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ERIC Number: ED165504
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1978
Pages: 17
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: 0
Semantics and the Number of English Sentences.
Bjurlof, Thomas; Jamieson, Dale
It has long been said that there are an infinite number of English sentences. "This is the cat that caught the rat" is an Enqlish sentence. So is "This is the cat that caught the rat that stole the cheese.""This is the cat with white paws that caught the rat that stole the cheese" is unobjectionable as well. Since a clear cutoff point cannot be specified, it is tempting to resort to the three dots. This study proposes that the argument from the lack of a clear cutoff point to infinity is a bad argument; the set of English sentences may be a fuzzy set rather than a standard set. Furthermore, it is argued that the initial question suppresses several quite distinct questions. A theory constructed to account for formal relations between sentences might warrant the positing of infinite semantic structures. A theory constructed to account for human understanding probably would not. The common claim that infinity is necessary if there are to be novel and creative uses of language is found to be entirely without substance. (Author/AMH)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Chomsky (Noam)