DO WE REALLY NEED LINGUISTIC MODELS?


Now let us reason a little bit on whether computer scientists really need a generalizing (complete) model of language.

In modern theoretical linguistics, certain researchers study phonology, the other ones morphology, the third ones syntax, and the fourth ones semantics and pragmatics. Within phonology, somebody became absorbed in accentuation, within semantics, in speech acts, etc. There is no limit to the subdivision of the great linguistic science, as well as there is seemingly no necessity to occupy oneself once more, after ancient Greeks, Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky, with the philosophical question “What is natural language and what should its general model be?”

The main criteria of truth in theoretical linguistic research are its logical character, consistency, and correspondence between intuitive conceptions about the given linguistic phenomena of the theory’s author and of other members of linguists’ community.

In this sense, the works of modern specialists in theoretical linguistics seem to be just stages of inner development of this science. It often seems unnecessary to classify them according to whether they support or correspond to any complete model.

The situation in computational linguistics is somewhat different. Here the criterion of truth is the proximity of results of functioning of a program for processing language utterances to the ideal performance determined by mental abilities of an average speaker of the language. Since the processing procedure, because of its complexity, should be split into several stages, a complete model is quite necessary to recommend what formal features and structures are to be assigned to the utterances and to the language as a whole on each stage, and how these features should interact and participate at each stage of linguistic transformations within computer. Thus, all theoretical premises and results should be given here quite explicitly and should correspond to each other in theirs structures and interfaces.

Theoreticians tell us about the rise of experimental linguistics on this basis. It seems that in the future, experimental tests of the deepest results in all “partial” linguistic theories will be an inevitable element of evolution of this science as a whole. As to computational linguistics, the computerized experimentation is crucial right now, and it is directly influenced by what structures are selected for language description and what processing steps are recommended by the theory.

Therefore, the seemimgly philosophical problem of linguistic modeling turned out to be primordial for computational linguistics. Two linguistic models selected from their vast variety will be studied in this book in more detail.



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