[Inform] parser question

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Admiral Jota

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Sep 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/23/96
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Hi folks. I'm somewhat a student of languages, and I was thinking about
writing IF games in other languages. I know that it's fairly easy to
write in many of them, like French or Spanish, because most things are
formatted similarly to english. Would Inform be able to handle input that
used other forms -- like Latin, for instance? Latin has, for example,
declining nouns: a noun can have different suffixes, depending on how
it's used in a sentence. One might type "ASPICE AEOLUM" to look at Aeolus,
but "DA AEOLO GLADIUM" to give the sword to him. (Forgive any Latin
grammar mistakes I make; it's been a while since I've studied it.) Would
Inform's parser be able to handle this (not counting ugly kludges, like
making AEOLO and AEOLUM synonyms), or would the parser need to be totally
rewritten to handle this sort of thing? If all nouns and verbs were
completely regular, would it change the answer to this question?


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Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/23/96
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Admiral Jota (jo...@laraby.tiac.net) wrote:

> Hi folks. I'm somewhat a student of languages, and I was thinking about
> writing IF games in other languages. I know that it's fairly easy to
> write in many of them, like French or Spanish, because most things are
> formatted similarly to english. Would Inform be able to handle input that
> used other forms -- like Latin, for instance? Latin has, for example,
> declining nouns: a noun can have different suffixes, depending on how
> it's used in a sentence. One might type "ASPICE AEOLUM" to look at Aeolus,
> but "DA AEOLO GLADIUM" to give the sword to him.

Hm. I'd invent different scope routines for the different declensions;
you can place them properly in the Verb grammar lines.

The various scope routines would all work the same as the standard one,
but they'd look at properties name_nom, name_gen, name_acc, and so on.
The various properies would contain parallel word-lists, in the
appropriate declension.

Adjectives go in the name_* property, just as they do normally, so it's
easy to make them match the noun.

Now, do you put the verb in the vocative ("(player), look at rock!") or
infinitive ("(I want to) look at rock.") or first-person present tense
("(I) look at rock.")?

Heh.

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Greg Falcon

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Sep 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/23/96
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jo...@laraby.tiac.net (Admiral Jota) wrote:


>Hi folks. I'm somewhat a student of languages, and I was thinking about
>writing IF games in other languages. I know that it's fairly easy to
>write in many of them, like French or Spanish, because most things are
>formatted similarly to english. Would Inform be able to handle input that
>used other forms -- like Latin, for instance?

>Would Inform's parser be able to handle this (not counting ugly kludges,
>like making AEOLO and AEOLUM synonyms)...

I know little about Latin, but there is one think I would like to
point out.

Even the English parsers have a lot of what you would call ugly
kludge.

For instance, in Inform (and I mention Inform not to pick on a system
in particular; it is merely what I know best), if the game accepts

>take off the small green vest

It's a pretty safe bet that the game would recognize

>get off the vest small vest green small vest vest vest

as the same meaning.

My $0.02

Greg

--
i've never stolen a .sig idea - wait, i guess i have


David Monniaux

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Sep 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/24/96
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Hello,

I'd rather be interested in a parser for French. I've considered
taking the Inform libraries and doing a French version, but I don't
know whether it'd be too big a task... French and English share
lots of traits, as the order of groups in sentences, plural forms
and so... French is even simpler since there aren't all those
nasty pre/postpositions (ex: take out - the verb "take" can have
many meanings depending on the following pre/postposition, and that's
hell for non-native anglophones :-) ).

Does anyone know of any such effort? Would it be considered as
a good idea if I coded such a parser, based upon the Inform one
(given the said similarities, it'd quite just be replacing literal
words everywhere)?

--
David Monniaux, informatique, Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon
(computer science student)
e-mail: dmon...@ens-lyon.fr http://www.ens-lyon.fr/~dmonniau

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Sep 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/24/96
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professo...@pnx.com (Greg Falcon) writes:

>For instance, in Inform (and I mention Inform not to pick on a system
>in particular; it is merely what I know best), if the game accepts

>>take off the small green vest

>It's a pretty safe bet that the game would recognize

>>get off the vest small vest green small vest vest vest

>as the same meaning.

To pick on Inform in particular, my favorite example of this
phenomenon is something I encountered in playing Curses.
At one point, I typed
> get on
fully expecting the response
What do you want to get on?
or something like it. I was surprised to get the reply
Taken.
The reason being that "on" matched the noun "watch on a
golden chain", which happened to be in the room.
--
Carl Muckenhoupt | Text Adventures are not dead!
b...@tiac.net | Read rec.[arts|games].int-fiction to see
http://www.tiac.net/users/baf | what you're missing!

David Monniaux

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Sep 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/24/96
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In article <5277v5$m...@news.dx.net>, professo...@pnx.com (Greg Falcon) writes:

> jo...@laraby.tiac.net (Admiral Jota) wrote:
> I know little about Latin, but there is one think I would like to
> point out.

Sounds like the BIG problem would be the numerous forms a verb, adjective or
noun can take in Latin - for those who know little of latin, the same word
has different finals according to its place in the sentence (ex: rosa
when a subject, rosam when a complement) -, and the fact that the word order
in sentences is loose (the said different forms allow the reader to parse
the sentence nevertheless). From my own experience, human parsing of latin
is slow and difficult. But given the fact that even for relatively simple
languages like English or French, parsers just parse rudimentary sentences
(ie "get the book" is not as complex as an excerpt from Shakespeare :-) ),
and don't really need to parse complex ones, so I think that parsing
rudimentary latin would not be so hard.

