3 CONTEXT-FREE GRAMMARS AND TRACTABILITY
(depending what sort of disjunctive clause we are in) is used inits place.
Note how important proximity is to the workings of these replacement rules.Although it is possible to conceive of a context-free grammar that handles allof the various possible combinations, the problem is one of elegance. Contextfree grammars do not represent concepts like “near” and “far” or “within
words” well. And an accentual grammar proper cannot represent word andsyllable structures at all. Although it is sometimes possible to construct bruteforce grammars that simply list attested combinations, such grammars quicklybecome unwieldy and unnatural, and impossible to write.This, then, is why, although Price’s formalisms go a long way towards char-acterizing Tiberian accentual structures, Price wisely refrains from trying tooﬀer a full accentual grammar: The Tiberian accents are simply too complexand multi-leveled a phenomenon to be captured elegantly or completely as aself-contained set of context-free rules.
3 Context-Free Grammars and Tractability
As it turns out, the problem of capturing the Tiberian accents as a self-contained,context-free grammar is not only one of elegance and theoretical completeness,but also one of practical analysis and implementation. Even if we managed toconstruct a grammar that accounted for
replacement and other such eso-terica, and even if we could incorporate extra-accentual features such as wordand syllable structures, the fact remains that there would still be no eﬃcient,reliable, easily implementable method for programming a computer to processthis grammar and to convert it into a parser.The most powerful class of grammars that computers can deal with easily arethose that can be converted into a type of
deterministic pushdown automaton
known as an
Grammars that fall into this category convert to small,very fast parsers that provide timely, eﬃcient error recovery. Although it isoften possible to handle grammars that fall outside this range by preprocessingthe input with a so-called
(discussed in section 6), such anapproach quickly becomes impractical for the sorts of phenomena we typicallysee in natural languages, ambiguity being one particularly salient case in point(Tofte 1990).
Because the Tiberian cantillation system contains many ambiguities (e.g.,one cannot always tell a true
clause from a converted
clause), theTiberian Hebrew accentual system cannot be reduced, even with help from alexical analyzer, to an LR-parsable grammar. It thus deﬁes straightforward,computer-based analysis.
See Yeivin (1980)
226, 230, 234. There are in fact additional (!) proximity and combi-natory restrictions listed there.
For more extensive discussions of these terms, see an introductory compiler textbook suchas Aho, Sethi, and Ullman (1986).
GLR parsers process ambiguous input, but can only do so eﬃciently if that input hasrelatively few ambiguities (Tomita 1985).