Archive for the ‘Accent’ Category

Welcome back gifts

December 9, 2020

An assemblage of recent appreciative gifts, mostly collected in this photo:

(#1) Objects of appreciation (in front of a wall mostly devoted to William Haefeli gay-themed cartoons from the New Yorker)

I do not disguise the fact that this photo is in part a demonstration of my mastering (slowly but successfully) yet another skill in posting to my blog: taking photos with my iPad, sending them to my Stanford account, and editing them there for publication. (As an example of the photographer’s art, it’s not much, but the point is that I can do it at all.)


Annals of category labels: food from a hole in the ground

August 28, 2019

… or edible roots (with root covering any underground plant organ), or whatever you call the stuff. In the 7/30 One Big Happy, Ruthie, confronted with /hol fudz/, takes it to be just such a label, hole foods, when her mother is referring instead to a grocery store, Whole Foods:


The conventional (semi-technical) label for the category in question is root vegetables.


Exception-triggered alternation

August 25, 2019

Exhibit A: the joke routine That’s Good / That’s Bad from an Archie Campbell comedy sketch — discussed in my 7/22/19 posting “Oh that’s good”.

Exhibit B: the principles that predict when a N + N compound in English has primary accent on the first (modifier) N (front stress, or forestress) and when that accent falls on the second (head) N (back stress, or afterstress) — discussed in my old paper “Forestress and afterstress”, (OSU Working Papers in Linguistics, 1986, viewable on-line here).

From a sufficiently abstract point of view, these two phenomena can be seen to be manifestations of a single scheme, which I’ll refer to as exception-triggered alternation.


hunter gatherers

January 27, 2019

The Bizarro from 2/7/15, noted on Facebook today by Nancy Caplow, who commented, “Potentially ambiguous compounds; subtly different prosody”:

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)


sharp, sour

November 8, 2017

My morning name from a few weeks ago was the technical term oxytone. From NOAD2:

adj. oxytone: (especially in ancient Greek) having an acute accent on the last syllable.

with an etymology < Gk. ὀξύτονος, oxýtonos, ‘sharp-sounding’. with the first of our ‘sharp’ elements in modern English: OXY, oxy– (from Greek) or oxi– (from Latin).

As a prosodic term in Greek, it’s part of the set:

oxytone – paroxytone – proparoxytone

corresponding to the more familiar Latin terms:

ultimate – penultimate – antepenultimate

— that is,

final, last – next to last, second from the end – third from the end

OXY is familiar from the rhetorical term oxymoron < Gk. ὀξύς oksús ‘sharp, keen, pointed’ + μωρός mōros ‘dull, stupid, foolish’ — as it were, ‘sharp-dull’, referring to apparently contradictory combinations of expressions.

But wait, there’s more!


the Ving N

August 9, 2016

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm, with language play in honor of the Olympics:

V-PRP + N can be understood in several ways, sometimes subtly different, but potentially distinguished by accent pattern and often associated with ambiguities in the V. As with the opening ceremony here, with (roughly) the Olympic Interpretation ‘ceremony in which an event opens, that is, begins’ (with primary accent on ceremony) vs. the Can Interpretation ‘ceremony in which the top of something is removed to get at its contents’ (with primary accent on opening).


October 24, 2014

Yesterday’s One Big Happy, in which Ruthie goes (as usual) with the familiar over the novel:


Stovepipe hat (an unfamiliar expression for Ruthie) is transformed in Ruthie’s ears into Stove Top Stuffing, a familiar expression in her world (context is crucial!), even though the two are pretty distant phonologically (very imperfect as a pun).