Latin let aside, I think that thorough parsing of most human languages
(which have loose definitions and lots of lexical tie-ins) amounts to
correct understanding of human writing, which in turn amounts to
artificial intelligence. But that rather belongs to comp.ai... no?

[ please excluse the approximate English ]

George Caswell

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Sep 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/24/96
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On 24 Sep 1996, David Monniaux wrote:

> Latin let aside, I think that thorough parsing of most human languages
> (which have loose definitions and lots of lexical tie-ins) amounts to
> correct understanding of human writing, which in turn amounts to
> artificial intelligence. But that rather belongs to comp.ai... no?
>

Pretty much. Still, might it be feasible that, with access to modern
computers (which, sadly, too often kept binary compatibility with their
early 80's predecessors...) with perhaps a hundred times the storage and
processing power, at least, of the computers Infocom games were made for,
we could make something better, or at the very least more comprehensive
than what we have now?

....T...I...M...B...U...K...T...U... ____________________________________
.________________ _/>_ _______......[George Caswell, CS '99. 4 more info ]
<___ ___________// __/<___ /......[ http://www.wpi.edu/~timbuktu ]
...//.<>._____..<_ >./ ____/.......[ Member LnL+SOMA, sometimes artist, ]
..//./>./ /.__/ /./ <___________.[writer, builder. Sysadmin of adamant]
.//.</.</</</.<_ _/.<_____________/.[____________________________________]
</.............</...................


John Wood

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Sep 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/25/96
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dmon...@ens-lyon.fr (David Monniaux) writes:
> French is even simpler since there aren't all those
> nasty pre/postpositions (ex: take out - the verb "take" can have
> many meanings depending on the following pre/postposition, and that's
> hell for non-native anglophones :-) ).

Yeah, but it's a lot of fun for English writers - one TV program had the
(adventure-gamey) instruction "take out Nicholas Parsons" accidentally
delivered to an escort agency instead of an assassin...

John

Thomas Nilsson

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Sep 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/30/96
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Greg Falcon wrote:
>
> Even the English parsers have a lot of what you would call ugly
> kludge.
>
> For instance, in Inform (and I mention Inform not to pick on a system
> in particular; it is merely what I know best), if the game accepts
>
> >take off the small green vest
>
> It's a pretty safe bet that the game would recognize
>
> >get off the vest small vest green small vest vest vest
>
> as the same meaning.
>

As one of the few IF-authoring systems originating in a non-english
speaking country even Alan does handle english better than even swedish.
It may have to do with the simpler language you anglosaxans keep
yourself with ;-)

Uncle Bob, are you there? As a speaker of many languages (have everybody
visited hos home page?), perhaps you could come up with a more
intelligent explanation as to why english is easier to handle?

The Alan system does not accept the above *very* bad input. Alan keeps
track of adjectives, nouns etc. and tries to verify 'syntactical
correctness' in the commands. However, as you all can understand, there
are cases where it fails miserably...


Thomas


--
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(ThoNi of ThoNi&GorFo Adventure Factories in 1985)
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Ian Hutchesson

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Oct 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/1/96
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>As one of the few IF-authoring systems originating in a non-english
>speaking country even Alan does handle english better than even swedish.
>It may have to do with the simpler language you anglosaxans keep
>yourself with ;-)
Dear Thomas,

I wouldn't like to do a componential analysis on feature of the two
languages. Suffice it to say the anglosaxons happily lost genders a
thousand years ago, so why do the swedes still have it, pretty useless in
the grammatical sense? Definite articles placed at the ends of nouns? I
think most of the article-using world is happier for having this
simplified. But then if you go east or south from Sweden you get to more
complex language zones. So it's all relative. Besides there are not many
languages that have the complexity of the English verb system, despite
the fact that English has lost its future tense.

General question:
Has any of the serious AI parsers made it into IF? I've seen a bit of
Eliza philosophy employed, but nothing that parses strict grammar, that
will successfully parse grammatically ambiguous sentences.

Ian Hutchesson

Joe Mason

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Oct 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/2/96
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"Re: [Inform] parser quest", declared Thomas Nilsson from the Vogon
ship:

TN>> It's a pretty safe bet that the game would recognize

TN>> >get off the vest small vest green small vest vest vest

TN>> as the same meaning.

"Spam spam spam spam eggs and spam."

I've used this feature of Inform for comic effect in a couple of my test
programs - for example, in my contest entry, there's a warm glowing
light which I like to refer to as "warm glowing warming glow" (Simpsons
reference).

Joe

-- Coming soon: "In the End", a work of Interactive Fiction --
-- More about the 1996 IF Contest at rec.arts.int-fiction --
-- Oct. 10 at ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/competition96 --

ş CMPQwk 1.42 9550 şILLITERATE? Write for a free brochure...

Thomas Nilsson

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Oct 4, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/4/96
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Joe Mason wrote:
>
> "Re: [Inform] parser quest", declared Thomas Nilsson from the Vogon
> ship:
>
> TN>> It's a pretty safe bet that the game would recognize
>
> TN>> >get off the vest small vest green small vest vest vest
>
> TN>> as the same meaning.
>
> "Spam spam spam spam eggs and spam."
>
> I've used this feature of Inform for comic effect in a couple of my test
> programs - for example, in my contest entry, there's a warm glowing
> light which I like to refer to as "warm glowing warming glow" (Simpsons
> reference).
>

Comic effect?!?

