Buffalo buffalo buffalo

Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo

Maybe you’ve seen it as an illustration of the wackiness of English:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

That is a grammatically correct English sentence. Now, I’m pretty good at this English grammar thing, but it took me quite a while to understand exactly how this series of buffaloes could possibly express a genuine grammatical thought. But eventually I figured it out. And now I’m here to help you. Read on — this is sure to make you a hit at parties.

First, understand the different uses of the word buffalo.

Buffalo, the Noun

Of course it’s a noun. That’s the most obvious. It’s the big animal once hunted by plains Indians. Be aware that there are two acceptable plural forms of buffalo: buffaloes and buffalo. All the noun uses in this sentence are plural.

Buffalo, the Proper Adjective

Buffalo is also the name of a city in New York. A dentist from that city might be referred to as a Buffalo dentist. And, of course, a buffalo from Buffalo would be known as a Buffalo buffalo. That’s a key piece of this puzzle. Notice that this use of buffalo requires capitalization.

Buffalo, the Verb

To buffalo means to overawe or intimidate. A pushy salesman might buffalo you into buying encyclopedias you don’t really need.

Color Coding

To help you understand the different buffaloes used in this sentence, I’ll put the noun buffaloes in red, the adjective buffaloes in blue, and the verb buffaloes in green:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Get it now? Okay, maybe not.

Parsing the Sentence

Let’s try breaking it down into grammatical parts.

First, every time you see the capitalized Buffalo, it’s an adjective modifying the ensuing noun. Three times this sentence refers to Buffalo buffalo, which means a buffalo from Buffalo.

The first Buffalo buffalo is the subject of the sentence. Following that is a relative clause that modifies the subject: Which Buffalo buffalo? The Buffalo buffalo that Buffalo buffalo buffalo. In fact, you could insert the relative pronoun that to make it clearer:

Buffalo buffalo that Buffalo buffalo buffalo…

The next buffalo is the simple predicate or main verb. It’s what the original Buffalo buffalo do. They buffalo.

The final Buffalo buffalo pairing is the direct object of the word buffalo. It’s what the Buffalo buffalo buffalo. They buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Clear as mud, right?

Rewording the Whole Thing

If you are still lost, don’t worry. It will all make sense here. I just thought I’d drag it out a bit.

Here’s what the sentence is saying, replacing the verb buffalo with the verb bamboozle and adding several other clarifying words.

Buffalo from Buffalo that other buffalo from Buffalo bamboozle, bamboozle still other buffalo from Buffalo.

It’s a nonsense sentence of course. No one is suggesting that it is a reasonable statement. Just that it is grammatically sound.

  • Now, replace buffalo from Buffalo with Buffalo buffalo:
  • Buffalo buffalo that other Buffalo buffalo bamboozle, bamboozle other Buffalo buffalo.
  • Now get rid of the clarifying but unnecessary words that and other:
  • Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo bamboozle, bamboozle Buffalo buffalo.
  • Finally, replace bamboozle with the verb buffalo.
  • Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo, buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
  • The comma helps and should probably be inserted all the time, but that just makes it too easy!
  • One more thing to help you if you are still confused. The sentence is in the same grammatical form as this one:
  • Alaskan people Alaskan people love, love Alaskan people.

That’s the best I can do. I hope somewhere in this discussion it came into focus for you!

*****

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Non solo “Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo”: tutte le frasi impossibili (ma corrette) nelle lingue del mondo

Tutti conoscono la celebre frase inglese “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo”, che nonostante le apparenze ha un senso compiuto – anche se tirato per i capelli (“I bisonti di Buffalo, maltrattati alla maniera di Buffalo, maltrattano alla maniera di Buffalo [altri] bisonti di Buffalo maltrattati alla maniera di Buffalo”). Un piccolo prodigio linguistico reso possibile dal fatto che “buffalo” è sia un verbo (“to buffalo”, maltrattare, uguale al passato e al participio) che un sostantivo, sia al singolare che al plurale.

Eppure in altre lingue, come si apprende qui, ci sono altri giochi linguistici molto divertenti. Ad esempio, il finlandese ne regala almeno due.

Il primo è “Etsivät etsivät etsivät etsivät etsivät.” Che vuol dire “I detective che indagano cercheranno i detective che indagano”.

La grammatica è semplice: “etsivät” è il participio presente nominativo plurale di “etsiä” “cercare, indagare”. Ma è anche il nominativo plurale del sostantivo “etsivä”, che vuol dire “cercatore, detective”.

