Archive for the ‘Coordination’ Category

Zubin Mehta violates the CSC

September 5, 2014

From the one-column interview of Zubin Mehta in the NYT Sunday Review on the 31st:

We [Parsees] have a Sunday dish called dhansak. That’s three or four different kinds of lentils, heavily spiced, eaten with brown fried rice with chicken in it. It’s something you eat and go to sleep.

Note the relative clause modifying something: (thatyou eat and go to sleep , with two VP conjuncts. The first conjunct is missing an object for eat; the standard generative-grammar story here is that the object of eat has been “extracted”, and surfaces as the head of the relative:

something-i you eat ____i

(where the index indicates reference and the underline after eat indicates the position of a “gap” representing the extracted material).

But the second conjunct has no gap — it’s just an ordinary intransitive VP — so the two conjuncts aren’t parallel in structure, and many people have found their coordination (though comprehensible) awkward at best, or even ungrammatical. The latter view was enshrined in the Coordinate Structure Constraint (CSC) in Haj Ross’s Ph.D. dissertation.


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.


More Recency Illusion

February 24, 2014

From Tom Grano, a CBS News report from yesterday, from Bill Flanagan, representing the “grammar police”:

Time now for a public service announcement from our contributor and first-person-singular-pronoun policeman Bill Flanagan of VH1:

I know it sounds snobby to point this out, but in the last 10 or 15 years, millions of intelligent English-speaking people have become flummoxed by when to use “I,” and when to use “me.” You hear it all the time:

Are you coming to the movie with Madonna and I?
Won’t you join Oprah and I for dinner?
The Trumps are throwing a party for Barack and I.

It’s embarrassing!

At least people who mess up the other way — “Goober and me are going to town” — sound folksy, colloquial, down-to-Earth. But people who say “I” when they should say “me” sound like they are trying to be sophisticated and they’re getting it wrong.

There’s a lot to criticize here. But I’ll start with the phenomenon, known in the syntax business as the Nominative Conjoined Object (NomConjObj for short) and the claim that it’s arisen only recently.


Odds and ends 2/13/14

February 13, 2014

Two (unrelated) items in my queue, on familiar topics: ambiguity and government by the nearest.


Have an X, have a Y

June 5, 2013

From Ann Burlingham on Facebook a little while back, with reference to a passage in “Marry the Man Today”, from Guys and Dolls (1950):

Sure, now I’ve got this earworm. Seems to me Arnold wrote an essay on this progression, and maybe the similar one from “Gypsy”, but perhaps it was in conversation. [In conversation, I think.]

The passage:

Marry the man today and train him subsequently

Carefully expose him to domestic life
And if he ever tries to stray from you
Have a pot roast
Have a headache
Have a baby
Have two!

A zeugmoid chain, with three different senses of have in successive VPs. The progression in Gypsy is considerably longer.


Grocery store semiotics

May 14, 2013

Today’s Zippy:

Zippy’s been reading the texts on food products, finding deep messages there.

Love the idea of “advanced socioeconomic degrees in … Manwich & Beefaroni Symbology”.


The far reaches of GoToGo

April 27, 2013

From Laura Staum Casasanto this morning:

Here is a sentence taken straight from an email about encouraging students to fill out course evaluations at Stony Brook:

[(1)] Did you know? Students can complete their evaluations on their mobile devices, and some instructors have found success with taking the first 10 minutes of class and ask their students to do the evaluations.

Wow, she said, and I concur. This is formally like classic GoToGo, but deviating from central examples in two respects. And it’s the second such example Laura has found.


Cambridge Rindge and Latin

April 25, 2013

In the news recently (thanks to the Boston Marathon bombing), the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (thanks to Dzhokhar Tsernaev’s having gone to high school there), with a name that strikes many non-locals as rather odd: Rindge and Latin, coordinated in the name, are indeed both nouns, but they aren’t semantically parallel: Rindge is a family name, Latin the name of a language. Things used to be worse.

And then there’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.


MLC in the news

August 23, 2012

A side-product of abortion in the news: many many cites like these two:

[coordination with and] Mr. Romney has said that abortion should be allowed only in cases of rape, incest and when it would save the mother’s life. (Jim Rutenberg, “The Lowest Common Denominator and the 2012 Race for President”, NYT 8/17/12, p. A15)

[coordination with or] Generally, federal law prohibits federal funding for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. (Louise Radnofsky, “Remarks Put Spotlight on Definition of Rape”, WSJ online, 8/22/12, here)

These are routine examples of a construction type that has been disparaged as unacceptable — because of a failure of parallelism — by usage critics for at least a century; thanks to the work of Neal Whitman, it’s now known as multiple-level coordination (MLC).


On the NomConjObj watch

July 27, 2012

From Thomas Grano, my sometime companion in the world of nominative conjoined objects (NomConjObjs), this catch:

At the end of three weeks, I finally called the chair of the search committee and invited he and his wife to go out to dinner with us. [in "They're here!", 7/24/12 Chronicle of Higher Education blog post by Lesboprof, available here]

That’s a 3sg pronoun in the first conjunct, in a direct object that’s the notional subject of an infinitive — the first example with this combination of factors that I’ve seen.



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