In the example you give you really have adjectives, namely "warm",
"glowing" and "warming", and one noun, "glow". That is not the same as
allowing any combination of 'words' in any number to refer to the object
"with the most matches" (which I think was the original subject...).

I really get irritaded when a game assumes my adjectives are nouns and
starts to refer things that are not the ones I intended. Furthermore
this often leads to the game all by itself revealing things the author
had not intended.

That's why I feel a more knowledgeable parser is a necessity, and why we
tried to a bit more than the simplest of solutions in Alan.

Thomas

PS. I am sorry if my previous post on the subject tasted like spam. Not
my intention, and by the way I thought everybody here was allowed an
occassional plug for their own work in the I-F arena, especially if it
is free, comes with some useful information, be it game (real or
fictious), language, tool, interpreter, home page, ideas, or even
signatures! Or what do you say, guys? DS.

Greg Ewing

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Oct 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/7/96
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Ian Hutchesson wrote:
>
> despite the fact that English has lost its future tense.

Pardon? English seemed to have a perfectly good future
tense last time I checked. "John will visit the supermarket
tomorrow" sounds pretty much in the future to me...

> Ian Hutchesson

Greg

Magnus Olsson

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Oct 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/7/96
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In article <32500E86...@softlab.se>,

Thomas Nilsson <th...@softlab.se> wrote:
>As one of the few IF-authoring systems originating in a non-english
>speaking country even Alan does handle english better than even swedish.
>It may have to do with the simpler language you anglosaxans keep
>yourself with ;-)
>
>Uncle Bob, are you there? As a speaker of many languages (have everybody
>visited hos home page?), perhaps you could come up with a more
>intelligent explanation as to why english is easier to handle?

In the hope that Uncle Bob forgives me for answering his question, I
think the reason English is easy to parse (to the level it is done
by adventure parsers; I suspect it's not so easy once you get into
more advanced parsing) is twofold:

1) The lack of inflections. There is no need to handle things like
the same noun looking different depending on whether it's the subject,
the direct object or the indirect object, whether it follows
a preposition, or whether it's in the definite or indefinite form
(Swedish "hunden" = "the dog", but "en hund" = "a dog"). The same goes
for adjectives.

Note that English isn't quite as unproblematic as it could be: for example,
irregular plurals have to be hardcoded.

2) A (relatively) regular word order. In the sentence "give the dog
the bone", the dog must be the indirect object and the bone the direct
one. Inflected languages have a much freer word order, relying instead
on the case of the nouns (the dog would in the dative case and the
bone in the accusative).

But the English word order isn't completely rigid, and above all it
can be modified by the use of prepositions (which have replaced the
inflections of Old English): the sentences "give the bone to the dog",
"give to the dog the bone" and "to the dog give the bone" may not all
be very idiomatic English but are all perfectly unambiguous and
understandable.

Especially the use of preopositions makes the grammar of an adventure
game more complicated (typically, you have to code both "give <do> to <io>"
and "give <io> to <do>". Not to mention the fact, of course, that the
English system of preopsitions is quite complicated and full of
strange (to the foreigner) idiomatic usages (why on earth are you
angry *with* someone, for example?).
From m...@marvin.df.lth.se Thu Oct 3 14:59:57 CED 1996
Article: 17623 of rec.arts.int-fiction
Path: news.lth.se!mol
From: m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.int-fiction
Subject: Re: [Inform] parser question
Date: 3 Oct 1996 12:55:30 GMT
Organization: /etc/organization
Lines: 48
Message-ID: <530d42$9...@news.lth.se>
References: <jota.84...@laraby.tiac.net> <5277v5$m...@news.dx.net> <32500E86...@softlab.se>
NNTP-Posting-Host: marvin.df.lth.se

In article <32500E86...@softlab.se>,


Thomas Nilsson <th...@softlab.se> wrote:
>As one of the few IF-authoring systems originating in a non-english
>speaking country even Alan does handle english better than even swedish.
>It may have to do with the simpler language you anglosaxans keep
>yourself with ;-)
>

>Uncle Bob, are you there? As a speaker of many languages (have everybody
>visited hos home page?), perhaps you could come up with a more
>intelligent explanation as to why english is easier to handle?

In the hope that Uncle Bob forgives me for answering his question, I
think the reason English is easy to parse (to the level it is done
by adventure parsers; I suspect it's not so easy once you get into
more advanced parsing) is twofold:

1) The lack of inflections. There is no need to handle things like
the same noun looking different depending on whether it's the subject,
the direct object or the indirect object, whether it follows
a preposition, or whether it's in the definite or indefinite form
(Swedish "hunden" = "the dog", but "en hund" = "a dog"). The same goes
for adjectives.

Note that English isn't quite as unproblematic as it could be: for example,
irregular plurals have to be hardcoded.

2) A (relatively) regular word order. In the sentence "give the dog
the bone", the dog must be the indirect object and the bone the direct
one. Inflected languages have a much freer word order, relying instead
on the case of the nouns (the dog would in the dative case and the
bone in the accusative).

