Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.


"From rapaport Fri Apr 14 11:37:20 1995. To: aima-bug@cs.berkeley.edu. Subject: Buffalo sentence. OK 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).



 
 

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"From rapaport Fri Apr 14 11:37:20 1995
To: aima-bug@cs.berkeley.edu
Subject: Buffalo sentence
OK 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?
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:
In 1972, I took a grad course in philosophy of language from John Tienson at Indiana University. In that course, he presented the sentence:
Dogs dogs dog dog dogs.
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.
Fish fish fish fish fish
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.
Since then, I've heard others claim it, but with the less interesting reading of the form Adj N V Adj N (like your "Dallas cattle..." sentence).
My favorite version requires the introduction not only of the modifier "Buffalo" for the animal (Buffalo buffalo are the ones in the Buffalo zoo), but also for the verb "to buffalo": You see, the Buffalo buffalo's style of buffaloing other buffalo is *so* unique that, like Tennessee waltzing, it's called Buffalo buffaloing, so:
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
Bottom line: When/where did Barton et al. devise it? "