Anaphora into proper names

From Larry Horn on ADS-L yesterday under the subject line “Navigating those islands”, noting that in this case “the relevant islands are (i) in Florida and (ii) in the morphosyntactic context below”:

Background: a(n adulterous) couple lands at Tampa Airport en route to a supposed “ecotourism” adventure-cum-real-estate promotion (i.e. scam) through the islands of the Everglades and stop at the bar for a drink…

The landing in Tampa was bumpy. At the airport, Eugenie Fonda charged into the first open bar in the concourse. “Margaritaville” was playing over the sound system, so she ordered one. — Carl Hiaasen (2006), Nature Girl, p. 116 (beginning of Chapter 11)

That’s ONE-anaphora “going into” the complex proper name Margaritaville (the name of a song) to find its antecedent, the  common noun margarita:

noun margarita: a cocktail made with tequila and citrus fruit juice. (NOAD)

The anaphor takes a moment to process and strikes most people as a joke (Hiassen’s novels are wryly jocular, though not usually in this particular way).

I’ve posted about one related example, on 8/11/12 in “Proper anaphoric islands” (discussion to follow). And in e-mail discussion an informal group of anaphoric islanders (researchers on the phenomenon) has invented a series of further examples of anaphoric elements that find their antecedents inside proper names — examples that go one step beyond the ordinary anaphoric island examples (which can usually be contextualized) by playing on the use of the antecedent expression (to refer to a kind of cocktail, as in There was a margarita mixologist behind the bar, so she ordered one) vs. its mere mention (as in the Hiassen example: “Margaritaville” was playing over the sound system, so she ordered one.).

Brief visual tribute to the song “Margaritaville”:


(#1) (You can listen to Buffett’s 1977 performance here)

Anaphoric islands. When the antecedent for an anaphor is inside a complex word — as in The first violinist was recently given a new one (i.e., a new vioin) — the linkage between the two can be hard to establish, especially when there is no context to aid in linking them. There is a tradition for labeling such examples as ungrammatical, as violations of an Anaphoric Island Constraint, but I’ll treat them here as merely hard to process without contextual backing.

The violinist example has the antecedent inside a derived word (with the suffix –ist). The margarita mixologist example has the antecedent as a modifier in a compound noun — still within a complex word, but easier to link to its anaphor.

The notion of “inside a derived word” is somewhat abstract, since it applies to zero-derived words, like the verbing plate ‘serve or arrange (food) on a plate or plates before a meal’ (NOAD) in examples like The chef was ready to plate the meal, but he couldn’t find one (i.e. a plate) — which is roughly as problematic (or not) as the violinist example.

There is a Page on this blog with descriptions of and links to my postings on anaphoric islands.

Proper anaphoric islands. My 8/11/12 posting “Proper anaphoric islands” is about the example The announcement will be in front of the U.S.S. Wisconsin – which just happens to be Ryan’s home state:

What we have here is a special kind of “anaphoric island” violation, with an anaphor (which, in this case) that requires “going into” a complex proper name (the U.S.S. Wisconsin) to locate its referent (the state of Wisconsin).

… Complex proper names … have a kind of integrity that comes from the fact that when these expressions occur in sentences their parts are being mentioned rather than used; these parts don’t have their usual referents.

So Wisconsin in the U.S.S. Wisconsin is a different animal from Wisconsin in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin. It’s often pretty easy to work out this referential misfit, but it might strike many people as a kind of play on words.

Proper anaphoric islands are anaphoric islands (which would not in itself make them ungrammatical) with the added feature that the antecedent expression is mentioned rather than used: margarita in Margaritaville doesn’t refer at all, to margaritas or anything else (it’s only historically related to margaritas); and Wisconsin in the U.S.S. Wisconsin doesn’t refer at all, to the state of Wisconsin or anything else (it’s only historically related to Wisconsin). So the Margaritaville and U.S.S. Wisconsin examples can be understood only as jokes — as a kind of pun.

Invented examples. From the anaphoric islanders (in alphabetic order: Betty Birner, Larry Horn, Jeff Kaplan, Richard Sproat, Gregory Ward, and me), some invented proper anaphoric islands.

From Gregory Ward (with a recommendation for Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree, the documentary, though I also recommend the book on which its based):

Andrew Solomon not only writes for The New Yorker, but he lives there as well.

Larry Horn suggested an improvement on this:

Alice Munro often wrote for The New Yorker although she never lived there.

And added:

I ordered a Long Island Iced Tea, since after all I had gone to high school there.

And I stripped things down as far as possible, with this analogue to the plate example above:

On the sound system, James Taylor was singing “Mexico”, so I decided to go there.


(#2) (You can listen to Taylor’s 1975 performance here)

“Mexico” is a song written by James Taylor that first appeared as the opening track of his 1975 album Gorilla. … The lyrics of “Mexico” describe a dream of enjoying a night in a Mexican border town. It is one of several songs on Gorilla that uses a stream of consciousness technique to describe the singer’s fantasy (Wikipedia link)

This might seem overly subtle, but though the (wonderful) song “Mexico” is called that because it’s about Taylor’s dream of spending a night in Mexico, the expression “Mexico” in the clause James Taylor was singing “Mexico” doesn’t refer to Mexico, any more than Wisconsin in the U.S.S. Wisconsin refers to Wisconsin, or the noun Ward in Gregory Ward refers to a hospital ward, an electoral ward of a city, or a person in guardianship. As a result, my “Mexico” sentence has to be understood as involving a pun (on the name of the song and the name of the country).

2 Responses to “Anaphora into proper names”

  1. TommyBoy Says:

    If she had walked into a record shop (and not a bar) she may have impulsively ordered a Jimmy Buffet CD.

    Being a sound engineer, I parsed ‘“Margaritaville” was playing over the sound system, so she ordered one.’ a different way. I linked ‘one’ to sound system.

    Anaphora – what a complex beast.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Your linking anaphoric one to the antecedent a sound system is absolutely fine, though it’s pretty clearly not what the speaker intended. Nitpicking sticklers would insist, in fact, that it’s the *only* possible linking.

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