But the English word order isn't completely rigid, and above all it
can be modified by the use of prepositions (which have replaced the
inflections of Old English): the sentences "give the bone to the dog",
"give to the dog the bone" and "to the dog give the bone" may not all
be very idiomatic English but are all perfectly unambiguous and
understandable.

Especially the use of preopositions makes the grammar of an adventure
game more complicated (typically, you have to code both "give <do> to <io>"
and "give <io> to <do>". Not to mention the fact, of course, that the
English system of preopsitions is quite complicated and full of
strange (to the foreigner) idiomatic usages (why on earth are you
angry *with* someone, for example?).
--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

Uncle Bob

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Oct 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/7/96
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Thomas Nilsson (th...@softlab.se) wrote:
: Uncle Bob, are you there? As a speaker of many languages (have everybody

: visited hos home page?), perhaps you could come up with a more
: intelligent explanation as to why english is easier to handle?

Oi! You've actually read my _resume_!? Well, I call myself an amateur
linguist and the emphasis is on amateur rather than linguist.....so
keeping that in mind:

English may be easier to handle in terms of _adventure games_ for a few
reasons:

1. The language is analytic rather than synthetic. That is, generally
English sentences have a predictable subject-verb-(object) word order;
objects of prepositions follow explicit prepositions, adjectives appear
before the noun, and so on. This is definitely not the case in many other
languages! (I'm referring here to sentences in the active voice, of
course, which would cover adventure games nicely. Anyone want to consider
Tagalog, with its "will (be) call(ed) (by) you I" type of sentence? Or,
how about the vav consecutive construction in classical Hebrew?)

2. Noun inflection is essentially unknown (except for not very many
foreign loan words).

3. In adventure games, the nastiness of English verbs is mostly avoided
since the imperative is used for the most part.

On the down side, of course, English has a large vocabulary and is
perhaps a bit more prone to guess-the-word, although with the limited
vocabulary of just about any adventure game, this is probably a "feature"
of any language.

I'm sure parsers could be developed to handle other languages to the
degree that current adventure game parsers handle English, although it
might be a bit more trouble. I suspect the real reason this hasn't
happened is audience: for better or worse, English is rather widely known...
although I am still searching for a French adventure game. There's got
to be one somewhere....

Uncle Bob


Arthur Chance

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Oct 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/8/96
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In article <325877...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz> Greg Ewing

The word "visit" in that is the present tense, the futurity is
indicated be the modifier "will". Ergo, no future tense as the word
"visit" itself does not get modified, unlike the past tense where it
changes to "visited". Tense strictly refers to changes in the verb
word itself, not auxiliary words modifying it. What you've got is
actually a future mood, AFAIR. (It's a while since I last looked at
this.)

The whole confusion arises because of the idolatry for classical
languages around the turn of the century. Latin and Greek have a
multiplicity of tenses, i.e. for indicating things happening in the
present, past, future, etc, the verb itself changes ending. It was
felt by grammarians that English must do the same, so they ignored the
fact that English verbs only have present and past forms ("visit",
"visiting" and "visited") and started blathering on about future and
pluperfect tenses and other classical baggage which do not actually
occur. Check an authoritative *modern* grammar of English like _Quirk
et al_ for a learned discussion of this. (~1700 pages describing most
forms of English in a very accessible fashion.)

Similarly, it's actually impossible to split an infinitive. :-)

--
Why can't you get cheese flavoured cough mixture?

Mark Musante

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Oct 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/8/96
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Arthur Chance (Arthur...@Smallworld.co.uk) wrote:
> In article <325877...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz> Greg Ewing <gr...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz> writes:
> > Ian Hutchesson wrote:
> > > despite the fact that English has lost its future tense.
> > Pardon? English seemed to have a perfectly good future tense
> > tomorrow" sounds pretty much in the future to me...

> The word "visit" in that is the present tense, the futurity is
> indicated be the modifier "will". Ergo, no future tense as the word

I'm not a grammarian, but I'm going to have to disagree with this.
"Will go" is just as valid a future tense as any other language's
version. Just because it takes two words to express it doesn't
mean it expresses a time which occurs any less farther into the
future.

If you want to talk about "losing" a tense, then compare these
two:
I write books.
I am writing books.

In Norwegian (and probably Sweedish & Danish too), there is no
distinction between these two sentences.

> Similarly, it's actually impossible to split an infinitive. :-)

Ah. So you've never heard the phrase "To gboldlyo where no one
has gone before." before. :-)

- Mark

BPD

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Oct 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/8/96
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m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:

>In the hope that Uncle Bob forgives me for answering his question, I
>think the reason English is easy to parse (to the level it is done
>by adventure parsers; I suspect it's not so easy once you get into
>more advanced parsing) is twofold:

>1) The lack of inflections. There is no need to handle things like
>the same noun looking different depending on whether it's the subject,
>the direct object or the indirect object, whether it follows
>a preposition, or whether it's in the definite or indefinite form
>(Swedish "hunden" = "the dog", but "en hund" = "a dog"). The same goes
>for adjectives.

If you think that's bad, try Gaelic where the beginnings and endings
of words change regularly:

mathair - mother
an mhathair - the mother
mo mhathair - my mother
a mhathair - his mother
a mathair - her mother

athair - father
an t-athair - the father
m'athair - my father
athair - his father
a hathair - her father

My *mother* (with emphasis) - mo mhathairse

And so forth and so on...