Ed è, infine, anche la terza persona del futuro dello stesso verbo “etsiä”

Se non bastasse, c’è anche:

“-Kokko, kokoo koko kokko kokoon! -Koko kokkoko?

  • -Koko kokko
  • Traduzione: (Kokko [un cognome] raduna da solo tutto il falò di mezza-estate Tutto il falò?
  • Tutto il falò.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

La frase Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo è un ottimo esempio di come sia possibile, giocando con gli omonimi e gli omofoni, realizzare una frase complessa e grammaticalmente corretta, anche senza segni di punteggiatura. La proposizione è stata inventata dal professor William J. Rapaport dell’Università di Buffalo, USA, nel 1972.

Piccolo chiarimento: omonimo indica una parola che può avere più significati, mentre omofono rappresenta parole che si pronunciano allo stesso modo ma hanno significato diverso.

In questo caso buffalo, in lingua inglese, ha tre significati diversi:

  1. Buffalo, ovvero la città dello stato di New York
  2. buffalo, il bisonte americano
  3. To buffalo, inteso quindi come verbo, significa sconcertare, intimidire

La frase originale si traduce più o meno così: i bisonti di Buffalo, che intimidiscono bisonti di Buffalo, sconcertano (altri) bisonti di Buffalo.

In effetti si potrebbe costruire una frase con solo la parola buffalo scritta anche un’infinità di volte. Questa avrebbe comunque una corretta valenza sia logica che grammaticale.

In italiano creare una preposizione simile è abbastanza complicato, poiché le regole della grammatica inglese sono molto più semplici.

Un esempio potrebbe essere: Bandito, bandito bandito, in cui un ladro viene cacciato dalla frazione Bandito di Bra, in provincia di Cuneo.

Un altro caso, anche se non segue la regola dell’utilizzo di una singola parola ripetuta, è: Prese dove Mise mise mise mise misero misero mise misero Prese prese tre.

Si tratta di un episodio della vita scolastica di Nicola Prese e Giovanni Mise. In una traduzione di un brano dal greco, Nicola, a differenza di Giovanni, tradusse erroneamente al plurale il passato del verbo mettere. Per questo e altri errori riportò un pessimo voto.

La frase deve essere letta così: Prese, dove Mise mise mise, mise misero. Misero! Mise misero. Prese prese tre.

– Tratto da Il grande libro degli enigmi: antologia di problemi insoliti, trappole logiche e rompicapo di ogni tempo e latitudine, di Tano Parmeggiani e Carlo Eugenio Santelia

In inglese, concedendo uno strappo alla regola come quello precedente, abbiamo James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher, traducibile pressapoco così: James, mentre John aveva usato ebbe, aveva usato aveva avuto; aveva avuto aveva avuto una migliore impressione sull’insegnante.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

PN = proper noun N = noun V = verb NP = noun phrase RC = relative clause VP = verb phrase S = sentence

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” is a sentence that uses correct grammar. It is often used as an example of how homonyms and homophones can be used to create confusing, hard-to-understand sentences.

It has been talked about since 1967, when the sentence was used by Dmitri Borgmann in his book Beyond Language.[1] Later, in 1972, the sentence was used by William J. Rapaport. Rapaport is a professor at the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, New York.[2][3]

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The sentence does not have punctuation. It uses three different meanings of the word “buffalo”. They are:[4]

  • Noun adjunct (a noun used as an adjective): the city of Buffalo, New York.
  • noun: the animal called buffalo in the plural form. They are also known as bison.
  • verb: the word “buffalo”, which means to confuse or intimidate (to scare somebody).

It can be broken down to “Buffaloa buffalon Buffaloa buffalon buffalov buffalov Buffaloa buffalon”, where “a” is adjective, “n” is noun, and “v” is verb. It means, “Bison from Buffalo, which other bison from Buffalo confuse, confuse the bison from Buffalo.”

  • The first two words, “Buffalo buffalo,” mean bison from Buffalo in the same way that “Florida man” means a man from Florida.
  • The next three words, “Buffalo buffalo buffalo,” mean “which other bison from Buffalo confuse.” We don't need the word which

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

PN — имя собственное N — имя существительное V — глагол NP — именная группа RC — относительная клауза, придаточное VP — глагольная группа S — предложение
Комикс, разъясняющий фразу
У этого термина существуют и другие значения, см. Буффало.

«Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo» — фраза на английском языке, являющаяся грамматически корректной и используемая для иллюстрации того, как омонимы и омофоны могут быть использованы для создания сложных конструкций. Фразу можно перевести так: «Буффальские бизоны, которых пугают (другие) буффальские бизоны, пугают буффальских бизонов».

В предложении отсутствуют знаки препинания. Слово «buffalo» в нём используется в трёх значениях:

  • имя прилагательное: из города Буффало, штат Нью-Йорк, США; слово выступает в значении «буффальский»;
  • имя существительное: животное бизон или буйвол во множественном числе;
  • глагол: to buffalo означает «пугать, приводить в замешательство».

Оно может быть разложено следующим образом: «Buffaloa buffalon Buffaloa buffalon buffalov buffalov Buffaloa buffalon», где «a» — имя прилагательное, «n» — имя существительное, а «v» — глагол.

Происхождение

Идея построения грамматически правильного предложения, состоящего только из повторений слова «buffalo», была открыта несколько раз разными людьми в 20-м веке.

Наиболее ранний письменный пример предложения «Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo» появляется в оригинальной рукописи Дмитрия Боргманна в его книге «Language on Vacation» 1965 года. Однако глава, содержащая это предложение, была исключена из опубликованной версии[1].

Боргманн повторно использовал часть материала из этой главы, в том числе предложение «buffalo», в своей книге 1967 года «Beyond Language: Adventures in Word and Thought»[2]. В 1972 году Уильям Дж.

Рапапорт, в настоящее время являющийся профессором в университете Буффало, а в то время аспирантом в Индианском университете, придумал версии, содержащие пять и десять повторений слова «buffalo»[3].

Позже он использовал обе версии в качестве примеров в преподавании, а в 1992 году опубликовал их в LINGUIST List[3][4]. Предложение с восемью повторениями «buffalo» приводится в качестве примера предложения, «кажущегося бессмысленным», но грамматически правильного, в книге Стивена Пинкера 1994 года «Язык как инстинкт». Пинкер называет свою студентку, Энни Сенгас, изобретателем данного предложения[5].

Ни Рапапорту, ни Пинкеру, ни Сенгас не было известно о более ранней версии[3]. Пинкер узнал о раннем примере Рапапорта только в 1994 году, Рапапорт не знал о варианте Боргманна вплоть до 2006 года[3].

Даже пример Боргманна может быть не первым: компьютерный лингвист Роберт Бервик, использовавший версию с пятью повторениями слова «buffalo» в книге 1987 года[6], утверждает, что он слышал это предложение ещё в детстве («определённо до 1972 года») и полагал, что оно является всем известным высказыванием[3].

См. также

  • James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher
  • Ши Ши ши ши ши

Примечания

  1. Eckler, Jr., A. Ross (англ.)русск.. The Borgmann Apocrypha (неопр.) // Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics (англ.)русск.. — 2005. — November (т. 38, № 4). — С. 258—260.
  2. Borgmann, Dmitri A. (англ.)русск.. Beyond Language: Adventures in Word and Thought (англ.)русск. (англ.). — New York, NY, USA: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1967. — P. 290.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Rapaport, William J. A History of the Sentence 'Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.' (неопр.). University at Buffalo Computer Science and Engineering (5 октября 2012). Дата обращения 7 декабря 2014.
  4. Rapaport, William J. Message 1: Re: 3.154 Parsing Challenges (неопр.). LINGUIST List (19 февраля 1992). Дата обращения 14 сентября 2006.
  5. Pinker, Steven. The Language Instinct (англ.). — New York, NY, USA: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1994. — P. 210.
  6. Barton, G. Edward, Jr.; Berwick, Robert C.; Ristad, Eric Sven. Computational Complexity and Natural Language (англ.). — Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press, 1987.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

Sentence composed of homonyms

Simplified parse tree S = sentence NP = noun phrase RC = relative clause VP = verb phrase PN = proper noun N = noun V = verb

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” is a grammatically correct sentence in American English, often presented as an example of how homonyms and homophones can be used to create complicated linguistic constructs through lexical ambiguity. It has been discussed in literature in various forms since 1967, when it appeared in Dmitri Borgmann's Beyond Language: Adventures in Word and Thought.

