Archive for the ‘Syntax’ Category

Briefly noted: an appositive adjective

August 15, 2014

From the (San Francisco Mid-Peninsula) Daily Post of 8/14/14, p. 1, “Massage parlor workers arrested”:

Redwood City police conducted an undercover operation at the Aurora Spa at 1865 Broadway on July 22 after receiving complaints of illegal prostitution.

Not just prostitution, but illegal prostitution. But prostitution is in fact illegal in California (and other places outside of Nevada), so what is the adjective illegal doing here?

This is an appositive, rather than restrictive, use of the adjective — a phenomenon I’ve posted about several times, at greatest length in a 2/8/07 Language Log posting “Droning on”, about the expression pilotless drones.


A Bizarro replay

August 13, 2014

On Facebook recently, this Bizarro cartoon (from 1/29/07) passsed on by Grammarly:


Michael Siemon then asked if I was aware of this cartoon. As it turns out, I posted about it on Language Log on 1/30/07, under the heading “Pronouns: The early days” — but, unfortunately, because of changes in the LLog platforms, the cartoon itself has became unavailable in the LLog archives. So here’s a replay.


Coordination just off the mark

July 11, 2014

It came from the tv, which was across the room, and I didn’t have paper and pen by me, but when the commercial began,

(1) Are you 65 or older and suffer from back pain?

my syntactic attention was riveted. The pitch seemed to be for some device to alleviate back pain (rather than a medication), but I didn’t catch the details while I was getting the sentence down: entirely clear, but syntactically non-parallel.


Fathers Day Five

June 15, 2014

An unusually big crop of cartoons this morning, including one (a Rhymes With Orange) on stereotypes about men’s tastes (for Fathers Day). Plus another Zits with the stereotype of chatty teenage girls; another strip (a Mother Goose and Grimm) on Yoda’s syntax; a Zippy on synonyms for disapproving; and a Bizarro on the extension of metaphors to simulacra.


Book notice: Visual Language of Comics

June 11, 2014

Arrived yesterday, Neil Cohn’s The Visual Language of Comics: Introduction to the Structure and Cognition of Sequential Images (Bloomsbury, 2013). Central thesis:

drawings and sequential images are structured in a similar way to language … comics are written in a visual language of sequential images that combines with text.

(Blurbs from linguists Ray Jackendoff and Dan Slobin.)

I haven’t read the book yet (though I find the thesis congenial), but the very first sentence (in the Introduction, p. xv) is of linguistic interest.


In style

June 4, 2014

This morning’s Bizarro:

The diner is asking for eggs in one of the handful of standard named American styles — scrambled, poached, fried (over or sunny side up), boiled (hard- or soft-) — and not in some “fancy” style, whether in French (eggs/oeufs à/a la Florentine), in English with postposed modifier (eggs Florentine style, eggs Florentine), or in English with preposed modifier (Florentine-style eggs, Florentine eggs).


Coping with the new

June 2, 2014

In today’s One Big Happy, Ruthie and Joe are back on the track of trying to make sense of things they haven’t heard before:


Lots of knowledge needed here — about the words of English and about sociocultural conventions:


Three on Mothers Day

May 11, 2014

This morning’s crop of cartoons with some linguistic interest: a Rhymes With Orange that is, among other things, about Mothers Day; a Mother Goose and Grimm with, in passing, an interesting example of out as a preposition; and a Doonesbury on outsider / folk art.


A comma, doctor!

April 29, 2014

From a letter to the editor (written 4/24) in the NYT today, from Peter Balakian (a professor of the humanities at Colgate University) of Hamilton NY, on “Turks and Armenians” (the crucial piece is boldfaced):

… For Turkey to deal with this history in an ethical way, it must acknowledge the consensus on the historical record that is detailed in the open letter from the International Association of Genocide Scholars to Prime Minister Erdogan in June 2005.

The association notes that the intended mass killing of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish government constitutes genocide in every aspect of the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention. It also notes that Raphael Lemkin, a legal scholar, was the first to apply the term “genocide” to the extermination of the Armenians, in the 1940s

This says that Lemkin was the first to use the term for the extermination of the Armenians and suggests that it had been used previously for other exterminations: the PP to the extermination of the Armenians is functioning as a restrictive modifier of the VP apply the term “genocide”. But that’s almost surely not what Balakian intended; certainly, it’s not what he should have intended, since the OED tells us that Lemkin’s use of “genocide” is in fact the first recorded use of the term.


The poetry of green tea

April 25, 2014

Among the many teas sold by Tazo (from South Seattle WA) are three green teas that my daughter got for me recently, to replenish my supplies. The company is into lush, poetic descriptions of its products — quite entertaining, if you’re in the right mood.

The descriptive material comes in two parts: one part characterizes the taste of a tea, the other is copy poetically evoking a scene or feelings associated with it. Sometimes I think these are cool, but often I think they’re just funny.



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