I'm starting into writing a game set in the world (and Otherworld :-)
of Celtic myth but, believe me, it'll be in English instead of
Gaellic!

Brian P. Dean

Arthur Chance

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Oct 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/9/96
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In article <53dpl2$8...@lex.zippo.com> olo...@roundlake.baxter.com

(Mark Musante) writes:
> > The word "visit" in that is the present tense, the futurity is
> > indicated be the modifier "will". Ergo, no future tense as the word

> I'm not a grammarian, but I'm going to have to disagree with this.
> "Will go" is just as valid a future tense as any other language's
> version. Just because it takes two words to express it doesn't
> mean it expresses a time which occurs any less farther into the
> future.

I agree it expresses something in the future, but as far as I
understand it (my books on English aren't easily accessible right
now), when you're being really technical about grammar "tense" is
strictly changes in the verb, not modification of the verb by other
words (which ISTR is "mood" but could be horribly mistaken). It's like
"weight" in physics - there's a strict meaning and a commonplace
colloquial meaning that's wider and used in places which aren't
technically correct. ("The satellite in orbit weighs 4 tonnes.")

> If you want to talk about "losing" a tense, then compare these
> two:
> I write books.
> I am writing books.
>
> In Norwegian (and probably Sweedish & Danish too), there is no
> distinction between these two sentences.

Interesting. I presume in this case the first could be translated as
"I'm an author", but what do Norwegians do to distinguish "I eat fish"
from "I am eating fish"? Rely on context and hope or rephrase somehow?

> > Similarly, it's actually impossible to split an infinitive. :-)
>
> Ah. So you've never heard the phrase "To gboldlyo where no one
> has gone before." before. :-)

:-) I don't think it would have caught on so well in that form.

Magnus Olsson

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Oct 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/9/96
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In article <53dpl2$8...@lex.zippo.com>,

Mark Musante <olo...@world.std.com> wrote:
>Arthur Chance (Arthur...@Smallworld.co.uk) wrote:
>> In article <325877...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz> Greg Ewing <gr...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz> writes:
>> > Ian Hutchesson wrote:
>> > > despite the fact that English has lost its future tense.
>> > Pardon? English seemed to have a perfectly good future tense
>> > tomorrow" sounds pretty much in the future to me...
>
>> The word "visit" in that is the present tense, the futurity is
>> indicated be the modifier "will". Ergo, no future tense as the word
>
>I'm not a grammarian, but I'm going to have to disagree with this.
>"Will go" is just as valid a future tense as any other language's
>version. Just because it takes two words to express it doesn't
>mean it expresses a time which occurs any less farther into the
>future.

I think Arthur's point is that English uses an auxiliary verb + the
infinitive of the main verb to express what in some other languages is
expressed with a special form of the main verb.

In fact, the tense system of Indoeuropean languages has changed quite
alot over the years. It seems as if originally, the tenses were used
not to denote time (past vs. present vs. future) but the difference
between ongoing and completed actions.

Today, the tenses of even closely related languages can vary quite a
lot. German often uses the perfect tense where Swedish or English
would use imperfect (the "usual" past tense) (A German would say
"And then, he has eaten it" rather than "And then he ate it.").

>If you want to talk about "losing" a tense, then compare these
>two:
> I write books.
> I am writing books.
>
>In Norwegian (and probably Sweedish & Danish too), there is no
>distinction between these two sentences.

Actually, this is not a case of losing a tense, since both sentences
above are in the present tense, but apart from that your observation it
is correct :-). One of the reasons English is perceived as a very rich
and flexible language compared to, say, Swedish, is the many ways you
can use participles: "I am writing a book", "being a writer, I tend to
think a lot of grammar", "having made her point, she left". Of course,
this is *nothing* compared to Latin or Greek.

>> Similarly, it's actually impossible to split an infinitive. :-)
>
>Ah. So you've never heard the phrase "To gboldlyo where no one
>has gone before." before. :-)

The point is that the infinitive is really just the word "go", not the
compound "to go", and that there is absolutely no reason not to allow
the "to" to roam. To insist on saying "boldly to go" rather than "to
boldly go" seems to be a kind of pedantry peculiar to English
speakers; in Swedish, which has exactly the same kind of infinitive
marker ("to go" = "att resa"), nobody ever complains about split
infinitives.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

Arthur Chance

unread,
Oct 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/9/96
to

In article <53fr5q$e...@news.lth.se> m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus

Olsson) writes:
> I think Arthur's point is that English uses an auxiliary verb + the
> infinitive of the main verb to express what in some other languages is
> expressed with a special form of the main verb.

Arthur's point would have been that, had he had sufficient firing
brain cells to remember the terminology. :-)

Thanks for clarifying what I was trying to say.

Rhodri James

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Oct 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/10/96
to

<ARTHUR.CHANCE...@holmium.Smallworld.co.uk>

<53dpl2$8...@lex.zippo.com> <ARTHUR.CHANCE...@holmium.Smallworld.co.uk>
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 1996 01:09:17 BST
X-Newsreader: Offlite 0.09 / Termite Internet for Acorn RISC OS

Arthur...@Smallworld.co.uk (Arthur Chance) wrote:

> I agree ["will go"] expresses something in the future, but as far as I


> understand
> it (my books on English aren't easily accessible right now), when you're
> being really technical about grammar "tense" is strictly changes in the
> verb, not modification of the verb by other words (which ISTR is "mood"
> but could be horribly mistaken).

