[developers] Many a cat sleeps.

Dan Flickinger danf at stanford.edu
Fri Mar 8 23:42:08 CET 2013

Hi Glenn -

This failure to parse "many a cat sleeps." is due to a rather interesting reason, and reflects an asymmetry in how the four parsing engines deal with multi-words.  The source of the trouble is that "many" is also listed in the irregs.tdl file as having the irregular plural "many", which is needed for the current analysis of sentences like "The many (who like chocolate) are happy."  This is the same analysis as for "rich" in "The rich are sometimes happy."  For this construction, the de-adjectival noun is listed in the lexicon as an uninflected noun, but one that requires application of the plural inflectional rule, so each of these de-adjectival nouns must also have a corresponding entry in the `irregs.tdl' file, to avoid having a spurious "-s" added by the inflectional rule.  Now when the LKB (and apparently also agree) will try to construct a multi-word edge for "many a", the morphology reports that there is an inflectional rule to apply to "many" to make a plural (as specified in the irregs file), and this "To-Do" list is (I believe wrongly) also preserved in the resulting multi-word edge for "many a", meaning this edge is marked as doomed in the chart, since it seems to require application of the plural inflectional rule, which of course cannot apply.  In contrast, both PET and ACE happily parse "many a cat sleeps" exactly as intended, so apparently they avoid the trap of recording on multi-word edges the morphology's To-Do list for component tokens.

I am cc-ing developers on this reply in the hope that the asymmetry might be addressed.  I will also consider as an alternative to this particular example a revised analysis of these de-adjectival plural definite nouns where I define the lexical entries to already be inflected, thus avoiding the unhappy interaction with the inflectional rule machinery. That approach is perhaps more linguistically satisfying as well, since at present the grammar has to stipulate "irregular" non-s inflected forms for each of these adjectives that just happen to always have the same spelling as the adjective.  But the underlying problem with the multi-words is a real one, and is likely to catch us in other instances where an irregularly spelled form can be part of a multi-word.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Glenn Slayden" <glenn at agree-grammar.com>
To: "Dan Flickinger" <danf at stanford.edu>
Cc: "Emily M. Bender" <ebender at uw.edu>
Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 4:38:30 PM
Subject: Many a cat sleeps.

Hi Dan, 

I get no parses for “Many a cat sleeps.” ( viz. LKB and agree) 

Best regards, 


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