Corpora: Is the distinction between WHAT and HOW important in linguistics?

Ji Donghong (
Mon, 16 Nov 1998 17:46:05 +0800

Dear linguists or computational linguists,

I am wondering about whether the distinction between WHAT and HOW, e.g.,
the following two distinctions, is important in linguistics.

1) WHAT is syntactic structure? / HOW to determine syntactic structure?

2) WHAT is meaning? / HOW to determine meaning?

If it is, can someone tell me if there are any papers about the distinction or if
there are any theories which have answered (or have tried to answer) the questions
clearly? ( Maybe the answers to the above WHAT and HOW questions should
be different, like the answers to the following two questions in Chemistry: WHAT
is molecule structure and HOW to determine molecule structure. )

If it is not, one result may be to define WHAT in terms of HOW, e.g., to define
syntactic structure through determining syntactic structure, or to define meaning
through determining meaning. If so, can someone tell me whether this can lead
to some problems in the justification of the theories?

If there is interest, I will submit a summary soon.


Ji Donghong