You are horribly mistaken. I think "mood" (if I recall my Latin lessons
correctly) is either the Active/Passive or Indicative/Subjunctive
distinction. I suspect that this technical usage of "tense" is the end
product of the horrible practise of imposing the grammatical structure of
Latin on English, which doesn't really work all that well. I'm still not
convinced that you're right, mind you.

--
Rhodri James *-* Wildebeeste herder to the masses
If you don't know who I work for, you can't misattribute my words to them

... Unfortunately we also have the stealth of elephants

Neil K. Guy

unread,
Oct 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/11/96
to

Uncle Bob (ro...@gobblernet.lod.com) wrote:

: I'm sure parsers could be developed to handle other languages to the

: degree that current adventure game parsers handle English, although it
: might be a bit more trouble. I suspect the real reason this hasn't
: happened is audience: for better or worse, English is rather widely known...
: although I am still searching for a French adventure game. There's got
: to be one somewhere....

I'd love to see my game in progress translated into French. I've been
toying with the idea for a long time, but although I can understand
French well enough going the other way is another story. I know any
attempts of mine to write in French would be embarrassing to say the
least. Any fluent French speakers out there interested?

- Neil K.

--
the Vancouver CommunityNet * http://www.vcn.bc.ca/
(formerly the Vancouver Regional FreeNet)

Carl Muckenhoupt

unread,
Oct 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/11/96
to

n...@vcn.bc.ca (Neil K. Guy) writes:

>Uncle Bob (ro...@gobblernet.lod.com) wrote:

>: I'm sure parsers could be developed to handle other languages to the
>: degree that current adventure game parsers handle English, although it
>: might be a bit more trouble. I suspect the real reason this hasn't
>: happened is audience: for better or worse, English is rather widely known...
>: although I am still searching for a French adventure game. There's got
>: to be one somewhere....

> I'd love to see my game in progress translated into French. I've been
>toying with the idea for a long time, but although I can understand
>French well enough going the other way is another story. I know any
>attempts of mine to write in French would be embarrassing to say the
>least. Any fluent French speakers out there interested?

I know that Original Adventure has been translated into French. The
translation doesn't seem to be at GMD, however. At any rate, it only
had a two-word parser, which makes most other complications vanish.

Ross Raszewski

unread,
Oct 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/12/96
to

Magnus Olsson wrote:
>
> The point is that the infinitive is really just the word "go", not the
> compound "to go", and that there is absolutely no reason not to allow
> the "to" to roam. To insist on saying "boldly to go" rather than "to
> boldly go" seems to be a kind of pedantry peculiar to English
> speakers; in Swedish, which has exactly the same kind of infinitive
> marker ("to go" = "att resa"), nobody ever complains about split
> infinitives.
>

But in, say, french, the word "aller" means "to go", similarly "Ir" in
Spanish. In fact, I was tought in school that "go" is the "stem", and
"To go" is the full infinitive.

FReDRiK RaMSBeRG (WILdcARD)

unread,
Oct 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/13/96
to

Uncle Bob said he was looking for a french adventure game. I don't know
of any yet, but I know there is a Moo (Mud-like thing, but without the
gaming aspect) for people who want to practice their french. It's called
Frog-moo, if memory serves me.

/Fredrik


--
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fredrik Ramsberg, student at Linkoeping University
Hi-tech-mail: d91f...@und.ida.liu.se
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Greg Ewing

unread,
Oct 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/14/96
to

BPD wrote:
>
> mathair - mother

> m'athair - my father

Blarg! Unless there's a pronunciation difference here,
this could lead to considerable confusion...

How are these pronounced, by the way? From what I've
seen, spelling in the Celtic languages seems to be
even more haphazard than English!

Greg

Arthur Chance

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Oct 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/14/96
to

In article <n1AA...@wildebst.demon.co.uk>

rho...@wildebst.demon.co.uk (Rhodri James) writes:
> Arthur...@Smallworld.co.uk (Arthur Chance) wrote:

> > I agree ["will go"] expresses something in the future, but as far as I
> > understand
> > it (my books on English aren't easily accessible right now), when you're
> > being really technical about grammar "tense" is strictly changes in the
> > verb, not modification of the verb by other words (which ISTR is "mood"
> > but could be horribly mistaken).

> You are horribly mistaken. I think "mood" (if I recall my Latin lessons
> correctly) is either the Active/Passive or Indicative/Subjunctive
> distinction. I suspect that this technical usage of "tense" is the end
> product of the horrible practise of imposing the grammatical structure of
> Latin on English, which doesn't really work all that well. I'm still not
> convinced that you're right, mind you.

OK, I finally managed to look this up. I haven't been able to check
with Quirk et al (problem of living in two places and not spending
much time at either) but I've checked with _The Oxford Companion to
the English Language_ and _The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English
Language_[*], published in 1992 and 1995 respectively, so good
reflections of modern grammar. Anyone who feels like disagreeing with
what I've written here should check out those books, I'm merely
paraphrasing what's in them. If necessary I could dig out Quirk et al,
but it'll take a while and as it weighs three kilos it's literally
heavy going.

