Archive for the ‘Pragmatics’ Category

Trix is for kids

June 17, 2019

Going the social media rounds, this joke, an ostentatiously playful allusion (OPA) to a bit of popular culture, presented as a texty — a cartoon that’s primarily a printed text, though texties often come with a visual backdrop, which sometimes contributes crucially to an understanding of the joke, as here:

(#1) A texty that lives in two worlds: American political culture of recent years (a reference conveyed visually, through the photo of Paul Ryan); and an ad campaign for an American breakfast cereal marketed to children (a reference conveyed verbally, by the ostentatious play on the ad slogan “Silly rabbit / Trix is for kids!”)


Ostentatiously playful allusions

May 18, 2019

(OPAs, for short.) The contrast is to inconspicuously playful allusions, what I’ve called Easter egg quotations on this blog. With three OPAs from the 4/20/19 Economist, illustrating three levels of closeness between the content of the OPA and the topic of the article: no substantive relationship between the two (the Nock, Nock case), tangential relationship (the Sunset brouhaha case), and tight relationship (the defecate in the woods case).

The three cases also illustrate three degrees of paronomasia: the Nock, Nock case involves a (phonologically) perfect pun; the Sunset brouhaha case an imperfect pun; and the defecate in the woods case no pun at all, but whole-word substitutions.

I’ll start in the middle, with Sunset brouhaha. But first, some background. Which will incorporate flaming saganaki; be prepared.


Let’s have a kiki … in me

April 21, 2019

(Men’s bodies, clicks, mansex, dactyls, homowear, eggcorns, street talk, and more. Not suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

The Daily Jocks mailing of the 15th, with a studiedly homo-smouldering ad for crop tops from the fetish-wear company Barcode Berlin. Plus a foul derangement of (heavily enjambed) dactyls as a caption.


Kiko the crop-top kid,
Impudent pussy boy,
Butch faggy target for
Amorous arrows — a

mazing for festivals,
Parties with gangbangers,
Mid-drifting kikis with
Quatrains of dactyls


Will the real Zippy please stand up?

April 20, 2019

Yesterday’s Zippy takes us to Littleton (NH, not the more famous CO — or, for that matter, IL, IA, KY, ME, MA, NC, or WV), where our Pinhead falls into an identity crisis:


Everybody, including the counterman, is Zippy, or at least a Zippy. And the strip begins with a stretch that is both two panels, each with a Zippy in it, and one full-diner-view panel, with two Zippys in it. We’re in the nightmare world of clones — who am I?

Then there’s the observation in the last panel: No one brings small problems into a diner. Certainly, an interpretation of what happened in the strip before this, though as that it’s crucially ambiguous. But maybe also a moral that we should take away from those events, a piece of advice about what we should or should not do.


Ed (the) Ped

April 4, 2019

In yesterday’s Zippy, the Walking Man — Zippy knows him as Ed Ped — returns to Zippytopia:


First theme: Ed used to be otherwise, but now he’s naked, amanous, and apodous: Deal with it! Get over it! Get used to it! We are everywhere.

Second theme: Zippy moves the focus to France, causing Ed to morph into a stereotypical Frenchman (with beret and cigarette, probably Gauloises), who announces Je suis partout ‘I am all over, I am everywhere’.

Side effect:  French Ed evokes, in Zippy’s mind, Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor. (Zippy is a wildly associative thinker.)


The SemFest 20 handout

March 12, 2019

A long long day getting this handout together; my paper is on Friday afternoon. Ides of March. But first, the doctor is in:

Matt LeBlanc, playing Joey Tribbiani on Friends, playing Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days of Our Lives


Annals of misreadings: the Cthulhu caper

February 26, 2019

From linguist Avery Andrews on Facebook:

(#1) Avery: “My first reading of this was ‘Cthulhu Towers’, indicating that whatever the top-down constraints on my linguistic processing may be, real world plausibility has at best a delayed effect”

To judge from my own misreadings — some of them reported on in the Page on this blog with misreading postings — real-world plausibility has virtually no role in initial misreadings; we tend to notice these misreadings, in fact, because they are so bizarre.

On the other hand, they sometimes clearly reflect material currently or persistently on the hearer’s mind — if you’ve been thinking about cooking some pasta for dinner, Italian pasta names are likely to insert themselves into your peceptions; if you’re a gardener, plant names will come readily to mind, even if they’re preposterous; and of course it’s common to see sexual vocabulary where none was intended —  but often they look like the welling-up of material from some deep chthonic place in memory, inexplicably in the context.


