Re: Can a grammar checker do this

Subject: Re: Can a grammar checker do this
From: "Dick Margulis " <margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 4 Mar 2002 14:39:44 -0500

"David Downing" wrote:

>I ordinarily shun grammar checkers (for all the reasons many other folks
>shun them) but there is one error I was thinking they might help me find
>-- the typo which is itself a real word and thus goes unnoticed by the
>spell checker. ("Your bank may refuse to honor your check, even is you
>have enough money in your account.")

Word's grammar checker actually finds this sort of thing quite handily. In fact it finds a good number of errors quite handily. The principal problem with it is that people who have a weak grasp of English grammar assume the grammar checker is always correct. It isn't, but you know that.

I recall that long before anybody
>even thought of word processors, a linguist* had the idea of using a
>computer to assess the grammatical correctness of a sentence by
>searching for it a database of pre-existing published writing of all
>kinds. The fewer instances of the sentence in the database, the more
>likely it was to be grammatically incorrect.

I'd place the likelihood that this was Noam Chomsky at around 0.001 percent. But I could be wrong.

Turns out this isn't a
>reliable measure of grammatical correctness**, but maybe you could use a
>variation of it to at least show you strings of two or three words that
>occur very rarely, and are thus suspect.

Actually you may be misremembering the whole thing (at least I hope you are). One of Chomsky's early observations was that any child can produce a huge number of grammatical utterances in his or her native language that have never been spoken before.

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