UbuWeb | UbuWeb PapersJABBER:The Jabberwocky Engine
Neil Hennessy From OL3: open letter on lines online (2000)
"This is privileged information. It places the poet in the same vanguard of research as physics, molecular chemistry, and pure mathematics." Chris Dewdney Specifications The JABBER engine begins with a screen full of floating letters. When a letter comes into contact with another letter, a calculation occurs to determine whether they bond according to the likelihood that they would appear contiguously in the English lexicon. Letters accumulate in this fashion until the screen is filled with floating nonsense words. Poetry Kurt Schwitter’s The most prominent example of this phenomenon in English is Lewis Carroll’s "Jabberwocky", which also provides the most common model for the creation of neologisms: ‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves Did gyre and gambol in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe. Alice is bewildered by the poem, and turns to Humpty-Dumpty to help her interpret the hard words. She asks him what slithy means, and Humpty-Dumpty responds: "Well, ‘SLITHY’ means ‘lithe and slimy’. ‘Lithe’ is the same as ‘active’. You see it’s like a portmanteau–there are two meanings packed up into one word." The portmanteau word is a mixture of bits and pieces of multiple words that are put together in a manner that conforms to the rules of English word formation. The words are pronounceable and familiar, although their meaning must be guessed at through a whimsical etymology (a ’patymology, perhaps). That Humpty-Dumpty must also define ‘lithe’, one of the constituent words of ‘slithy’, is significant in that it demonstrates that the effect of neologism is present whenever we encounter any word we don’t know. The words of our language have been naturalised so that we have a comfortable relation to a fixed set of letter combinations. Neologism disrupts this familiarity. JABBER codifies and automates the disruption of neologism so that each iteration of the generator provides a further estrangement from our language. The unfamiliar smuggled into our language in the guise of the familiar. JABBER falls somewhere between the sound poetry of Schwitters and the nonsense poetry of Carroll: the words are assembled from bits of other words as in "Jabberwocky", but like the
Chemistry The analogy between the formation of words and the formation of chemical compounds has a long tradition in Western philosophy. In the Lucretius makes a similar analogy, but to different ends: "At a key moment in JABBER falls somewhere between the determined world of Plato and the indeterminate world of Lucretius: the indivisible letters constantly enact Lucretius’ minimal swerve of the clinamen in their random meanderings, yet when they collide they follow the laws of combination like the compounded elements of Plato. JABBER uses letter-atoms to form the word-molecules of a looking-glass world whose language is English spoken through a fun-house telephone. Artificial Intelligence The 40 phonemes of English are represented by combinations of 26 letters, and these combinations are governed by transcriptions of spoken language. This over-simplifies the complex historical process of orthography, but it is the implicit assumption of an ahistorical investigation of orthography: "Serres argues that all laws for combining ( Once the laws are discovered, new words can be synthesised. Serres provides an uncanny description of JABBER in operation: "The alphabetical proto-cloud is without law and the letters are scattered at random, always there as a set in space, as language; but as soon as a text or speech appears, the laws of good formulation, combination, and conjugation also appear" (qtd. Bök 84). The lexicon contains the laws of good combination, and JABBER learns and then applies those laws to the alphabetical proto-cloud to fill in the gaps between the words in the dictionary. RACTER is one of the most famous Natural Language Generators, and the author of the only book entirely written by a computer, Mathematics Algorithm The mathematical foundation of JABBER rests on probability theory. In the simple case when two letters collide, whether they bond or not is determined by a probabilistic calculation. If the letter ‘a’ collides with the letter ‘s’, the probability that they bond to form ‘as’ is given by the conditional probability P(‘as’) = P(s|a) which is the probability that an ‘a’ would follow an ‘s’ in the lexicon (read "the probability of When strings of length > 1 collide, the probability that they bond is conditioned on three letters. When two strings b=bcollide, the probability that they bond to form _{1}b_{2}…b_{m} ab is
For example, if the strings ‘ab’ and ‘ju’ collide, the probability that they would form the string ‘abju’ is equal to the product of the probability that ‘j’ would follow ‘ab’, and the probability that ‘b’ would precede ‘ju’. So the probability over an entire string P(w) = P(a The true normalized conditional probabilities were too small to be used in practice, so the probabilities are relativized against the greatest occurrence. For example, the normalized conditional probability for the string ‘as’ is given by P(s|a) = as/(aa+ab+ac+ad+ae+af+ag+…+aw+ax+ay+az)
where P(s|a) |