Archive for the ‘Inflection’ Category

Crossed folk stories

September 9, 2020

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro cartoon:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page)

The strip explicitly refers to the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, but also alludes to the Piper’s son as having stolen a pig. This is baffling unless you know a particular English nursery rhyme, so we have another exercise in cartoon understanding.

Ok, let’s assume you get that. Then the cartoon is a kind of conceptual portmanteau, a cross between the Piper legend and the Piper’s son nursery rhyme. Then set in a modern law-enforcement context, juxtaposing some (stereotyped) version of the real world with the world of these two folk stories. Cool.

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August flora and fauna

August 9, 2020

… mostly fauna, the birds and creatures, squirrels especially. From the little world that I see in my long confinement (now into its sixth month), on the narrow patio outside the big window by my work table. The view from that window on 6/27:


(#1) From the inside of the house: the bird feeder, attached to the outside of the window; in the foreground, succulents (notably a silver Echevaria); a planter with tall-standing calla plants; and an assortment of cymbidium orchid plants; with an ivy-covered wall in the background

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Eat me

July 25, 2020

Well, maybe not. A lot depends on how squick works for you. What I’m talking about here are some chocolate candies, innocent enough, but in the shape of an anus, maybe now a challenge. I came across these Edible Anuses — their trade name — entirely by accident, in a search for something utterly unrelated.

A single (milk) chocolate:

(#1)

Now, it’s not hard to view this as an abstract art form (and delicious chocolate). It’s certainly not especially realistic in appearance, despite the fact that it was molded from a specific human body — though few people have in fact ever had such a close-up view of an anus (gay men who are into anuses being an obvious exception).

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Usage notes from the kitchen

January 1, 2020

Two familiar phenomena in English usage illustrated from food and cooking: a partially conventionalized t/d-deletion in scramble eggs for standard scrambled eggs; and the use of stainless (for stainless steel) in stainless bowl and stainless flatware — a beheading.

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A regular festival of ambiguity

November 20, 2019

(Later in this posting there are a couple of raunchy men’s underwear ads, and some cautiously worded references to men’s bodies and mansex, so some readers might want to exercise caution.)

Ruthie and Joe in the One Big Happy from 10/9:

(#1)

Three senses of (ir)regular in just four panels. All traceable ultimately to the Latin noun regula ‘rule’, with rule understood as in NOAD:

noun rule: 1 [a] one of a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere: the rules of the game were understood. [b] a principle that operates within a particular sphere of knowledge, describing or prescribing what is possible or allowable: the rules of grammar. …

The range of senses of regular is impressively large, and illustrates a whole variety of mechanisms of semantic change; the three senses above are a microcosm of this greater world.

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The caritive

October 26, 2019

An e-mail announcement from Sonya Oskolskaya (СА Оскольская) on 10/21:

The Institute for Linguistic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences is pleased to announce the conference “Caritive Constructions in the Languages of the World”, to be held in Saint Petersburg, Russia on April 21–23, 2020.

The conference aims to bring together studies on caritive (a.k.a. abessive or privative) constructions in different languages.

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Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin

May 25, 2019

From ace penguin-spotter Martin Mulligan, a link to First Dog on the Moon cartoons by Guardian Australia’s Andrew Marlton (a list of his cartoons is available here): dense but wry text on political issues, often featuring the character Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin, as in this 5/8/19 strip “Throwing eggs is satisfying but is it right? Quite possibly”:

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Notes on PSP = PST

December 11, 2018

Follow-ups to my posting “A vernacular construction?” yesterday, about expressions like had went and had ran, non-standard counterparts to standard had gone and had run, respectively — which Ben Yagoda has characterized, misleadingly, as exemplifying vernacular constructions involving the inflectional category PST rather than the standard category PSP. Instead, I maintained, the constructions in question call for the PSP, period, but in some vernacular varieties, the PSP forms of some verbs are pronounced the same as the corresponding PST forms (while in the standard language these forms are phonologically distinct).

My posting noted that the vernaculars here extended an already very strong generalization, PSP = PST — that the PSP form is pronounced the same as the PST — so that it applies to almost all verbs, and a Facebook commenter emphasized the greater regularity of the resulting system vis-a-vis the standard array of forms. All true, but critics of non-standard varieties still manage to use these facts to disparage speakers of these varieties.

And then it occurred to me that Ben was viewing expressions like had went and had ran as if he had produced them himself, in which case they’d be inadvertent errors, substitutions of one inflectional category (PST) for another (PSP). But the expressions need to be seen from the viewpoint of the varieties they occur in — and there, they simply involve phonological realizations of the inflectional category PSP.

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A vernacular construction?

December 10, 2018

Ben Yagoda on the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Lingua Franca blog on 12/5/18, “Why Do I Really, Really Want to Say ‘Had Went’?”

… You see what [actor and director Jonah] Hill and [director Bryan] Fogel were doing, grammatically. They were using the preterite (ran, went) instead of the past participle (run, gone). This is by no means a new thing. Writing in 1781, John Witherspoon decried the “vulgarisms” had fell, had rose, had broke, had threw, and had drew.

Such constructions have long flourished in the American vernacular.

Standard English uses the PSP (past participle) form of a verb in the perfect construction and the passive construction (among other places). Ben says that some speakers and writers have different (syntactic) constructions here, using the PST (past, aka preterite — nothing hinges on the name) form instead of the PSP.

I maintain that Ben has seriously misunderstood the phenomenon here, and that Vern, the vernacular variety, doesn’t differ syntactically from Stan, the standard variety, with respect to the forms used in the perfect and the passive; it’s the PSP for both. It’s just that for some verbs, Vern pronounces the PSP differently from Stan; for Vern, the PSP form for these verbs is pronounced the same as their PST.

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Green flowers

November 30, 2018

It starts with this design by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky on her Instagram account on the 8th, with her comment “Not sure why I keep making flowers green”:

(#1)

And then it leads all sorts of surprising places, botanical, cultural, and linguistic.

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