LEC talk 26th May: Geoffrey K. Pullum

By Kevin | May 21, 2015

Tuesday 26th May, 11:05-12:30, DSB 1.17

Properties of Hierarchically Primitive Languages

Geoffrey K. Pullum
PPLS, University of Edinburgh

There are families of formally definable `languages’ (sets of symbol strings) that have a descriptive and combinatorial complexity way down below the finite-state (FS) languages, which are commonly (but wrongly) taken to be the bottom of the hierarchy, a sort of baseline level of mathematical primitivity. In fact there are infinitely many infinite classes of stringsets that are proper subclasses of FS yet proper superclasses of the finite stringsets. And they have some linguistic interest. Any specialist in language emergence, prerequisites, learnability, or evolution should know something about them. I provide a tutorial on the properties of these low-complexity languages, and also argue that some of the psychological work on the pattern-learning abilities of animals would have been more relevant and valuable if it had been informed about this material.