Discursive Competence in ChatGPT, Part 1: Talking with Dragons Version 2

75 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2023 Last revised: 14 Apr 2023

Date Written: January 11, 2023


Taken together, Noam Chomsky’s idea of linguistic competence and David Marr’s conception of three levels of analysis for information systems, suggest a new approach to understanding how LLMs work. This approach requires careful analysis of text. Such analysis indicates that ChatGPT has explicit control over sophisticated discourse skills: 1) It possesses the capacity to specify high-level structures that regulate the organization of language strings into specific patterns: e.g. conversational turn-taking, story frames, film interpretation, and metalingual definition of abstract concepts. 2) It is capable of analogical reasoning in the interpretation of films and stories, such as Spielberg’s Jaws and A.I., and Tezuka’s Astro Boy stories. It must establish an analogy between some abstract interpretive theory (e.g. the ideas of Rene Girard) and people and events in a story. 3) It has some understanding of abstract concepts such as justice and charity. Such concepts can be defined over concepts that exhibit them (metalingual definition). ChatGPT recognizes suitable stories and can revise them. 4) ChatGPT can adjust its level of discourse to accommodate children of various ages. Finally, much of ChatGPT’s discourse seems formulaic in a way similar to what Parry/Lord found in oral epic.

Keywords: ChatGPT, GPT, large language model, artificial intelligence, language, linguistics, discourse, abstraction,deep learning, artificial neural net

Suggested Citation

Benzon, William L., Discursive Competence in ChatGPT, Part 1: Talking with Dragons Version 2 (January 11, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4318832 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4318832

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