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Colourless green ideas
la lojbab. cusku di'e
> 2. Curious green ideas sleep furiously.
> Let me know when we agree on the semantics of any of these ...
When the famous Chomskian example
Colourless green ideas sleep furiously
came up in my intro linguistics course last semester, I thought about it
and decided it did have a vaguely plausible semantics, which I found
amusing. Apologies for the little relevance to lojban. (But you did
Let's start with the more plausible parts. (Some of these rely on English
idioms, but I hope I explain them.)
'green ideas' makes perfect sense these days: they're environmentalist
ideas, as in the platform of the Green Party.
'ideas sleep' is another reasonable metaphor. Ideas could easily lie
dormant, latently present but not actively expressed.
'Colourless green' starts to get a bit iffy, but to me that denotes a very
pale shade of green. Then 'colourless green ideas' are weak
environmentalist ideas, perhaps as espoused by Al Gore.
Finally, `ideas sleep furiously' just mean that the ideas are lying
dormant but are ready to boil over (become furiously active ideas) at any
So to sum up: 'Colourless green ideas sleep furiously' means something like:
Weakly environmentalist ideas lie dormant but could start a
revolution any day now.
But isn't the first version much more vivid? Don't you zo'o agree that
you ba'e need to be able to say something like this concisely?
I think Lojbab misquoted this example (since in his version, 'curious'
doesn't seem to violate any semantic categories), but a similar
interpretation would apply.
Just so this post will have some content, I wanted to ask a question.
Chomsky gave this sentence as an example of a perfectly grammatical
statement with no meaning in the real world. Even without the idiomatic
expressions and strained interpretations I used above, the sentence
asserts a perfectly clear relationship between concepts; it just happens
to be one that could not be realized. Sentences like this should not be
ruled out by grammar. But the more important question is whether every
grammatical statement asserts a well-defined relationship. I think And
was arguing that this was the case.
But I'm not sure I really understand And's argument. I'd like to see some
explicit examples of meaningless statements using PA. I'd also like to
see a proposal for the substructure of PA, preferably one that doesn't
rule out any current texts.
co'o mi'e dilyn
(Also, why isn't the ftp site working now? The directory seems to be