Stanford SemFest 20 schedule

February 25, 2019

(with links to abstracts)

For enthusiasts of semantics/pragmatics in all their variety; the public is welcome

All sessions take place in the Barwise Room, CSLI (Panama St. at Campus Dr.)

Friday March 15, 2019

9:00-9:30: Coffee and welcome

9:30-10:00 John Beavers & Andrew Koontz-Garboden, “Two Types of Roots for Internally Caused Change-of-State Verbs”

10:00-10:30 Shiao Wei Tham, “Structural and Contextual Factors in Result Interpretations of Mandarin Locative Compounds”

10:30-11:00 Helena Aparicio, Roger Levy & Elizabeth Coppock, “How to Find the rabbit in the big(ger) box: Reasoning About Contextual Parameters for Gradable Adjectives Under Embedding”

11:00-11:30 BREAK

11:30-12:00 Gregory Scontras, Asya Achimova, Christian Stegemann & Martin Butz, “The Added Informativity of Ambiguous Language”

12:00-12:30 Eric Acton & Heather Burnett, “Markedness, ‘Truth’, and Rationality in Social Meaning Games”

12:30-2:00 LUNCH (and mentoring event w/lunch for grad students and some participants)

2:00-2:30 Arnold Zwicky,“A Natural History of Snowclones”

2:30-3:00 Tatiana Nikitina, “Semantic Maps in a Typologist’s Toolbox: The Challenge of Semi-lexical Networks”

3:00-3:30 BREAK

3:30-4:00 Sunwoo Jeong & James Collins, “Updating Alternatives in Pragmatic Competition”

4:00-4:30 Sebastian Schuster & Judith Degen, “Adaption to Variable Use of Expressions of Uncertainty”

4:30-4:45 BREAK

4:45-5:30 David Beaver, TBA

5:30 Drinks
6:00 Dinner (provided)
7:00-9:00 Party/band

Saturday, March 16, 2019

9:30-10:00 Coffee/breakfast

10:00-10:30 Ashwini Deo, “Identifying the Strongest True Alternative: Marathi =c and its Counterparts”

10:30-11:00 Stefan Kaufmann, “Worlds Are Not Enough”

11:00-11:30 BREAK

11:30-12:00 Sven Lauer & Prerna Nadathur, “Sufficiency Causatives”

12:00-12:30 Yingying Wang & Frank Veltman, “Varieties of Modal Predicates and their Semantic Interpretation”

12:30-1:45 LUNCH (provided)

1:45-2:15 Lelia Glass, “Experimental Evidence that Verbs Describing Routines Facilitate Implicit Objects”

2:15-2:45 Itamar Francez, “Markedness and the Morphosemantics of Number”

2:45-3:00 BREAK

3:00-3:30 Ciyang Qing, “Zero or Minimum Degree? Rethinking Minimum-standard Gradable Adjectives”

3:30-4:00 Judith Tonhauser & Judith Degen, “An Empirical Challenge to the Categorical Notion of Factivity”

4:00 Closing remarks

An omission

February 23, 2019

What someone doesn’t say can be as significant as what they do say; more generally, a topic that someone doesn’t talk about can be as significant as the topics that they do.

So I don’t know quite what to make of a passage from a NYT op-ed column by Thomas T. Cullen (U.S. attormey for the Western District of Virginia), on-line yesterday under the title “The Grave Threats of White Supremacy and Far-Right Extremism: Hate crimes are on the rise. Police and prosecutors need better tools to fight back.” and in print today under the title “Rising Far-Right Extremism in America: Police and prosecutors need better tools to fight back”, about the case of Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Hasson, arrested last week and accused of plotting to assassinate Democratic members of Congress, prominent television journalists, and others. The passage:

In 2009, Congress took an important step in arming federal investigators to deal with hate crimes by passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This law makes it possible to prosecute as hate crimes violent acts committed against victims because of their race, color, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity or disability. The law provides stringent maximum penalties, including life imprisonment, if someone is killed during a hate crime.

The omission in the bold-faced clause is sexual orientation, which is specifically listed in the Shepard/Byrd law — as a result of the savage murder of Shepard in 1998 because of his sexual orientation.


individuals, people, persons

February 13, 2019

From a mail pointer to a 1/30/19 article in the journal Psychological Science, “Similarity Grouping as Feature-Based Selection” by Dian Yu, Xiao Xiao, Douglas K. Bemis, & Steven L. Franconeri:

Individuals perceive objects with similar features (i.e., color, orientation, shape) as a group even when those objects are not grouped in space.

Point at issue: individuals rather than people, a mark of a consciously formal, “scientific” way of writing, appropriate (some believe) for reporting on research in psychology.