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finite-state grammar

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


P hilosophy of language One of three models for the structure of a language (the other two are phrase structure grammar and transformational grammar). It is based on the Turing machine model. Suppose that we have a machine that is in one of a finite number of internal states, and operates by moving from one state to another by producing a symbol, for example a word. After producing a number of symbols, such as a sequence of words, which is called a sentence , the machine ends in a final state. Chomsky calls this machine finite-state grammar, and the language thus produced finite-state language. This model holds that a grammar is a finite set of rules and that an infinite number of sentences are generated in accordance with these rules. A speaker can be conceived of as a machine, producing one sentence, or even one morpheme, at a time; and a hearer is also a machine that receives one sentence, or even one morpheme, at a time. This model can only be applied to some special cases and is not very useful in practice, for it can describe or specify only a finite number of sentences of finite length, but we must have more powerful internal generative capacities than such a machine to have our ability to use language. “A finite-state grammar is the simplest type of grammar which, with a finite amount of apparatus, can generate an infinite number of sentences.” Chomsky, Syntactic ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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