Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Abe, Isaac, and Noam

What does the tale of Abraham and Isaac truly mean? Does it mean, as it rather straightforwardly states, that Abraham earned the highest favor of god because he did exactly as god commanded without asking questions, even when god commanded him to kill his own son (Genesis 22)? I'm not sure, but the Chomskybot at least sounds sure of itself:

Furthermore, this selectionally introduced contextual feature cannot be arbitrary in irrelevant intervening contexts in selectional rules. Notice, incidentally, that the speaker-hearer's linguistic intuition does not affect the structure of an abstract underlying order. Let us continue to suppose that the fundamental error of regarding functional notions as categorial is not quite equivalent to a general convention regarding the forms of the grammar. To characterize a linguistic level L, an important property of these three types of EC is rather different from the system of base rules exclusive of the lexicon. From C1, it follows that the theory of syntactic features developed earlier suffices to account for the traditional practice of grammarians.
(via)

4 comments:

George Junior said...

I’ve always regarded it as Yahweh making the point that he did not require human sacrifice.

Having said that, presumably, the earlier discussion of deviance delimits nondistinctness in the sense of distinctive feature theory. I suggested that these results would follow from the assumption that the notion of level of grammaticalness is not quite equivalent to a corpus of utterance tokens upon which conformity has been defined by the paired utterance test.

So who knows?

mikesdak said...

Dale, the "Abraham will do anything God asks" interpretation is the one we were taught in Lutheran Sunday School, and the only one I've ever heard any Christian organization espouse.george junior's interpretation seems possible, but I've never heard it before.

I must confess that most of what the Chomskybot and george junior's second paragraph said blew by me. I assume this type of analysis is popular in some academic quarters, but I find it completely unintelligible.

Dale said...

I've blocked out any memories I might once have had about Sunday school, so I don't know what they said about Abraham and Isaac to me. It seems to be one of a zillion Bible fables that serves a number of varied purposes for its audiences. The people who scare me are the ones who take it straight, and sadly, they're numerous and loud enough to count.

As for the Chomskybot, it's not just you. It's only intended to make *grammatical* sense. At times Chomsky himself doesn't do much better -- it varies from case to case.

There are many (also loud and numerous) for whom merely grammatical sense would be a significant improvement.

George Junior said...

mikesdak - my second paragraph is also from the chomksybot. Sadly, I frequently come across academic writing that is almost indistinguishable from, and as meaningless as, what the bot produces.