Tricky Linguistics x
The novel-sentence argument is one of the classic arguments used in favour of a generative approach to language, seen also in Chomsky’s sentence Colourless green ideas sleep furiously. Since I can at any moment produce a sentence that no one’s ever heard before, and moreover since I can produce and understand a sentence that is completely nonsensical, language can’t be simply repeating memorized phrases but must involve the ability to generate new phrases of my own and understand phrases based on their structure and not just lists of words.
The really neat thing is that it doesn’t even require friendly milk or colourless green ideas in order to create a novel sentence. We’re doing it all the time. Chances are, the last sentence that you typed that wasn’t a formulaic greeting (“how are you?” and the like) and is longer than 8 or 10 words will actually get zero hits if you google it with with quotation marks.
I actually just tested two phrases from the first paragraph and they both passed: “The novel-sentence argument is one of the classic arguments used in favour of a generative approach to language" and "Since I can at any moment produce a sentence that no one’s ever heard before” although of course they’ll stop working soon after I publish this post.