Archive for the ‘Coordination’ Category

Sunday NomConjObj

February 4, 2015

In the NYT Sunday Review on February 1st, an interview by Kate Murphy. Background:

Michel Nischan is a two-time James Beard Award-winning chef who founded and now runs Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit sustainable food advocacy group that has forged partnerships with health care providers nationwide to prescribe and make farm-fresh produce available in low-income communities.

And then in the section on “Playing”, Nischan says (relevant bit boldfaced):

While I didn’t get to know James Beard, I did end up meeting one of my childhood heroes, Jacques Pépin, and we became very dear friends. He’s the one who turned my wife and I on to pétanque, which is kind of the French version of bocce. We caught on quickly enough — Jacques doesn’t like playing with people who can’t play — that he invited us to join his league and we play every other Sunday during the summer. It’s a really social and remarkably fun game.

A nominative conjoined object (NomConjObj) my wife and I, which struck me as perfectly ordinary these days; indeed, the prescriptive standard alternative my wife and me struck me as somewhat awkward in this context — and I’m someone who doesn’t use NomConjObjs. What might be going on here?

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NomConjObj from Jack Straw, in writing

December 22, 2014

In the NYT this morning, in a notable photo taken by Ruby Washington for the paper back on 2/14/03 and reprinted on the occasion of her retirement: showing a congratulatory note from British foreign secretary Jack Straw to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell:

The British media are reporting you and I as ‘fighting back’ against the ambiguity of the Blix reports.

A Nominative Conjoined Object with the pronoun form I where the prescriptive standard has me. One of a collection of such examples from public figures (among others, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, U.S. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, HRH Prince Andrew, and candidates Mitt Romney and Joe Biden in the last presidential election.

In the prescriptive standard, a conjoined pronoun has the same form that it would have in isolation, but for some considerable time there’s been a competing system that uses nominatives in coordination, even for grammatical objects. This system tends to be used in informal contexts, especially in speech, but it also appears in informal writing, as above.

On the choice of pronoun forms, see this recent posting, where I carefully distinguish the catalogue of forms, which can be labeled by arbitrary names, from the principles for choosing among them in syntactic constructions, principles that have to be discovered by examining actual usage(s).

Paralellism watch

November 17, 2014

Read this sentence, from “G.O.P. Senate Challenger in Alaska Wins” by Kirk Johnson, NYT 11/13/14, p. A23, quickly and, as far as you can manage it, without reflecting on its syntax:

His Senate race featured bruising attacks, including a pro-Begich television ad suggesting that Mr. Sullivan was soft on a crime – a claim that many voters scoffed at and angered others.

And then note any responses you have to it.

(Yes, yes, I know, it’s hard to behave in an everyday unmonitored way in a context that calls attention to language.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Odds and ends 2/13/14

February 13, 2014

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

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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