Archive for the ‘Discourse organization’ Category

hyperbaton, hypermasturbation

March 11, 2017

The Dinosaur Comics from the 3rd, in principle about hyperbaton:

But hypermasturbation (which sounds sort of like hyberbaton) intrudes in the conversation.

(more…)

“depriving healthcare for millions”

March 8, 2017

Noted by Wilson Gray on ADS-L on Monday, from his reading on Facebook. Wilson commented:

Remember the days of yore when people wrote: “depriving  millions of health-care”?

The implicit analysis here is that the ordinary argument structure (hereafter, argstr) for the verb deprive has a Direct Object referring to a POSSESSOR in an act of deprivation, and an Oblique Object (marked by the P of) referring to a POSSESSION in this act. In abbreviated form: deprive has the argstr:

(1) SU: AGENT, DO: POSSESSOR, OO(of): POSSESSION

with the semantics that AGENT causes POSSESSOR to come to no longer have POSSESSION.

But the Facebook sentence has an argstr with a Direct Object referring to a POSSESSION and an Oblique Object (marked by the P for) referring to a POSSESSOR:

(2) SU: AGENT, DO: POSSESSION, OO(for): POSSESSOR

with the same semantics as in (1).

Now, alternative argstrs for the same verb are very common; the question is which verbs have which structures. Wilson’s judgment (which I share) is that deprive is fine in structure (1) — deprive millions of health-care — but not in structure (2) — deprive health-care for millions. (Divest is similar to deprive here.)

(more…)

Who is Alice? What is she?

February 21, 2016

From yesterday’s NYT, a long obit by William Grimes, with two different heads

(on-line) Harper Lee, Author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Dies at 89

(in print) Nelle Harper-Lee, 1926-2016: ‘Mockingbird’ Author, Elusive Voice of the Small-Town South

In the print edition, the story begins on p. 1, continues on p. 14, and continues further on p. 15. Lee’s sister Alice is mentioned in passing on p. 14 (details below), and then 20 sizable paragraphs later, on p. 15, we get:

[Ex] She lived with Alice, who practiced law in her 90s and died in 2014 at 103.

And of course I totally failed to recognize who Alice was — to me she was a new character who just dropped out of the sky — so I had to track back through the story to find her introduction. The practice of newspaper journalism that caused my problem could be called No Recharacterization: people in a story are named and characterized at first appearance, but thereafter are referred to only by a short-form name (Prefix + LN, LN alone, or in certain cases FN alone), with no re-description or re-introduction. As I wrote in an earlier posting on journalistic conventions, this practice

diverges from the usual practices of story-telling (also adopted by many writers of non-fiction), where people are re-introduced into the discourse if they have dropped from topicality.

The addition of the two words her sister to [Ex] would have averted the problem, but (as I noted in the earlier posting, many newspaper people regard No Recharacterization

as absolutely [inviolable]: it’s what newspaper writing requires.

(more…)

Journalistic conventions

June 23, 2015

Practice 1. Newspaper and magazine stories often have a human-interest lead-in, about a specific person or group involved in the story; that’s designed to engage the readers’ interest, before the real subject of the piece, the hard news or analysis, kicks in.

(I’m not sure how old this practice is, but it’s now very common, even though some critics find it objectionable.)

Practice 2. A convention of newspaper journalism is that on first appearance, someone is introduced with a full name and and a brief characterization (“john Smith, the victim of the crime”), but that later mentions will use Prefix + LN (or just LN), with no recharacterization (“Mr. Smith”, “Professor Smith”, “Smith”). This convention is designed for economy (“Omit Needless Words”), but it diverges from the usual practices of story-telling (also adopted by many writers of non-fiction), where people are re-introduced into the discourse if they have dropped from topicality,

The two practices taken together can make newspaper stories hard to follow. A case in point, from “The right choices: America’s bloated prison system has stopped growing. Now it must shrink” in The Economist of 6/20.

(more…)