which I have not heard used in the same
sentence in 30 years. Never late than better, I guess. (Oops, but you
get the picture I suppose, which included a request for information about
the age and maturity of your department). BTW , thats the point, you get
the picture even when it evokes emotion. The problem is to explain how you
got the picture in such a jumbled up structure. 30 years ago, natural
languge processing and chess playing were in the same dilemna, too much
stuff to deal with. Now, however, we have chess playing programs built
on heuristics (Oh my god, another buzzword from the 60's) which can challenge
the title while natural language languishes in the soup. Could it be that
formal languages and chess are relatively recent constructs which can be
approached by formal systems while natural languages pass information by
patterns which elude formal systems?

> 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.

I do understand part of it (will the person who claims to understand it
all, please stand up), dont hate it, do recognize its
power in fueling the "machine", and dont think of myself as postmodern.
Postmodernism would say that you cannot understand it, so why try. That
is a long way from questioning the effectivness of some particular
model. I believe that hatred leads to close mindedness.

>On the other hand, they have nothing at all to replace it with.

Maybe not yet, but the process of understanding has often started with
a fresh approach. This is not deconstructionism, but reevaluation of a
seemingly non-productive dead end. Modern linguistics with all its "successes"
has not moved very far. I stand to be corrected, but please give us an outline
of the major successes in deeper understanding of natural languages which have
been brought about by your beloved mechanistic approach. It appears that the
underlying problem in natural languge processing is in pattern recognition,
something in which parsing and logical analysis have had little success
in dealing with. The system to which you have given your loyalty cannot yet
recognize women and children from soldiers at arms let alone the subtle
patterns of natural language.

The problem, as I see it in modern science, is that the bandwidth is clogged
with bureacracy and supporters of the standard path. If anyone dares to
question the unspoken assumptions of the basis of some "scientific" area of
study, the walls start to crawl with a cheerleading mentality.

> This is the sort of vacuousness I hate about "postmodernism"

"Hate", uh close-mindedness?!? Hatred, it seems to me, usually stems from
our own insecurities. Maybe the vacuousness is inherent in the factionalized
model of understanding you so adamantly embrace? There seeems to be a
significant amount of pent-up seriousness underlying your facetiousness.

| Tom Rimkus | phone/fax : 501-559-2863 |
| Madison County | internet : |
| Arkansas | smail : PO Box 875 |
| | Huntsville AR 72740 |