The sentence employs three distinct meanings of the word buffalo:

  • as a proper noun to refer to a specific place named Buffalo, the city of Buffalo, New York, being the most notable;
  • as a verb (uncommon in regular usage) to buffalo, meaning “to bully, harass, or intimidate” or “to baffle”; and
  • as a noun to refer to the animal, bison (often called buffalo in North America). The plural is also buffalo.

An expanded form of the sentence which preserves the original word order is: “Buffalo bison, that other Buffalo bison bully, also bully Buffalo bison.”

Sentence construction

Reed–Kellogg diagram of the sentence

The sentence is unpunctuated and uses three different readings of the word “buffalo”. In order of their first use, these are:

  • a. a city named Buffalo. This is used as a noun adjunct in the sentence;
  • n. the noun buffalo (American bison), an animal, in the plural (equivalent to “buffaloes” or “buffalos”), in order to avoid articles.
  • v. the verb “buffalo” meaning to outwit, confuse, deceive, intimidate, or baffle.
  • The sentence is syntactically ambiguous; however, one possible parse (marking each “buffalo” with its part of speech as shown above) would be as follows:
  •      Buffaloa buffalon Buffaloa buffalon buffalov buffalov Buffaloa buffalon.
  • When grouped syntactically, this is equivalent to: [(Buffalonian bison) (Buffalonian bison intimidate)] intimidate (Buffalonian bison).

The sentence uses a restrictive clause, so there are no commas, nor is there the word “which,” as in, “Buffalo buffalo, which Buffalo buffalo buffalo, buffalo Buffalo buffalo.” This clause is also a reduced relative clause, so the word that, which could appear between the second and third words of the sentence, is omitted.

An expanded form of the sentence which preserves the original word order is:
“Buffalo bison, that other Buffalo bison bully, also bully Buffalo bison.”

Thus, the parsed sentence reads as a claim that bison who are intimidated or bullied by bison are themselves intimidating or bullying bison (at least in the city of Buffalo – implicitly, Buffalo, New York):

  1. Buffalo buffalo (the animals called “buffalo” from the city of Buffalo) [that] Buffalo buffalo buffalo (that the animals from the city bully) buffalo Buffalo buffalo (are bullying these animals from that city).
  2. [Those] buffalo(es) from Buffalo [that are intimidated by] buffalo(es) from Buffalo intimidate buffalo(es) from Buffalo.
  3. Bison from Buffalo, New York, who are intimidated by other bison in their community, also happen to intimidate other bison in their community.
  4. The buffalo from Buffalo who are buffaloed by buffalo from Buffalo, buffalo (verb) other buffalo from Buffalo.
  5. Buffalo buffalo (main clause subject) [that] Buffalo buffalo (subordinate clause subject) buffalo (subordinate clause verb) buffalo (main clause verb) Buffalo buffalo (main clause direct object).
  6. [Buffalo from Buffalo] that [buffalo from Buffalo] buffalo, also buffalo [buffalo from Buffalo].

A diagram explaining the sentence
Diagram using a comparison to explain the buffalo sentence

Usage

Thomas Tymoczko has pointed out that there is nothing special about eight “buffalos”;[1] any sentence consisting solely of the word “buffalo” repeated any number of times is grammatically correct.

See also:  How to use quotations

The shortest is “Buffalo!”, which can be taken as a verbal imperative instruction to bully someone (“[You] buffalo!”) with the implied subject “you” removed,[2]:99–100, 104 or as a noun exclamation, expressing e.g. that a buffalo has been sighted, or as an adjectival exclamation, e.g.

as a response to the question, “where are you from?” Tymoczko uses the sentence as an example illustrating rewrite rules in linguistics.[2]:104–105

Origin

The idea that one can construct a grammatically correct sentence consisting of nothing but repetitions of “buffalo” was independently discovered several times in the 20th century.

The earliest known written example, “Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo”, appears in the original manuscript for Dmitri Borgmann's 1965 book Language on Vacation, though the chapter containing it was omitted from the published version.

[3] Borgmann recycled some of the material from this chapter, including the “buffalo” sentence, in his 1967 book, Beyond Language: Adventures in Word and Thought.[4]:290 In 1972, William J. Rapaport, now a professor at the University at Buffalo but then a graduate student at Indiana University, came up with versions containing five and ten instances of “buffalo”.

