Archive for the ‘Pragmatics’ Category

What room am I in?

October 20, 2018

This photoon passed on to me by Karen Chung on Facebook (I have no idea of its ultimate source):

(#1)

Context, context, context.

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What’s he like?

October 18, 2018

In today’s comics feed, the One Big Happy for September 21st:

Playground Lady intends a WH question with (a reduced variant of) the auxiliary V is + a predicative PP headed by the P like ‘similar to’. Ruthie, ever keen on the reading not intended, hears a WH question with (a reduced variant of) the auxiliary V does (a PRS form of the V lexeme DO) + a complement VP headed by the BSE form like of the V lexeme LIKE ‘find enjoyable’. What is he like? (possible answer: He’s short and blond and funny-looking ) vs. What does he like? (possible answer: He likes playing video games).

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Attaching an 8-page essay at Wheaton College

September 30, 2018

Reported back on the 19th, a stunner of a 2017 headline about Wheaton College (IL) events dating back to 2016. First, the story from a source other than the one that produced the remarkable headline: from the Daily Mail (UK) by Jennifer Smith on 2/14/18: “Christian college ‘punished’ football players who ‘kidnapped, beat and sexually assaulted’ freshman in brutal hazing ritual by asking them to write an eight-page essay and complete community service”:

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Briefly noted 9/27/18: a remarkable name

September 27, 2018

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation periodically revises the format for its on-line statements, including after visit summaries to its physicians and labs. As far as I can tell, every such software upgrade arrives with bugs, sometimes spectacular ones; this is, after, the way of software the world over.

So it was with recent after visit summaries, in which my name at the top was given as

Dr. Zwicky M. Zwicky

I have an idea about how this might have come about. Probably not verifable, since it involves decisions by two different people, neither of whom could easily be identified.

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“The hell is that guy doing?”: predator-truncated QuEx

August 23, 2018

The word from predators, in this Jake Likes Onions cartoon (by Jake Thompson):


(#1) Title: “Maybe he’s running from the truth”

Predator 2 omits the what of what the hell (in a Wh, or constituent, question What is that guy doing? with the question word what emphatically extended by the expletive the hell).

About the syntax, and then about the strip and the artist…

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Asking questions and giving commands

August 21, 2018

The text for the day is a dialogue posted on Facebook on the 19th by John Beavers (a guitarist who moonlights as a linguistics professor at the University of Texas, Austin), between John’s son Ezra and John’s wife / Ezra’s mother Janice Ta:


Ezra on his 3rd birthday (July 28th)

Ezra: Mommy, do “boy” and “toy” rhyme?

Janice: Yes, they do! You’re very good at rhyming. Do “boy” and “man” rhyme?

Ezra: No. You’re not very good at rhyming.

Ah, a significant ambiguity in the use of interrogative sentences: between information-seeking interrogatives (infoseek questions, I’ll call them), like Ezra’s do “boy” and “toy” rhyme?; and examination interrogatives (test questions, I’ll call them; they’re also known as quiz questions), like Janice’s do “boy” and “man” rhyme?

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Book flash: New Work on Speech Acts

August 16, 2018

What looks to be an excellent report on work in semantics/pragmatics on speech acts, from OUP:

(#1)

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Two occasions, four cartoons

August 6, 2018

(There will be talk of men’s bodies, among a number of other things, so you might want to exercise some caution.)

Yesterday was National Underwear Day (utilitarian garments elevated to objects of play, desire, and fashion display), today is Hiroshima Day (remembering the horror of an event of mass destruction, death, and suffering). An uncomfortable, even absurd, juxtaposition, but there is a link in the symbolism of the two occasions. In my comics feed for these occasions: four language-related cartoons on familiar language-related themes, none of them having anything to do with either underwear or nuclear holocaust, probably for good reason.

Cartoons first, then the underwear and atomic bombs.
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That bastard mongrel half-breed, the tromboon

July 25, 2018

To yesterday’s posting “Hybrid referent, portmanteau name” (mostly about the flumpet, with a bit on the fluba), Robert Coren added a comment about Peter Schickele / P.D.Q. Bach and his invention, the tromboon:

(#1)

The tromboon is a musical instrument made up of the reed and bocal of a bassoon, attached to the body of a trombone in place of the trombone’s mouthpiece. It combines the sound of double reeds and the slide for a distinctive and unusual instrument. The name of the instrument is a portmanteau of “trombone” and “bassoon”. The sound quality of the instrument is best described as comical and loud.

The tromboon was developed by Peter Schickele, a skilled bassoonist himself, and featured in some of his live concert and recorded performances. Schickele called it “a hybrid – that’s the nicer word – constructed from the parts of a bassoon and a trombone; it has all the disadvantages of both”. This instrument is called for in the scores of P. D. Q. Bach’s oratorio The Seasonings, as well as the Serenude (for devious instruments) and Shepherd on the Rocks, With a Twist. (Wikipedia link)

Here I’m focusing on that’s the nicer word: just what did Schickele think (in 2008) was a less nice, more offensive, way to refer to a hybrid (more specifically, to someone of mixed race, which is probably where the insult vocabulary for hybrids is going to come from)? Specifically, what does an old white guy addressing a mostly white audience think might be a more offensive way to refer to hybrids? (A young black guy would probably insult a half-black half-white guy by calling him white.)

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Rubber and glue

July 23, 2018

The June 26th One Big Happy, with an updated version of a bit of childlore:

(#1)

It starts out traditionally, with a retort to insult beginning “I’m rubber and you’re glue…”, but then it takes a modern-tech social-media turn (while preserving the glue … you rhyme).

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