Main point: modern grammarians use the word "tense" to refer strictly
to morphological changes of a verb to reflect the time of occurence of
the action. Modification of a verb by modal or other auxiliarly verbs,
even if used to denote time of occurence of the action, is *not*
describable by the word "tense". Apparently some people use the term
"aspect" to refer to auxiliary modifications indicating time.

Because of this definition of tense, English has exactly two tenses -
present (I play an IF game) and past (I played an IF game). The form
"I will play" is not a future tense as the morphology of "play" is
unchanged. English does not have a future tense (which is where we
came in). Neither does it have pluperfect or any of the other Latin
tenses that used to be claimed for it.

The idea that English has tenses like future and pluperfect was due to
grammarians in the past having the dogmatic belief that all languages
had (or should have) the same grammar as the classical languages,
especially Latin. The current grammatical ideas about English are
based on a study of the actual form of the language, rather than
forcing English into the Procrustean bed of Latin grammar, with terms
like "tense" now being used consistently across classical and modern
grammars. Far from being an imposition of Latin grammar on English,
the modern studies are a relief from that.

A lot of us (me included) are still suffering from various
misapprehensions about English grammar as what gets taught in schools
is often obsolete and/or erroneous rubbish. (Science and technology
especially.) Applying ideas from Latin grammar to English is at best
misleading, and often simply wrong.

I would say "hope that helps" but I've forgotten exactly how this all
started. Still, it makes a change from religions, operating systems
and when the millenium starts.


[*] I hope which Oxford and Cambridge are meant is obvious to all. :-)

BPD

unread,
Oct 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/14/96
to

Greg Ewing <gr...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz> wrote:

>Greg

Mercifully, they are pronounced differently. M'athair has a definate
stop after the m while mathair doesn't. A 3-syllable "mah-ahar" as
opposed to a 2-syllable "mahar". ("Th" is pronounced as just "h".)

Gaellic spelling is actually clearer then English in some ways. The
rules for how things are spelled and pronounced remain constant -
unlike English where such things depends on what language a particular
word was borrowed from - but those rules can be rather complicated (to
say the least). Gaellic tends to use as many letters to represent a
sound as possible. ;-)

(Minor correction - there are some regional differences in
pronunciation, but those remain constant within their native regions.)

Brian P. Dean

Rhodri James

unread,
Oct 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/16/96
to

<n1AA...@wildebst.demon.co.uk> <ARTHUR.CHANCE...@holmium.Smallworld.co.uk>
Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1996 01:37:25 BST

X-Newsreader: Offlite 0.09 / Termite Internet for Acorn RISC OS

Arthur...@Smallworld.co.uk (Arthur Chance) wrote:

> A lot of us (me included) are still suffering from various
> misapprehensions about English grammar as what gets taught in schools is
> often obsolete and/or erroneous rubbish.

I didn't get taught English grammar in school at all, I just had to
improvise from Latin :-(

Greg Ewing

unread,
Oct 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/17/96
to

Arthur Chance wrote:
>
> Why can't you get cheese flavoured cough mixture?

There is a bottle here.

> x bottle

According to the label, it's "Cheez(tm) Flavoured
Cough Mixture".

> take cough mixture

It certainly stops you from coughing. Unfortunately
it does this by gluing your throat closed.

*** You have died ***

Greg

Bill Hoggett

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Oct 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/17/96
to

>> x bottle

>> take cough mixture

Hey, I'm impressed. So the parser could tell you meant "take" as
in "drink" and not as in "get" ? Wow! :)))))))))

Bill Hoggett (aka BeeJay) <mas.su...@easynet.co.uk>

My opinions are always those of my employers.

...unless they deny it, of course.


Carl Muckenhoupt

unread,
Oct 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/17/96
to

mas.su...@easynet.co.uk (Bill Hoggett) writes:

>On 17-Oct-96 Greg Ewing <gr...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz> wrote:

>>Arthur Chance wrote:
>>>
>>> Why can't you get cheese flavoured cough mixture?

>>There is a bottle here.

>>> x bottle

>>According to the label, it's "Cheez(tm) Flavoured
>>Cough Mixture".

>>> take cough mixture

>>It certainly stops you from coughing. Unfortunately
>>it does this by gluing your throat closed.

>>*** You have died ***

>Hey, I'm impressed. So the parser could tell you meant "take" as
>in "drink" and not as in "get" ? Wow! :)))))))))

It's no different from the analgesic in HHGTG, where any attempt
to "take" or even "get" it was interpreted as an attempt to swallow
it.

This answers the original question. You can't get cheese flavoured
cough mixture because its doTake method has been overridden.

Arthur Chance

unread,
Oct 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/17/96
to

In article <baf.84...@max.tiac.net> b...@max.tiac.net (Carl

Muckenhoupt) writes:
> mas.su...@easynet.co.uk (Bill Hoggett) writes:
> >On 17-Oct-96 Greg Ewing <gr...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz> wrote:
[Various layers of followup to my sig question snipped]

> This answers the original question. You can't get cheese flavoured
> cough mixture because its doTake method has been overridden.

:-)

It's been surprising how many answers (I use the term loosely) to my
rather silly question I've received. However, this group has
definitely produced the best answers while nominally staying on topic.

Should anyone actually be mad enough to wish to use cheese flavoured
cough mixture as an object in a game, please feel free.

--

Mark Musante

unread,
Oct 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/17/96
to

Arthur Chance (Arthur...@Smallworld.co.uk) wrote:
> Should anyone actually be mad enough to wish to use cheese flavoured
> cough mixture as an object in a game, please feel free.

