Reflections on grammatical typologies

It is useful to point out the differences that may exist between different grammatical typologies. The classical grammatical taxonomy is essentially aimed at teaching and comprehension. It therefore has a pedagogical purpose. On the other hand, the taxonomy that is useful for rule-based machine translation has a different purpose: it aims essentially at allowing disambiguation, both grammatically and semantically, because ambiguity is a fundamental and very common problem in this particular context. Such a typology essentially focuses on the location of word types, on the structures encountered in the sentence. This explains why typologies can be different, as they have different goals and purposes.

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Analyzing relative pronouns

What is the status of ‘relative pronouns’ of classical grammar within the present conceptual framework? Traditionally, a distinction is made between simple relative pronouns (qui, que, dont, où ; who, what, whose, where) and compound relative pronouns (à qui, pour lesquelles, à côté duquel, etc.; to whom, for whom, beside whom, etc.). If we look first at simple relative pronouns, the category does not seem satisfactory, in particular because of the presence of ‘qui’ (who) and ‘que’ (what), whose grammatical role appears, in the present context, to be quite different. Consider the two short sentences: ‘la maison que j’habite est grande’; et ‘l’homme qui parle est grand’. (the house I live in is big and the man who speaks is tall.). As these two examples illustrate, the structures following ‘que’ and ‘qui’ appear different. Here, ‘que’ is followed by a personal pronoun (‘j’habite’: I live) and a conjugated verb; and ‘qui’ is followed directly by a conjugated verb (‘parle’: speaks). From our present perspective, these are inherently different structures. Here, it turns out that ‘dont’ and ‘où’ admit the same type of structure as ‘que’. Thus, the homogeneous category, from our point of view, is formed here by ‘que’, ‘dont’, ‘où’, but not by ‘qui’. If we extend this analysis to other words, by searching for those who could fit into this category, we also find: ‘duquel’ (= de lequel; from which), ‘de laquelle’, ‘desquels’ (= de lesquels; from which), ‘desquelles’ (= de lesquelles; from which), ‘auquel’ (à lequel), à laquelle, ‘auxquels’ (à lesquels), ‘auxquelles’ (à lesquelles). But we also have all forms of the same type built from another preposition than ‘de’ or ‘à’: ‘sur lequel’, ‘sur laquelle’, …, ‘par lequel’, ‘par laquelle’, ‘avec lequel’, etc. Les pronoms relatifs composés classiques tels que ‘à qui’, ‘pour lesquelles’, ‘à côté duquel’, etc.; to whom, for whom, beside whom, etc.), s’intègrent également naturellement dans cette catégorie. But from the point of view of two-sided grammar, ‘à l’aide duquel’, ‘au moyen de laquelle’, ‘à la suite de quoi’, ‘à l’aide de qui’, etc. (with the help of which, by means of which, as a result of which, with the help of whom, etc.) also belong to this category. (to be continued)

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Powering MT with two-sided grammar: the case of ‘près de’

‘près de’ (near) is considered to be a prepositive locution. From the viewpoint of two-sided grammar, it is (synthetically) a preposition, made up (analytically) of an adverb (‘près’) followed by the preposition ‘de’. In Corsican language, this is translated as vicinu à. But this grammatical analysis does not solve all cases, as the example above shows. Because in the sentence ‘depuis près de dix ans, il travaillait’ (for almost ten years, he has been working), ‘près de’ (almost; guasgi) has a different grammatical role. According to classical analysis, it would rather be an adverb.
In the present conceptual framework, we will analyze ‘près de’ (almost; guasgi) in ‘depuis près de dix ans, il travaillait’ (for almost ten years, he has been working) as a modulator of the cardinal determinant ‘dix’ (ten), i.e. as a modulator of cardinal determinant. A prototype implemented with this type of grammatical analysis then gives the correct translation, where ‘near’ is replaced by guasgi (nearly) . It seems that two-sided grammar is beginning to produce interesting results (to be confirmed).

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Expanding on noun modulators

Let’s take a closer look at noun modulators, especially common noun modulators. We have seen that adjectives could be considered, in the present conceptual framework, as noun modulators. In this context, the question arises, are there other forms of noun modulators? It seems that there are.

Let us consider elements of sentences such as ‘bois de châtaignier’ (chestnut wood; legnu castagninu) or ‘oiseau de proie’ (bird of prey; aceddu di preda). In ‘bois de châtaignier’, ‘de châtaignier’ seems to play the role of noun modulator, in the same way as an adjective. In traditional grammar, ‘de châtaignier’ is considered as a noun complement. In the present framework, it would be a noun modulator, since it clarifies and restricts the meaning of the noun ‘bois’ (wood; legnu). The role of ‘de proie’ in ‘oiseau de proie’ is identical, as it acts as a modulator of the name ‘bird’.

