SPUG: need another list moderator

Michael R. Wolf MichaelRWolf at att.net
Sun Sep 20 16:04:08 PDT 2009

On Sep 20, 2009, at 9:46 AM, Bill Campbell wrote:

> On Sat, Sep 19, 2009, Michael R. Wolf wrote:


>> Sadly, English wasn't *designed* by linguists.  Its loose and  
>> flexible
>> "grammar rules" are descriptive rather than prescriptive.  Had it  
>> been
>> designed, there would be more structural underpinnings, probably
>> punctuation, to reduce ambiguities and increase expressiveness.
> Early languages such as Latin were pretty structured with
> extensive differentiation in declension of nouns and adjectives,
> and conugation of verbs (I didn't learn much English grammer
> until I started taking Latin and French in 8th grade).

Me too!  I remember using my Latin as a structure to observe my  
English.  I still treat Perl as a human language, and use many English  
linguistic analogies when I teach Perl class.  Adults learn best when  
building on prior knowledge, and what deeper knowledge can I draw upon  
than their grasp of English, even if (or especially if) it's a second  

I still remember asking my 9th grade English class if we could diagram  
sentences.  She said that it's not taught that way any more, and I was  
disappointed.  Reflecting back, that was an early indication of my  
interest in linguistics, grammars, and parsing theory.

Perhaps this group could answer one of my unanswered questions from  
High School....  How would you diagram or parse this common English  
    The bigger, the better.
    The cheaper, the better.
    The newer, the better.

I'll even expose the localizer, or implied phrase or pronoun that's  
implied (but not stated) in the context of the utterance, ("$_" in  
Perl terms, or "it" in English terms), but that still doesn't yield a  
sentence structure that I've seen diagramed

    The bigger the paycheck, the better.
    The cheaper the car is, the better the car is.
    The newer the potatoes, the better they are.

Any help with my English, you linguists?

And, to take a leap back to CS, what programming constructs does this  
remind you of?

It sounds like a declarative language to me, and reminds me of an  
inference engine that I worked with back in my Bell Labs days.  We'd  
give it some constraints and it would generate a "solution".
   OC-12 circuit boards come in multiples of 2
   There are 5 slots in a card cage
   OC-12 and OC-3 boards can share a power supply
   T-1 and OC boards cannot share a rack
   OC-12 circuit boards can go in slots 1-3
   Each site should stock 10% of board count as spares
   Boards take 6 weeks to repair
   OC-3 circuits can go in any slot
   The site is already configured with some equipment
   How many of each is required?
     circuit board
     circuit board spares
     power cord
     power supply
     cooling capacity

It reminds me of the class of puzzles with phrases like
   Joe does not like strawberries
   Sam is older than Leslie
   Allison and Leslie split a desert
   The youngest person likes chocolate
   What did each person have for dessert?
   What is the age order of the diners?

And to take it another step...  anyone know of inference systems,  
either in Perl or otherwise, that are presently being used?

Michael R. Wolf
     All mammals learn by playing!
         MichaelRWolf at att.net

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