Archive for the ‘Parsing’ Category

Adventures in compounding

August 2, 2017

xkcd strip #1681 Laser Products:

Two main axes of variation:

the parsing of the 3-part compound X Y Z as
[ X Y ] [ Z ] vs. [ X ] [ Y Z ]

and various possibilities for the semantic relation between Y and X in a 2-part compound X Y

Note: eye removal ‘removal of an eyeball’ is known technically as enucleation.

Memorial Saturday 4

May 27, 2017

Four recent cartoons in my feed that have to do with language: Mother Goose and Grimm (attachment ambiguity), Zits (greetings), Bizarro (labeling a bat(h)room), xkcd (knowledge about the referents of names).

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Gay Porn Portal

December 6, 2015

(Mostly about gay porn resources, with some plain language but no actually X-rated images (though the images flirt with the rating). And there are several linguistic points.)

Yesterday I stumbled across a Gay Porn Site (as it labels itself) called “cocksuckers guide” (how crude is that?). The name cocksucker here is not used more or less literally, as ‘fellator’ (esp. a male fellator), and it certainly is not used as in this NOAD2 entry for the word:

vulgar slang, chiefly N. Amer.  a contemptible person (used as a generalized term of abuse)

Instead, it’s used in a sense that’s historically intermediate between those two senses, as ‘gay man, queer’: though what gay men actually share is a sexual attraction to other men, fellating other men is the characteristic sexual act of a gay man, so it was natural to extend cocksucker to refer to gay men in general; but then distaste for gay men and their sexual activities contaminated the term cocksucker, and it became a slur, a term of abuse, at first used of gay men and then generalized, ultimately even to inanimate objects: (said of a recalcitrant corkscrew) This cocksucker [or: this cocksucking corkscrew] doesn’t work!

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Sunday penis notes: #3 phallic food

October 25, 2015

(Lots of penis talk, but some linguistic points along the way.)

More things that popped up when I went looking for something having to do with penises — and was offered various sites on phallic food, a long-standing topic on this blog. Three senses of phallic food here: penises as food; foodstuffs that resemble penises (either naturally, or by accident); foodstuffs that are fashioned to look like penises. I’ve posted often about the last two types, but the first is new on this blog.

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Briefly: HA in the commercials

August 27, 2015

From a long-running ad campaign:

Eliminate odors you’ve gone noseblind to for over 30 days with Febreze.

The intended parsing is High Attachment (HA) — eliminate for 30 days (with Febreze) odors you’ve gone noseblind to — though Low Attachment (LA) — odors you’ve gone noseblind to for 30 days, eliminate them with Febreze — is the default parsing. In a sense, LA is always available and often tempting, but in this case plausibility wins out over the default: why would you seek a remedy only for odors you’ve been noseblind to for over 30 days?

(On noseblindness, see this posting.)

Going for High Attachment

July 30, 2015

Passed on by Steven Levine on Facebook on 7/23, this headline for a story that day by Quinn Foley:

Children’s Choir Surprised Their Teacher With Cancer

The intended reading was that their teacher with cancer should be parsed as a constituent, a NP understood as ‘their teacher who has cancer’ — that’s Low Attachment (LA) for the modifier with cancer, and LA is the default parsing for such modifiers (see other postings in the “Attachment” Page on this blog). Despite that, it’s very hard not to understand the modifier as having High Attachment (HA), modifying surprised their teacher, a reading that’s both ludicrous and distressing.

For the moment, I’m just puzzled by this fact.

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Two linguistic comics

June 17, 2015

In my e-mail this morning, two linguistic comics: a One Big Happy and a Mother Goose and Grimm:

(#1)

(#2)

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An attachment problem

May 16, 2015

Today’s One Big Happy:

Ruthie intends High Attachment for the adverb again, with the adverb modifying the VP with head feel, and that’s a possible parsing. But Low Attachment, with again modifying the VP with head smashing, is the default parsing, and that’s how Ruthie’s grandmother understands things.

High Attachment in the NYT

April 7, 2015

In an NYT opinion column on Sunday (the 5th), a Jenny Wilkinson piece about her sexual assault at U.Va., including this:

The weak punishment meted out to the student whom the university found responsible for assaulting me doesn’t seem to have been unusual; as far as I know, no one has been expelled after being found responsible for sexual assault by the university.

The crucial part is bolfaced: in the intended reading, the VP being found responsible for sexual assault is modified by by the university (alternatively: being found responsible by the university for sexual assault). But in fact the boldfaced material has another potential reading, in which by the university modifies sexual assault. This would have the modifier by the university parsed with preceding material by Low Attachment (LA), and LA is, ceteris paribus, the default parsing, but in this case that reading is preposterous, so High Attachment (HA) applies, and presumably readers don’t even notice the possibility of LA.

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High Attachment in the political news

December 12, 2014

Down in an NYT story yesterday, “Political Divide About C.I.A. Torture Remains After Senate Report’s Release” by Scott Shane, with the crucial bit boldfaced:

one notable exception to the Democrat-Republican split, for many years and again on Tuesday, was Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who repeatedly called for the Senate report to be made public. His experience being tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam has made him perhaps the most outspoken foe of torture in Congress.

Very few readers will have noticed that the boldfaced NP is in fact ambiguous, according to how the modifying PP in Congress is parsed with the remainder, either as modifying the whole preceding NP (High Attachment) or as modifying only the noun torture (Low Attachment):

HA (High Attachment): [ the most outspoken  foe of torture ] [ in Congress ]

LA (Low Attachment): [ the most outspoken foe of [ torture in Congress ] ]

Of course, McCain would oppose Congressional torture, but in fact he opposes torture in general

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