RE: Functional Tags

From: Clayton Bartholomew (
Date: Tue May 13 1997 - 14:37:27 EDT

to Dale M. Wheeler

I agree with 95% of what Dale said in his response, I am however
mystified by his mystification.
Dale wrote:

{big snip}
With respect to Clayton's question about "functional" level tagging, as
I've tried to show above, one runs into problems when one attempts to
provide both the morph and function tagging in the same tag in the

{big snip}

Finally, I'm mystified by Clayton's statement that he'd like to see a
"...*functional* tagging system for the GNT which divorces it from
morphology?". How does one construct a function system which is not
predicated on the forms of the words ??

What is there to be mystified about? The reason it is difficult to link
function to morphology in a single tag is that syntax functions have a
different and independent **distribution** from inflections. For this
reason representing syntax function as an attribute of an inflection is
problematic. A syntax function maps to more than one inflection and an
inflection maps to more than one syntax function in a complex network
(see book metaphor below).

What I mean by divorcing function from inflection is making it a
separate level of your language model. I do not mean there is no
connection between morphology and function. There is a connection
between morphology and function just like there is a connection between
a word and its semantic domain. A *word form* in a text provides a key
(data base term) into a domain (paradigm) of possible lexical meanings.
An *inflection* in like manner provides a key into a domain (paradigm)
of possible *functional meanings*. What is accepted theory in lexical
semantics has yet to show up in most discussions of syntax.

For those who are befuddled by the terminology let's build a metaphor.
Take the well known reference book, Greek-English Lexicon of The New
Testament - Based on Semantic Domains (J. P. Louw and E. A. Nida,
Scholars Press, 1992). Let's use this book as a model for a new book
called NT Greek Grammar - Based on Syntactic Functional Domains. Volume
two of our book will have a list of all the word inflections in NT
Greek. Under each inflection will be a list of numerically coded
Syntactic Functional Domains. Volume one will contain the definitions of
the Syntactic Functional Domains and will show which inflections map to
the same domain. This book is a model of what I am talking about.

A syntactic functional database could be constructed on this model.
Word inflections could be used as keys into the database but the
database structure would be organized around syntactic function. I
think this has implications for grammar tags as well, does it not?

All of this discussion is an extension or drawing out the implications
of the theory of the linguistic *sign* by Ferdinand de Saussure (Course
in General Linguistics, (1915 Paris), McGraw-Hill 1966).

This needs some more thought.

Clay Bartholomew
Three Tree Point

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