Syntactic constraints and efficient parsability

TitleSyntactic constraints and efficient parsability
Publication TypeConference Papers
Year of Publication1983
AuthorsBerwick RC, Weinberg A
Date Published1983///
PublisherAssociation for Computational Linguistics
Conference LocationStroudsburg, PA, USA

A central goal of linguistic theory is to explain why natural languages are the way they are. It has often been supposed that computational considerations ought to play a role in this characterization, but rigorous arguments along these lines have been difficult to come by. In this paper we show how a key "axiom" of certain theories of grammar, Subjacency, can be explained by appealing to general restrictions on on-line parsing plus natural constraints on the rule-writing vocabulary of grammars. The explanation avoids the problems with Marcus' [1980] attempt to account for the same constraint. The argument is robust with respect to machine implementation, and thus avoids the problems that often arise when making detailed claims about parsing efficiency. It has the added virtue of unifying in the functional domain of parsing certain grammatically disparate phenomena, as well as making a strong claim about the way in which the grammar is actually embedded into an on-line sentence processor.