Interestingly, it turns out that the comparison between languages tends to validate this type of analysis. Indeed, ‘bois de châtaignier’ is better translated in Corsican language by legnu castagninu than litterally by legnu di castagnu (chestnut wood); and in this case, castagninu (of chestnut) is an adjective, i.e. a noun modulator. Thus, castagninu and di castagnu being equivalent here, confirming in both cases their same nature of adjective modulator.

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Modulators: the case of adjectives

Using the notion of modulator again, we can now insert adjectives into this framework: in this context, they consist of noun modulators (mostly common nouns, but sometimes proper nouns as well). The adjective, as a noun modulator, is placed either before or after the noun.

So we have the following categories:

  • modulators of nouns (= adjectives)
  • modulators of adjectives
  • modulators of verbs, i.e. adverbs in a restrictive but classical sense
  • modulators of determinants
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New: Part-of-speech tagger for French language API

I have just published the POS-tagger for French language API, on RapidAPI. The use of the API is free for 1000 requests / month. No training necessary, it works immediately.

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Modulators of determinants

We have mentioned the special category of determinant modulators. It seems that this category is interesting and deserves to be explored further. A determinant modulator is placed before a determinant and changes its meaning. As we have already seen, from the viewpoint of two-sided grammar, a determinant preceded by a determinant modulator (MODD) remains a determinant.

We can give some examples that apply to different categories of determinants:

  • MODD applying to possessive determinants (mes, tes, ses, nos, vos, leurs; my, your, his/her, our, your, their; i me, i to, i so, i nostri, i vostri, i so), demonstrative determinants (ces; these; ‘ssi/’sse) and definite article determinants (les; the; i/e): certaines de, certains de, l’un de, l’une de, la majeure partie de, la plupart de, tous, toutes, une bonne partie de, une grande partie de; some of, some of, one of, one of, most of, most of, all of, all of, a good part of, a large part of; une poche di, uni pochi di, unu di, una di, parte è più di, a maiò parte di, tutti, tutte, une bella parte di, parte assai di. Here are some examples: “certains de mes chevaux étaient bruns” (some of my horses were brown; uni pochi di i me cavalli eranu bruni); la majeure partie des (= de les) habitants étaient riches (most of the inhabitants were rich; a maiò parte di l’abitanti eranu ricchi).

In addition, we have three other categories of MODDs that have already been mentioned:

  • MODD applying to cardinal determinants (deux, trois, quatre, cinq, … ; two, three, four, five…; dui, trè, quattru, cinqui,…): au moins, presque, quasiment, environ, plus de, moins de, approximativement, etc. (at least, almost, nearly, about, more than, less than, approximately, etc. ; alminu, guasgi, guasgi, circa, più di, menu di, apprussimativamenti, etc.)
  • MODD applying to indefinite article determinants: plus de, au moins; more than, at least; più di, alminu
  • MODD applying to indefinite determinants (aucun, aucune, quelques; none, none, a few ; nisciunu, nisciuna, calchì): au moins, presque; at least, almost; alminu, guasi

Finally, it seems that this category of MODD has some consistency and could be of practical interest.

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Grammatical categories by position again: the case of adverbs and modulators placed before a modulator

Let us try to delve more deeply into the case of adverbs. We shall continue now to define them by their position in relation to other grammatical categories. The result is that adverbs are divided into several different categories. Now let’s look at the adverbs that may be placed before an adjective modulator. To begin with, let us cite but a few adjective modulators:

  • peu, très, extrêmement, surtout, étonnamment, à peine, vraiment, assez, bien, trop, tellement, etc.
  • pocu, assai, estremamente, sopratuttu, in modu stunante, appena, propriu/propria/proprii/proprie, abbastanza, bellu/bella/belli/belle, troppu/troppa/troppi, troppe, tantu/tanta, tanti/tante, etc.
  • not veryveryextremelyespeciallysurprisinglyhardlyreallyenoughall/very, tooso, etc.

Now some modulators of adjective modulators are:

  • pas, peut-être, surtout, vraiment, etc.
  • micca, forse, soprattuttu, veramente, è cetera.
  • not, maybe, mostly, really, etc.

Here are some relevant examples: “il était surtout trop blanc” (he was mostly too white, era sopratuttu troppu biancu); “il était vraiment très beau” (he was really very beautiful, era propriu bellissimu); “il était bien trop grand” (he was far too tall ; era bellu troppu maiore).

Let’s call this category modulators of adjective modulators. The fact of being placed before the adjective modulator is related to the fact that the modulator modifies the meaning of the adjectivemodulator.

Hence, if we reason in terms of two-sided grammar, an adjective modulator preceded by a modulator remains an adjective modulator: MOD-MODAQ = MODAQ.

To sum up. So far we have distinguished several categories among the classical class of adverbs:

  • modulators of adjectives
  • modulators preceding verbs: verb pre-modulators
  • modulators following verbs: verb post-modulators
  • modulators preceding cardinal determinants
  • modulators preceding adjective modulators
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