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Patrick LockerbyRSS Feed of this column.

Retired engineer, 60+ years young. Computer builder and programmer. Linguist specialising in language acquisition and computational linguistics. Interested in every human endeavour except the scrooge... Read More »

Word Salad And Rules Of Conformity

The conversation-capable computer has often been said to be just around the corner.  All too often, what is found around the corner is  an impenetrable wall.

Word salad

Word salad is a string of words which gives the impression of having been formed by selecting words mostly or entirely at random.  The psychological terms for this include 'verbigeration' and  'schizophasia'. The linguistic term is  'modern poetry'.

Rules of conformity
The Brightest Candles #1

The brightest candles are the people whose light remains long after they are gone.

For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.
John Milton, Areopagitica.
The Buzzword Blog #5 : Subversion


The word 'subverted' has itself been subverted by agendists and has become just another buzzword.

It now tends to mean:
1 -  'them' telling people things that 'we' don't want them to know.
2 - 'them' using technology in a way that 'we' don't want them to.

Some examples:
When you try to go against someone who was elected democratically with false accusations, this is a subversive act.
This wonderfully ambiguous wording was reported to have been spoke by Silvio Berlusconi.
Random Reward Schedules and the Ambiguity of Language.

I had the clue from Pavlov: control your conditions and you will see order.
B.F. Skinner, A Case History In Scientific Method.

Skinner discovered that the rate with which the rat pressed the bar depended not on any preceding stimulus (as Watson and Pavlov had insisted), but on what followed the bar presses. This was new indeed. Unlike the reflexes that Pavlov had studied, this kind of behavior operated on the environment and was controlled by its effects.
Skinner named it operant behavior.
The Intelligence in the Chinese Room.

In my  article Digging Beneath the Surface of Grammar, I wrote:
Strangeness And Ambiguity In Language

My major linguistic interest lies in the problem of getting a computer to interact with us humans using language in exactly the way that we do.  It is just not acceptable to any rational human being that they should be forced to adopt a jargon or baby-talk just to get a computer to do what it was invented for: making life easier.  Under no circumstances should we accept a computer operating system or program that has the audacity to issue commands to a human.