You might convince Mr. Leary or Mr. Baggett to create a *cheez* flavoured
cough mixture, perhaps.

- Mark

Greg Ewing

unread,
Oct 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/21/96
to

Arthur Chance wrote:
>
> The whole confusion arises because of the idolatry for classical
> languages around the turn of the century.

But surely it's even *more* classical-centric to insist on
classifying grammatical forms solely on the basis of word
endings, when English places much more emphasis on combining
words in different ways.

As I've always understood the term, "tense" refers to the time
at which the action of the verb is occurring. To redefine it
in such a way that English has a past and a present tense
but no future tense, despite the fact that it clearly does
have a way of describing events occuring in the future,
seems pointless to me.

> they ignored the
> fact that English verbs only have present and past forms ("visit",
> "visiting" and "visited") and started blathering on about future and
> pluperfect tenses and other classical baggage which do not actually
> occur.

The fact is that English *does* have a multiplicity of ways of
expressing actions occurring at different times (visit, will
visit, visited, had visited, had been visiting, etc etc).
What is wrong with giving them names? And what is wrong with
naming them after the forms in Latin or Greek which have a
similar meaning?

Greg

Arthur Chance

unread,
Oct 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/21/96
to

In article <326AC5...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz> Greg Ewing

<gr...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz> writes:
> Arthur Chance wrote:
> > The whole confusion arises because of the idolatry for classical
> > languages around the turn of the century.

> But surely it's even *more* classical-centric to insist on
> classifying grammatical forms solely on the basis of word
> endings, when English places much more emphasis on combining
> words in different ways.

Like I said, I'm not an expert in grammar, I merely report what is
written by the experts, and they are big on morphology and "tense" is
defined morphologically. Actually, having "tense" mean exactly the
same thing no matter what language you're talking about strikes me as
a) very sensible from the point of view of consistency - no "ah, but
you learnt what tense means for Serbo-Croat, but I'm using tense in
the sense used for protosemitic languages" and b) absolutely necessary
if you're ever going to compare grammars and study the evolution of
grammars. Kind of like having the same length meter everywhere in
physics.

> As I've always understood the term, "tense" refers to the time
> at which the action of the verb is occurring. To redefine it
> in such a way that English has a past and a present tense
> but no future tense, despite the fact that it clearly does
> have a way of describing events occuring in the future,
> seems pointless to me.

Well, the problem is that "as I've always understood the term". As I
said in my earlier article, there's an awful lot of people with ideas
about grammar that are nothing like what modern grammarians think
about the subject. I used to think the way you do, primarily because
of having to learn Latin and Greek at school, but that's just not the
way things are in modern grammar done by professionals. Don't believe
me, just look at the books I've mentioned.

> The fact is that English *does* have a multiplicity of ways of
> expressing actions occurring at different times (visit, will
> visit, visited, had visited, had been visiting, etc etc).

I never denied it, I merely pointed out that most of them are not
tenses according to current grammatical use of the word.

> What is wrong with giving them names? And what is wrong with
> naming them after the forms in Latin or Greek which have a
> similar meaning?

Because they are specifically not the forms in Latin and Greek. The
morphology is different - Latin/Greek verbs change their endings
(which is what makes a "tense"), whereas in English we use auxiliary
verbs as time indicators for almost everything. Using an auxiliary
verb is very definitely not the same *morphology* as changing the
ending of a verb, even if it has the same semantic freight. As I
understand it, tense is defined in the current strict morphological
way so as to separate out morphological considerations from semantic
ones. Now, I'm very definitely getting out of my depth here without my
books to hand and I'm not a grammarian (my CS use of words like
"lexeme", "syntax" and "semantics" would have them wincing in horror),
so if you want to know more please go and look things up yourself.

Linards Ticmanis

unread,
Oct 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/21/96
to Arthur Chance

Arthur Chance wrote:

[lots of stuff here]

> Because they are specifically not the forms in Latin and Greek. The
> morphology is different - Latin/Greek verbs change their endings
> (which is what makes a "tense"), whereas in English we use auxiliary
> verbs as time indicators for almost everything. Using an auxiliary
> verb is very definitely not the same *morphology* as changing the
> ending of a verb, even if it has the same semantic freight. As I
> understand it, tense is defined in the current strict morphological
> way so as to separate out morphological considerations from semantic
> ones. Now, I'm very definitely getting out of my depth here without my
> books to hand and I'm not a grammarian (my CS use of words like
> "lexeme", "syntax" and "semantics" would have them wincing in horror),
> so if you want to know more please go and look things up yourself.

Yes, but what is one word and what is two? Just what's customarily
written without a space between is one word or what ? How about
languages that don't (yet) have a written form, or use other forms of
writing ? Is Mao ZeDong two words or three ?

--

Linards Ticmanis

-=UDIC=-

Finire Dragon

<A HREF="mailto:tic...@reze-1.rz.rwth-aachen.de">
tic...@reze-1.rz.rwth-aachen.de</A>

<BRIBE> me. I'll leave.

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Greg Ewing

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Oct 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/24/96
to

Arthur Chance wrote:
>
> but that's just not the
> way things are in modern grammar done by professionals.

And, of course, grammar is a very dangerous subject
which only professionals should attempt. Don't try
it at home...

Greg

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