The horse raced past the barn fell. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_path_sentence)
John while James had had had had had had had had had more fun. (That one was from an old puzzle book I had—had had?—as a kid. I find it much like the Buffalo sentence, in that you puzzle over it for a while, are told the resolution, and then say “Huh. OK, if you say so.”)
EDIT: While my mind's on random funny sentences, this one was an old favourite of my mother's (who taught me all the grammar I know) from Cheaper by the Dozen. It is the reaction of a child, whose bedroom is on the second floor, on being presented with an unacceptable evening's reading: “What did you bring that book you know I don't like to be read to out of up for?”
Also, the linked article links to “List of linguistic example sentences” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_linguistic_example_sent...), which introduced me to a beautiful Mitch Hedberg quote:
> I haven't slept for ten days, because that would be too long.
and helped me remember a word that has been eluding me for some time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_linguistic_example_sent.... Thanks!
Adding punctuation helps:
John, while James had had "had", had had "had had"; "had had" had had more fun.
Just because something can be parsed does NOT make it good English. The whole purpose of language is to communicate - if it cannot be understood without parsing it is not correct.
Of course, the examples are not supposed to communicate, but to be entertaining, which is a different function.
pvg points out below (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1097310) that my source had a nonsensical ending; the actual ending makes a bit more sense.
n = 1 is valid as the imperative of the verb. That is to say, "Buffalo" means "You should harangue someone."
n = 2 is valid again as the imperative, this time with a subject: buffalo. That is, "Buffalo buffalo" means "You should harangue some bison."
For n > 2, assume that the sentence for n - 1 is valid. This sentence will contain at least one instance of the noun "buffalo" (meaning the animal), either with or without the adjective "Buffalo" (meaning the city) prefixing it. If there is no adjective, we can add one to get an n-length sentence. If there is an adjective, we can replace "Buffalo buffalo" (meaning bison from New York) with "buffalo buffalo buffalo" (meaning bison that are harangued by other bison), again yielding an n-length sentence. Thus, by induction, a buffalo sentence can be constructed for any n.
is wrong. The two "buffalo" are the verb and the object. Neither of them is a subject.
Buffalo buffalo = new Buffalo(BUFFALO);
""Alley cats [whom] Junkyard dogs intimidate [also happen to] intimidate Sewer rats.""
(Where the place "Buffalo is replaced by "Alley", "Junkyard", "Sewer" - and the act, to buffalo, is replaced with "intimidate", while the animals "buffalo" is replaced with cats, dogs, and rats.
I'll admit it took me a few minutes to get the implicit "whom" and "also happen to".
cows intimidate cows
Scranton cows intimidate cows.
cows Scranton cows intimidate intimidate cows
Scranton cows Scranton cows intimidate intimidate cows
Scranton cows Scranton cows intimidate intimidate Scranton
Once I've got the structure in my head with pauses to break it up for myself:
Buffalo buffalo pause Buffalo buffalo buffalo pause buffalo Buffalo buffalo it's pretty easy to grok (and spit out on cue to the disbelief of others).
cats, dogs, rats = Buffalo as in Bison
Alley, Junkyard, Sewer = Buffalo as in Buffalo, NY
intimidate = Buffalo as in bully
So it roughly turns out as:
Buffalo,NY bison [whom] Buffalo,NY bison bully [also] bully Buffalo,NY bison.
oysters oysters oysters split split split
"oysters split": oysters come apart into two pieces.
"oysters oysters split split": oysters whom oysters split, split: those oysters whom other oysters take apart into two pieces, come apart into two pieces.
"oysters oysters oysters split split split": oysters whom (oysters whom oysters split, split) split: those oysters whom (those oysters whom other oysters take apart into two pieces, in turn take apart into two pieces) come apart into two pieces.
Much as with the buffalo sentence, this works for arbitrary values of 3.
This is why we can't have nice things
One actual example I remember is a parse of "New fans run." About the operation of recently acquired fans, right?
Well, the lexicon in our system found an instance of "New" as a proper noun (a band or something), the use of "fans" as a transitive verb, and one of the definition of "runs" as a noun (think baseball, for just one example). So you had this proper noun New fanning this abstract usage of runs as the parse that the system selected.
This more than anything demonstrated to me the necessity of statistical techniques in NLP (now taken as a given, but a fairly recent development relative to the history of NLP research).
(The Buffalo based is definitely not easy to comprehend in the first go)
Wenn fliegen hinter fliegen fliegen, fliegen fliegen fliegen hinter nach.
It means something like, "when flies fly behind flies, then flies fly after flies."
It's actually quite sensible in German. Transliterated, it's "When behind flies flies fly, the flies after-fly the flies." Translated it would be more like "When flies fly behind flies, flies are following flies."
To "after-fly" is to follow, but by flight. And of course, per usual in German, that verb is split apart with the "after" prefix stuck at the end, which is how you end up -- quite naturally! -- with six fliegens in a row.
Confer this gem from Mark Twain's "The Awful German Language":
The Germans have another kind of parenthesis, which they make by splitting a verb in two and putting half of it at the beginning of an exciting chapter and the other half at the end of it. Can any one conceive of anything more confusing than that? These things are called "separable verbs." The German grammar is blistered all over with separable verbs; and the wider the two portions of one of them are spread apart, the better the author of the crime is pleased with his performance. A favorite one is reiste ab -- which means departed. Here is an example which I culled from a novel and reduced to English:
"The trunks being now ready, he DE- after kissing his mother and sisters, and once more pressing to his bosom his adored Gretchen, who, dressed in simple white muslin, with a single tuberose in the ample folds of her rich brown hair, had tottered feebly down the stairs, still pale from the terror and excitement of the past evening, but longing to lay her poor aching head yet once again upon the breast of him whom she loved more dearly than life itself, PARTED."
I find these types of sentences incredibly creative (and confusing).
A similar thing, inspired by buffalo and illustrated: http://myapokalips.com/show/15#comic
which consists of ...
kong kong = grandpa
kong = says
kong = can
kong = hit
kong = dizy
but you have to get the intonation right .. lol
It's a private theory of mine that the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods were so lively because "this is an excellent shoulder of pork" sounded exactly like "I will attack your city at dawn"... :)
Chomsky-esque generative grammar can't tell the whole story about human language.
(Chomsky's classic example of "grammatical but not logical" was "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.")
The brain's language center is undocumented, so we try throwing potential sentences at it and see what works or doesn't, then try to reverse engineer what it's doing. The buffalo sentence conforms to the rules we know about word order, and can be logically explained, but somehow it fails. Finding out why is part of the reverse engineering process.
That was Chomsky and Miller's theory (although they weren't dealing with that particular example).
(Obviously generative grammar doesn't tell the "whole story" about language, but generally speaking, nothing tells the whole story about anything.)
start with "Buffalo[place] buffalo[noun] buffalo[verb] buffalo[noun]"
after any "buffalo[noun]", insert "Buffalo[place] buffalo[noun] buffalo[verb]" to change the meaning to 'bison that Buffalo bison intimidate'
youve just created a new grammatical sentence of length n+3. iterate and enjoy
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Oysters oysters eat eat oysters.
...but I think I prefer BadgerBadgerBadger.com