Archive for the ‘Speech acts’ Category

The philosopher at the cinema and in the marketplace

May 31, 2014

Anthony Lane, reviewing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the May 5th New Yorker:

I lost count of the scenes in which Gwen and Peter thrash out the question of whether they should be a couple, and there is a sigh of relief in the cinema when she, deploying what philosophers would call a performative utterance, says simply, “I break up with you,” leaving us to wonder if she pulls the same trick in bed: “And now we approach the orgasm.”

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“illegal”

May 22, 2014

Yesterday’s Classic Doonesbury from 1974 (#1, here) looked at the foul mouth of Richard Nixon (and his aides) from Watergate days. Today (again from 1974) we get the President defining the limits of what counts, in U.S. law, as a prosecutable defense (in ordinary language, what counts as illegal):

(Bonus from the Watergate tapes: Nixon’s paranoid anti-Semitism, in his bitter ravings about the Jews.)

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Speech act ambiguity

April 20, 2014

From an esurance commercial on tv, entitled “Hank” (the key bit is boldfaced):

Hank: My daughter thinks I’m out of touch. So I asked her how I saved 15 percent on car insurance in just 15 minutes.

Neighbor: Huh. (shakes head)

Hank: (looks at phone) “IDK?” What does that mean?

Neighbor: “I don’t know.”

Hank: And I’m the one who’s out of touch. LOL.

The neighbor is answering Hank’s question, a request for information, asking about what “IDK” means. Hank understands this instead as an assertion, by the neighbor, that he doesn’t know what “IDK” means. (Hank then thinks the neighbor is out of touch.)  Both understandings involve assertions, but about different aspects of the conversational exchange.

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My Hobby Comics

March 24, 2014

Some bounty from the Stanford Linguistics in the Comics freshman seminar, a collection of xkcd cartoons with subheaded metatext “My Hobby”, searched out by Kyle Qian. Kyle found about 1,300 xkcd cartoons online, 36 of them subheaded this way, and he posted 7 of them with discussion. (I’ll put off posting about his comments until he gives me permission. The cartoons are in some sense public, but Kyle’s analysis is certainly not.)

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Messing with my mind

February 11, 2014

From a Stanford student, this xkcd:

 

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Odds and ends 8/18/13

August 18, 2013

An assortment of short items on various topics, beginning with three from the July 22nd New Yorker. Portmanteaus, New Jerseyization, oology, dago, killer whale, and Gail Collins on Bob Filner.

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Language trickery

August 12, 2013

In today’s Pearls Before Swine, Rat tricks Goat into saying something that gets him in trouble:

Shades of the mantra “Oo watta na Siam”.  (There used to be a Thai restaurant called Watana Siam in Park Slope, Brooklyn, but it seems to have morphed into a completely different Thai restaurant.)

In any case, is asking someone if they want to get high a punishable offense? Does it count as an offer of drugs?

don’t know

May 29, 2013

Today’s Zits:

The dad’s “I don’t know” conveys that he’s unsure of his opinion on the subject (whatever that is), so he says “Ask Mom”, meaning ‘Ask Mom what she thinks”, with ellipsis of the Wh-clause object of ask, but with understood reference (within that object) to the mother. But Jeremy takes the other possible reading, involving reference to the father — i.e., ‘Ask Mom what I think’ — which, though possible, is unlikely in context (how should the mother know what the father thinks, when he doesn’t know himself?).

 

Word avalanche

May 26, 2013

Today’s Pearls Before Swine, with a type of language play I have no ready name for:

(The human in the last panel is the cartoonist, Stephan Pastis. And Rat’s question is rhetorical, conveying ‘the word shame means nothing to you’.)

In this form, you pile up phonologically identical words or parts of words to make a gigantic expression that is almost impossible to parse (without the context that sets up the expression): pen the writing implement, the pen- of penultimate, Sean Penn the actor, and Penn the university; the ultimate ‘final’ of penultimate, ultimate ‘very best’, and the ultimate of Ultimate Frisbee. (On penultimate, ultimate, etc, see this posting.) The effect of the set-up is to license what sounds like a massive attack of stuttering.

Pub(l)ic notice

May 12, 2013

Posted by Jonathan Stover on Facebook:

Well, it might or might not be genuine, but it’s entertaining. And notice that it has a characteristic feature of many notices prohibiting acts: its indirection. It dosn’t say “Don’t masturbate in the showers”; it tells you instead that doing so violates a code. And then it tells you to masturbate in your own room, meaning, instead of in the showers — you’re supposed to work that out from the context — but it doesn’t say that, so it can be understood as an instruction to go and masturbate in your own room. Now.

I haven’t found anything on the UMass Housing Code, outside of this notice. And I’m dubious about the semen buildup in the drains. I do like the instruction to see your RA with any questions you might have. Do RAs give advice about jacking off?


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