Is "women men girls love meet die" a valid sentence? If so, what does it mean?
The sentence shows up in academic papers about the "Sausage Machine" for natural language processing. (A google will show up several results referring to this).
The general comment is:
(130) # Women men girls love meet die.
Frazier & Fodor predict that a sentence like (130) should be easy to process since it can be analyzed entirely by the first stage processor. That is, all six words of the sentence can be seen at the same time and hence the grammar should assign these words the appropriate structure. This prediction is clearly wrong, since sentences like (130) are at least as hard as sentences like (127)
From: this PhD Thesis
It doesn’t seem to make sense. But from the context it is being used as a counter example of a sentence that is difficult (but not impossible) to understand, which some systems (The "Sausage Machine") fail to interpret. Which means it must be interpretable in the first place (unless I am misunderstanding the context).
The particular sentence is a poor attempt at making an example of a sentence that is both grammatical but very difficult to process because of the multiple center embedding.
Spelled out the sentence is supposed to mean:
Women (that men (that girls love) meet) die”
“Some girls love some men. Those men met some women. Those women died”.
To make it more understandable, just look at one embedding at a time (“Women men meet die.” “Men girls love meet women.”).
All these are legal (grammatical) transformations. But juggling all the references leads to the difficulty in processing by a person.
A more intuitive example (makes more intuitive sense once separated all out) is:
“The rat the cat the dog bit chased escaped”
which expands more understandably to
“A dog bit a cat. That cat chased a rat. The rat escaped.”
Presumably the sausage machine model allows easy processing of such center embedded sentences, so the inference is that the sausage machine is not the best model of processing that actual human brains do.