Roger Evans of the school's Natural Language Technology Group is to give a talk entitled 'Fully lexicalised descriptions of language - the Extended Lexicon Framework' in Lisbon on 5 March.
The history of language description since Chomsky has been a battle between order and chaos. Grammarians seek to impose the perfect order of grammatical description while language steadfastly refuses to cooperate. This is true even when for well-behaved language, but the web now provides access to vast amounts of really 'natural' language, which demonstrates that well-behaved language is far from the norm. Issues of regularity versus exception and grammaticality versus ungrammaticality go to the core of language description and language processing. Over the last 25 years, formal grammarians have been playing with more complex notions of 'grammatical category'(in GPSG, HPSG, LFG, CCG etc) and wondering whether grammars really do need to be small (or even finite) to be interesting, while morphologists have started to invent formal languages (such as DATR, XFST, Network Morphology and Paradigm-Function Morphology) powerful enough to describing the general messiness of word forms. Putting these two notions together results in a space of language description systems in which lexical complexity can be traded against grammatical complexity, and the problematic nature of 'real' language has resulted in a trend towards more and more lexicalist grammar frameworks. In this talk, I follow this trend to its logical conclusion, and explore the possibility of fully lexicalised descriptions of language. The idea of doing this has been around for a while, but achieving it requires a few hurdles to be overcome, not least a reconception of what we are trying to describe, a language powerful enough to describe it and a different computational (or cognitive?) model of where and how descriptive 'work' gets done. I shall address these issues, with examples drawn from linguistics, computational linguistics and formal language theory, and introduce the 'Extended Lexicon Framework' (ELF), a tool we are currently developing to support this approach to linguistic description.