Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What a difference 30 years makes: take 2

May 31, 2015

A paper given at Stanford on the 29th: “Pronouncing the Z’s: Epenthesis in English plural possessives” by Simon Todd (a Ph.D. student in linguistics). The beginning of the abstract:

The interaction between the English regular plural affix (PL) and possessive clitic (POSS) presents a theoretical puzzle (Zwicky, 1975). Both have the form /z/, and so the OCP [AZ: Obligatory Contour Principle] (Yip, 1998) predicts their combination (PL+POSS) should trigger epenthesis. Yet, in cases like my friends’ /fɹenz/ car, only PL is overtly realized. Why does the OCP fail to apply?

Two previous theories address this non-application of the OCP in PL+POSS constructions. The POSS-suppression theory (Stemberger, 1981; Zwicky, 1987) claims that POSS essentially inspects the morphological composition of its host and is actively suppressed by adjacent PL /z/, without exception. The alternative POSS-allomorphy theory (Bernstein & Tortora, 2005; Nevins, 2011) claims that POSS has a phonologically null allomorph, which is chosen when the possessor has the plural feature. Either POSS allomorph may be chosen for a singular possessor with embedded PL; thus, contra the suppression theory, epenthesis may be triggered in cases like the son of my friends’s /fɹenz ~ fɹenzəz/ car.

(Some of this is seriously technical, but try to get the drift.)

The crucial paper of mine comes from about 30 years ago, and the question can now be examined with tools that weren’t available then.


Another round with Schlitzie

May 29, 2015

Today’s Zippy returns to one of Bill Griffith’s preoccupations, the pinhead Schlitzie (Simon Metz) from Tod Browning’s Freaks:

On this blog, on 4/19/15, a posting with a Zippy on Pip and Flip Snow, other pinheads from Tod Browning’s Freaks, plus a list (with links) of earlier postings on Schlitzie, including three Zippys (1/8/11, 8/7/13, 8/18/13). Griffith keeps re-telling the story.

More new Pages

May 28, 2015

Recently added to the Pages on this blog:

Under “Linguistics notes”, a Page on “Anaphoric Islands” and one on “Faith vs. WF” (on reproducing material as it appeared in the original — being faithful (Faith) — vs. altering it to fit your own preferences — adhering to your idea of well-formedness (WF)).

And under “The Language of Comics”, a Page on “Graphic X”, on graphic novels, memoirs, etc.


May 13, 2015

Today’s Scenes from a Multiverse, in the zone of cohabitation:

It starts with an elaborate metaphorical extension of manspreading (posting on this blog here) to emotional matters and then blossoms into a set of gendermanteaus: manvoiding (man + avoiding), manvalidating (man + validating), womotions (woman + emotions). Shades of bro-!

Anaphora “into” the word French

May 12, 2015

Poet John Ashbery, intervewed by Jillian Tarnald in the NYT Book Review of May 10th:

Are there poets whom you’ve gained greater appreciation for over time?

Certainly Whitman, whose barbaric yawp didn’t impress me at first, but whose silken language did as I began to live with it. And French poets, of whom I published a volume of translations last year. Had I not received a Fulbright and gone to live there for some years, I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate them.

The anaphoric element there is understood here as ‘in France’, but the word France isn’t in the context; instead, we have the word French, which merely evokes France. So that, speaking somewhat metaphorically, the anaphora “goes into” the word French.

The topic is a venerable one, going back 40 years or so, under the name of the Anaphoric Istand Constraint (AIC).


Side effects

May 10, 2015

Television commercials for the drug Lyrica have substantial warnings about contraindications and side effects, which caused me to look at the warnings on the site. The side effect warnings are particularly alarming, presumably because they attempt to cover anything that could conceivably come up.


New inventories

May 10, 2015

I’ve put together two lists of postings on this blog, as pages on this site:

a list of my postings on Sacred Harp (and other shapenote) music, as a Sacred Harp page under the Music Postings page under Lists.

a list of my postings on movies and tv (reasonably complete only from late 2012; there’s a lot of stuff out there), as a page under Lists.

Morning name: Simon Rattle

May 6, 2015

It might have come to me during sleep, from something broadcast on WQXR, but it was the name in my head when I woke up.

From Wikipedia:

Sir Simon Denis Rattle, OM CBE (born 19 January 1955), is an English conductor. He rose to international prominence during the 1980s and 1990s, while Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1980-1998). He has been principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic since 2002, and plans to leave his position at the end of his current contract, in 2018. It was announced in March 2015 that Rattle would become Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra from September 2017.

More quantum cat

April 16, 2015

From the 4/11 issue of New Scientist, this Tom Gauld cartoon:

We’ve been here before, in a Benjamin Schwartz New Yorker cartoon, posted here.


Hurt corporate feelings

April 9, 2015

Today’s Bizarro, on corporate personhood:

“Corporations are people”, Mitt Romney famously asserted in 2011, and this broad understanding of corporate personhood has led people to mock the doctrine by attributing all sorts of characteristics of natural persons to fictive ones, as above.



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