That language is highly complex is shown by the fact that up to now it has not proved possible to translate mechanically from one language to another, with really satisfactory results. The best programmed computer still cannot consistently translate from, say, Russian into English. The fault lies not in the computer but in the failure to provide it with adequate instructions, because we are still to handle this vastly complex system. It has been calculated that if the brain used any of the known mothods of computing language, it would take several nimutes to produce or to understand a single short sentence.
Second, language is productive. We can produce myriads of sentences that we have never heard or uttered before. Many of the sentences in this book have been produced for the first time, yet they are intelligible to the reader. It is clear that we have some kind of sentence-producing mechanism that sentences are produced anew each time and not merely imitated. One task of grammatical theory is to expose this quite remarkable fact.
Thirdly, language is arbitrary. There is no one-to-one relation between sound and meaning. This accounts for the fact that languages differ most of all in their grammatical structure. But how far are these differences only superficial in the shape of the words and their overt patterns? Some cholars would maitain that “deep down” there are common-even “universal” characteristics, disguised by the superficial features of sound (and perhaps of meaning). It is not at all clear how we can find the answer to this problem.
From Grammar by Frank Palmer (Penguin). (Adapted)
1 complex: complex
2 satisfactory: satisfactory, acceptable
3 constant: consistent, consistent, harmonious
4 adequate: enough
5 accurate : exactly:
6 to handle: handle, take care of
7 productive: productive, useful
8 myriads of numbers
9 mechanism: mechanism
10 anew: in a new or different way, repeat
11 theory: theory, theory
12 arbitrary: arbitrary, arbitrary
13 to account for sth: explanation
14 superficial: on the surface
15 overt: open, clear, not hidden
16 scholar: scholar
17 universal: universal, universal, universal
18 to disguise: to disguise, to conceal
The fact that languages are very complex is proven by the fact that up to now it has not been possible to translate by machine from one language to another with truly satisfactory results. The best programmed computers still cannot consistently translate from Russian to English. This limitation is not due to computers, but because computers have not been provided with precise commands yet because humans are still unable to operate this extremely complex system. It has been calculated that if the brain used any of the familiar methods of computer language, it would take several minutes to create or understand a simple short sentence.
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Second, language is generative. We can create countless sentences that we have never heard before. Many of the sentences in this book were written for the first time, yet the reader still understands. It is clear that in to there is a mechanism to generate sentences – that is, the sentence is new every time it is said, but it is not just an imitation. The task of grammar theory is to explain this salient fact.
Third, language is arbitrary. There is no one-to-one relationship between sound and meaning. So different languages are different and mostly in grammatical structure. However, how far is the difference in appearance only, in the sound shell of words and sentence patterns? Some scholars have suggested that down in the "depth" there are marked similarities – even universal properties, disguised as external peculiarities of sound (and perhaps meaning as well). How to find a solution that this problem is not clear.
(Grammar quote by Frank Palmer (Penguin) (Adapted)
Translation company Idichthuat