[5] He later used both versions in his teaching, and in 1992 posted them to the LINGUIST List.[5][6] A sentence with eight consecutive buffalos is featured in Steven Pinker's 1994 book The Language Instinct as an example of a sentence that is “seemingly nonsensical” but grammatical. Pinker names his student, Annie Senghas, as the inventor of the sentence.[7]:210

Neither Rapaport, Pinker, nor Senghas were initially aware of the earlier coinages.[5] Pinker learned of Rapaport's earlier example only in 1994, and Rapaport was not informed of Borgmann's sentence until 2006.[5]

Versions of the linguistic oddity can be constructed with other words which similarly simultaneously serve as collective noun, adjective, and verb, some of which need no capitalization (such as “police”).[8]

See also

General:

  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves
  • List of linguistic example sentences
  • Polyptoton
  • Semantic satiation

Other linguistically complex sentences:

  • James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher
  • Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den
  • That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is
  • Neko no ko koneko, shishi no ko kojishi

References

  1. ^ Henle, James; Garfield, Jay; Tymoczko, Thomas (2011). Sweet Reason: A Field Guide to Modern Logic. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 1118078632.
  2. ^ a b Thomas Tymoczko; James M. Henle (2000). Sweet reason: a field guide to modern logic (2 ed.). Birkhäuser. ISBN 978-0-387-98930-3.

  3. ^ Eckler, Jr., A. Ross (November 2005). “The Borgmann Apocrypha”. Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics. 38 (4): 258–260.
  4. ^ Borgmann, Dmitri A. (1967). Beyond Language: Adventures in Word and Thought. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. OCLC 655067975.

  5. ^ a b c d Rapaport, William J. (5 October 2012). “A History of the Sentence 'Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.'”. University at Buffalo Computer Science and Engineering. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  6. ^ Rapaport, William J. (19 February 1992).

    “Message 1: Re: 3.154 Parsing Challenges”. LINGUIST List. Retrieved 14 September 2006.

  7. ^ Pinker, Steven (1994). The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.
  8. ^ Gärtner, Hans-Martin (2002). Generalized Transformations and Beyond.

    Berlin: Akademie Verlag. p. 58. ISBN 978-3050032467.

External links

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Look up buffalo in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
  • Buffaloing buffalo at Language Log, 20 January 2005
  • Easdown, David. “Teaching mathematics: The gulf between semantics (meaning) and syntax (form)” (PDF). (273 KB)

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

The English language is bursting with pairs of words so similar you might think they mean the same thing, even if one has an extra syllable in the middle. Some actually do mean the same thing—disorientated, for example, is a version of disoriented more commonly used in the UK, but they both describe someone who’s lost their bearings.

Others, like systemic and systematic, have different definitions. According to Dr. Paul Brians, a former Washington State University English professor and leading authority on grammar, systematic relates to an action that is done “according to some system or organized method.

” If you sort your M&Ms by color and eat the blue ones last, you’re doing it systematically. Sometimes, Brians explains on his website, systematic is used when a behavior—however unintentional it may be—is so habitual that it seems to be the result of a system.

If you forget to lock your front door every time you leave the house, someone might say that you have a systematic pattern of forgetfulness.

Systemic, meanwhile, describes something that happens inside a system or affects all parts of a system. It’s often used in scientific contexts, especially those that involve diseases or pesticides. If a cancer is systemic, that means it’s present throughout the body.

If you’re describing how the cancer progressed, however, you could say it spread systematically from organ to organ. As Grammarist points out, systemic can also denote something that is “deeply ingrained in the system,” which helps explain why you sometimes hear it in discussions about social or political issues.

When Theodore Roosevelt served as the New York City Police Commissioner, for example, his main goal was to stamp out the systemic corruption in the police department.

In short, systematic is used to describe the way a process is done, while systemic is used to describe something inside a system.

[h/t Grammarist]

A History of the Sentence "Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo."

  • In 1972, I was a graduate student in the
    Department of Philosophy
    at
    Indiana University.
    One of my professors,
    John Tienson
    (now [2006] at the
    University of Memphis), in a course on
    Philosophy of Language, gave the following example of a grammatical sentence:

    The syntax is the same as that of

      Mice [that] cats chase eat cheese.
    • Several of us students found the plural “-s” endings to lack a certain aesthetic simplicity, and we searched for a better word. I came up with
      Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.

    I.e., buffalo who are buffaloed by other buffalo themselves
    buffalo still other buffalo.

    However, my fellow graduate students and I were not satisfied. So I concocted:

      Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
    1. The syntax of the following sentence is close to the previous one:
      Boston mice [that] Boston cats “Boston-chase” “Boston-eat” Boston cheese.

