Prosthetics on an anaphoric island

I posted yesterday on anaphoric islands — “Smoke from a island”, here — and then of course immediately came across a wonderful example, in a 12/1 Economist article on prosthetic limbs, where the anaphor is a bit of conspicuous language play. (The Economist is strongly inclined to language play in its heads and lead paragraphs.)

Page 73. Topical head Prosthetic limbs. Head Ghost busters (there’s that headline playfulness). (Informative) subhead Experience of phantom limb lets amputees control real replacements. And then the lead paragraph:

In the early 16th century a knight called Gottfried von Berlichingen spent decades marauding and feuding on behalf of the Holy Roman Empire. He conducted most of his career singlehandedly — the other [∅] having been blown off by a cannonball.

(The antecedent N hand, inside singlehandedly, is boldfaced above, and the position of the ZERO N anaphor — an alternative to anaphoric ONE — is indicated by the interpolated ∅.)

Most of the anaphoric island examples I’ve collected seem not to have been playfully intended, but a few are conspicuously playful. Two examples from my inventory:

15. VPE title of column by Tom Bodett, reprinted in the December 2008 Funny Times, p. 21: “A Writer Who Doesn’t”

41. ONE … “The sound system was playing ‘Margaritaville’, so she ordered one”.

The von Berlichingen example is especially intricate: not only does it have word-internal hand serving as antecedent for an anaphor, it also exploits an ambiguity of singlehanded and a concomitant ambiguity of one. From NOAD:

adv. & adj. single-handed | singlehanded: 1 done without help from anyone else: [as adverb]: sailing single-handed around the world | [as adjective]: a single-handed crusade. 2 done or designed to be used with one hand: [as adverb]: the tool is easy to use single-handed | [as adjective]: a single-handed ax

The von Berlichingen example has singlehandedly with sense 2 of singlehanded, rather than the expected sense 1 (NOAD gives only sense 1 as the meaning of the adv. single-handedly). In any case, singlehandedly there evokes one hand, and this one is then available to serve, not simply as the numeral one (vs. two, three, etc.) — von Berlichingen had only one hand, not two — but also as the pronominal one in correlative pairs (one N … the other N): the other (hand) had been blown off by a cannonball. (I resist, just barely, the temptation to indulge in the discourse correlative on the one hand … on the other (hand)).

One Response to “Prosthetics on an anaphoric island”

  1. [BLOG] Some Friday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky takes a look at some examples of the anaphora, a particular kind of rhetorical […]

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