Archive for the ‘Inflection’ Category

OBH roundup

March 28, 2014

It started with this One Big Happy cartoon, clipped from a newspaper and sent to me by Benita Bendon Campbell:



God’s Grammar Cactus

February 7, 2014

Found via the net, this cartoon:

Inflectional morphology and (somewhat absurdly) social context.


Playing with French morphology

September 15, 2013

From Benita Bendon Campbell, this reminiscence of a moment during her time in Paris with Ann Daingerfield Zwicky, many years ago:

Ann and I and aother friend were having afternoon tea at our local café on the Boulevard Saint Germain. The patron and patronne had just acquired a German shepherd puppy named Rita. In French, a German shephejrd is “un berger allemand.” Our friend remarked that Rita must be “une bergère allemande” — or a Gereman shepherdess. That is funny in French as well as in English. (The correct form is “une femelle berger allemand.” The name of the breed is invariable.)

Bonnie’s sketch of une bergère allemande:


Another OBH roundup

May 16, 2013

From Benita Bendon Campbell, three more One Big Happy strips: on questions, compound nouns, and tense in nouns. And then, as a bonus, four strips on Ruthie’s interpretations of words.


Irregularized jack-knives, regularized jack-knifes

April 25, 2013

Caught in passing in some tv commercial: “It never jack-knives”. With jack-knives as the 3sg PRS of the verb jack-knife — though the standard verb form is jack-knifes. The irregular verb form is obviously modeled on the irregular PL jack-knives of the *noun* jack-knife, inherited from its head noun knife (PL knives); the 3sg PRS of the verb knife is the regular knifes.



March 17, 2013

Paul Krugman (“After the Flimflam”, about Paul Ryan’s budget proposals) on the 15th in the NYT:

Way back in 2010, when everybody in Washington seemed determined to anoint Representative Paul Ryan as the ultimate Serious, Honest Conservative, I pronounced him a flimflam man.

… Since then, his budgets have gotten even flimflammier.

Some nice morphology.


on many’s the Saturday night

March 11, 2013

From John Patrick Shanley’s “The Darkness of an Irish Morning”, NYT op-ed piece on the 10th:

I am not Irish. I am Irish-American. Some say I have the gift [of gab] as well. If I do, it is because I listened to my father and my uncles and some of my aunts as they gave as good as they got in my living room in the Bronx. On many’s the Saturday night, they would drink rye and ginger ale, and smoke and talk and sing and dance, and I would sing, too, and dance with my aunts, and listen through the blue air.

The linguistic point is on many’s the Saturday night, with many’s, which has the (apparent) inflectional affix -s not motivated by the structure.There’s a connection to Irish English.


In a syntactic quandary

February 9, 2013

An abstract I have submitted for the 2013 Stanford Semantics Fest (on March 18th). The abstract is quite compressed; it had to fit in a single page of text.


Conversion, solidification, and externalization

February 3, 2013

A recent discussion on ADS-L combined three themes of enduring interest on this blog: conversion of N to V and vice versa; the alternation in spelling between separated, hyphenated, and solid spelling of compounds (see recent discussion by Mark Liberman on Language Log about the V + Prt compounds build out, build-out, and buildout); and the inclination to externalize inflection in compounds that have come to be viewed as unitary lexical items (see a collection of V/N = V + Prt examples here).

The ADS-L discussion was about mouse over / mouse-over / mouseover, which I’ll refer to as MO in what follows.


Packaging content into words

November 26, 2012

A 2005 Savage Chickens cartoon (by Doug Savage) with what’s labeled as a “future perfect passive”:

The label isn’t exactly wrong — it alludes, somewhat indirectly, to the semantics of the material will have been disappointed with subject you and complement with your life — but the label invites comparison to material like amāverō ‘will have loved’ in Latin (expressing the “future perfect”). But English and Latin work very differently in how they package content into words.



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