    I.e., mice who are in Boston, and who are chased (in a way unique
    to Boston) by cats who are in Boston, eat (in a way unique to Boston)
    cheese that comes from Boston.

    So, buffalo who live in Buffalo (e.g., at the Buffalo Zoo,
    which does, indeed, have buffalo), and who are buffaloed (in a way
    unique to Buffalo) by other buffalo from Buffalo, themselves buffalo
    (in the way unique to Buffalo) still other buffalo from Buffalo.

  • In 1976, I used both Buffalo sentences in philosophy courses at
    State University of New York at Fredonia. Both native and non-native speakers of English who heard it, of course, never ceased to be amazed. Indeed, it never ceases to amaze me that a string of 5 occurrences of the same word could be a grammatical, even meaningful (though hardly “acceptable”), sentence.
  • In the early 1980s, several graduate students in the
    Department of Computer Science at
    State University of New York at Buffalo (where I now teach) noted that the sentence can be extended indefinitely by continued embeddings and NP-modifications.

    I used the following question on AI and computational linguistics exams:

      “Write a grammar, in any formalism, that accepts all of the following infinite sequence of sentences. (Ignore all words in parentheses, which I have put in only in order to clarify the syntax of the sentences.)

      1. Mice (that) cats chase eat cheese.
      2. Dogs (that) dogs dog dog dogs.footnote{To dog someone or something is to follow that person or thing.}
      3. Buffalo (that) buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.footnote{Note: To buffalo someone or something is to bewilder or overawe that person or thing, and one acceptable plural of the noun “buffalo” is “buffalo”.}
      4. Small mice (that) large cats quickly chase slowly eat green cheese.
      5. Buffalo buffalo (that) Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
      6. Mice (that) cats (that) dogs bother chase eat cheese (that) rats refuse.
      7. Buffalo (that) buffalo (that) buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo (that) buffalo buffalo.

      — etc. —
      I.e., each NP can be modified by an NP-V combination.”

  • In the late 1980s/early 1990s, other students noted that the original 5-word sentence is ambiguous! In fact, one of the other people who claims to have heard it from someone other than me (in fact, as I recall, he attributed it to
    Daniel C. Dennett) thinks that it is parallel to:

      Boston cats chase Boston mice.
    1. (though the capitalization is a bit off for that). Another of my students notes that the 10-word version is also ambiguous, along the lines of this:
      Boston cats Boston-chase Boston mice [that] Boston rats Boston-eat.
  • In 1994, Steven Pinker,
    in his book

    The Language Instinct
    (New York: William Morrow, 1994, pp. 209-210) cited:

      “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”

    parsed as meaning that “(The) Buffalo buffalo [i.e., the buffalo who live in Buffalo] (that) [other] Buffalo buffalo (often) buffalo (in turn) buffalo other Buffalo buffalo”, and attributed it to his student
    Annie Senghas.

    I had an email exchange with Pinker about the above history. Pinker responded as follows:

      “Date: Thu, 17 Feb 94 18:36:46 EST From: Steve Pinker To: [email protected] Subject: Re: Buffalo buffalo …Dear William,
      That's terrific! Thanks for letting me know that history, and if I use the example again, I will surely give you priority. (I believe it was independently invented by Annie — I checked specifically with her when someone else had told me that she may have borrowed it.) I might balk a bit at the verb “to Buffalo-buffalo” as verb-compounding is fairly rare and stilted in spoken English, but the set of examples is certainly enlightening.
      Thanks for letting me know about the review, and about your priority in the example.
      Sincerely, Steve Pinker”

    • I replied as follows:
      “Date: Fri, 18 Feb 1994 09:02:46 -0500 From: “William J. Rapaport” To: [email protected], [email protected] Subject: Re: Buffalo buffalo …Steve-
      Yes, I also balk at the compound verb “to Buffalo buffalo”, but I couldn't resist. My model was the Tennesee waltz; presumably, when one dances it, one could be said to be Tennessee-waltzing, no?”
  • In 1995, I alerted Pinker to another source:

      “Date: Fri, 14 Apr 1995 15:09:38 -0400 From: “William J. Rapaport” To: [email protected] Subject: Buffalo sentences

      1. Steve-
      2. Remember the email exchange we had last summer about Buffalo sentences?
      3. Well, Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig's new AI text, Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, claims that Barton, Berwick, and Ristad came up with it. The exact reference is:

      Barton, G. Edward, Jr.;
      Berwick, Robert C.; & Ristad, Eric Sven (1987),
      Computational Complexity and Natural Language (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), Ch. 3, Sect. 3.4, esp. p. 100.
      Nonetheless (I checked my records), I independently devised it in 1972 and have been using it in lectures since 1976. So, possibly there were 3 independent discoveries: mine, your student Annie, and Barton/Berwick/Ristad. In any case, I'm going to check with Berwick (but you're closer; you might check, too, if you're interested).
      -Bill”

    • Pinker replied:
      “Date: Thu, 27 Apr 95 11:59:39 EDT From: Steve Pinker To: “William J. Rapaport” Subject: more on Buffalo yetThanks! If the book ever goes into a second edition, I will surely bring this all up.
      Best, Steve”
  • I wrote to
    Stuart Russell
    &
    Peter Norvig
    concerning exercise 22.8 in the first edition of their
    Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach
    (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1995):

      “From rapaport Fri Apr 14 11:37:20 1995 To: [email protected] Subject: Buffalo sentenceOK guys; it was bad enough that Steve Pinker, in his The Language Ins tinct, claimed that one of his grad students discovered/invented:

        Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo

      but now *you* claim, without citation, that Barton, Berwick, and Ristad came up with it (p. 690). Can you document that?

      1. It's possible that Pinker's student came up with it independently, but I can document that I devised it in 1972. Here's the story:
      2. In 1972, I took a grad course in philosophy of language from John Tienson at Indiana University. In that course, he presented the sentence:
      3. which is grammatical and meaningful, if not acceptable, with no punctuation changes, having, of course, the same syntactic structure as:
        Mice cats chase eat cheese.

      Finding the “-s” morpheme unaesthetic, several of us grad students
      sought something better.

      doesn't quite hack it, since “fish” requires an indirect object: one
      fishes *for* something. At that point, I came up with the Buffalo
      sentence.

      I began using it in courses at SUNY Fredonia in 1976. One of the
      students in my first course there is now an ESL teacher in … Buffalo,
      of course, and uses it in his classes.

      I publicized it first to the
      SUNY Buffalo linguistics department that
      year, and then gave it more celebrity at
      ACL-88,
      when I put a parse tree for
      it in the registration packet (I was the local arrangements
      coordinator) and used an overhead transparency of it during my welcoming
      remarks. And a version of your problem 22.8 appeared as
      a question on our department's Graduate Qualifying Exam in 1988.

      Buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo

      Dear reader, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not true. The typesetter has not run amok. 

      The headline is designed to get your attention as an illustration of the glorious flexibility of the English language.

      The fullest version of the sentence I have in mind is too long for the space: “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.” 

      Original authorship is claimed by William J. Rapaport, associate professor emeritus of computer science at – where else? – the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.

      As the professor recounts, the creation of this wonderful bit of prose began in 1972, when, as a graduate student in a course on the philosophy of language, he was told that the following was a grammatical sentence: “Dogs dogs dog dog dogs.”

      To unpack that a bit – “The kind of dogs that other dogs dog (or pester, or hound, we might say) themselves dog (or pester or bother) other dogs.”

      Well, of course. It makes perfect sense – in a language that often dispenses with relative pronouns (“dogs that other dogs dog”) and flips verbs into nouns and nouns into verbs as swiftly as a circus juggler sends his clubs into orbit.

      But, as Rapaport relates on his Web page, “Several of us students found the plural ‘s’ endings to lack a certain aesthetic simplicity, and we searched for a better word.”

      This led him to “Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.” This one has the same syntax as the “dog” sentence. But buffalo as a verb has a range of meanings: to bully, bamboozle, coerce, or confuse, to name a few. Thus: “The kind of buffalo that other buffalo bully, or bamboozle, themselves bully or bamboozle other buffalo.”

      So far, we’ve got a “buffalo” sentence using one word five times as two parts of speech – noun and verb. But “Buffalo” can also be a proper noun.

      It’s the name of a couple dozen towns or cities across the United States, as well as in Canada, Australia, and South Africa. And a place name can be a modifier, or can serve as an adjective, in other words, as in “Buffalo wings” or “New York strip steak.

      ” This leads us to the duplicative, but still theoretically possible, “Buffalo buffalo” – bison that reside in Buffalo.

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