Archive for the ‘Syntax’ Category

Buzz me, baby

March 19, 2020

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes re-run strip, on Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs (CFSBs), which offer “100% of the daily recommended allowance of caffeine”:


(#1) Just in case you had a fleeting moment of wondering about it, there is no caffeine RDA (recommended dietary allowance — recommended by the US National Research Council); the RDAs are for nutrients, and caffeine is not a nutrient

C&H Sugar Bomb strips. Hummingbird metabolism. The getting-high sense of the noun buzz and its verbing. The near-instant buzz of concentrated caffeine. Adalbert Stifter’s 1845 novella Bergkristall.

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Revisiting 43: the Socka Hitsch nominal on the rural Swiss roadside

February 15, 2020

In my “Socka Hitsch” posting yesterday, Christian Zwicky / Socka Hitsch described by the nominal

old eccentric rural Swiss roadside sock vendor ‘old, eccentric sock vendor on the roadside of rural Switzerland’, ‘seller of socks along the road in the countryside of Switzerland who is of advanced age and exhibits unconventional behavior’

An unusually long nominal — I was showing off some — but not one with unusual components, put together in unusual ways. In the middle of it, rural Swiss roadside, with the complex adjectival rural Swiss, modifying the compound noun roadside — a perfectly routine and unremarkable expression    (compare rural Dutch in the attested rural Dutch landscape, urban English in the attested urban English roadworks, etc.), but one of some interest to people who fret about how the form — the morphology and syntax — of expressions (like rural Swiss) links to their meaning — their semantics and pragmatics.

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The rose parade

February 9, 2020

… with figurative roses. Recent gifts to me of many kinds: symbolic roses for me, in accord with a 1/29/20 posting of mine on a line from the Sacred Harp: “Give me the roses while I live” (SH340 Odem (Second)). I’m an old man, currently writing things under the Python Queen of Scots cry “Not Dead Yet”. Meanwhile, I have been given some excellent roses.

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The BSDR files

February 7, 2020

This posting represents the intersection of two posting topics that have pretty much gotten out of hand for me, so I’ll be extracting pieces from the larger material.

Topic 1 is the 1993 annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, at which I gave (on 1/9/93) my 1992 Presidential Address to the society, “Mapping the ordinary into the rare: Basic/derived reasoning in theory construction”. In trying to retrieve memories of the event, I discovered that my computer files for the paper (the BSDR files) were in a format that was inaccessible to me and that all my paper files had been destroyed. So I put an appeal out on 12/21/19, on several sites, for help in finding a copy of (at least) my (very detailed) BSDR  handout.

Topic 2 is recent gifts to me of many kinds: symbolic roses for me, in accord with a 1/29/20 posting of mine on a line from the Sacred Harp: “Give me the roses while I live” (SH340 Odem (Second)). I’m an old man, currently writing things under the Python Queen of Scots cry “Not Dead Yet”. I have been given some excellent roses.

One of these wonderful gestures to me was a reconstruction of the BSDR handout — with formatting preserved — done for me, purely in the spirit of colleagueship, by Luigi Talamo, now at the Univ. of the Saarland. Whose labors I will celebrate here, with some notes about Luigi and his interests. But first I exhibit his gift.

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As a Business Professional, …

February 6, 2020

On the SPAR patrol, this message in my e-mail yesterday:

I balked on that first sentence, which I understood, as it unfolded, as conveying that the writer was a business professional (or, as they would put it, a Business Professional). But then I got to the further reaches of the sentence (with its you) and realized they were addressing me as a business professional. So the sentence begins with a failed X-SPAR, a bad classic “dangling modifier”.

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Predicative / locational

January 26, 2020

(In the illustrations section below, there are some racy images; just a warning for the sexually modest.)

From the annals of ambiguity: the Mother Goose and Grimm from the 20th:

(#1)

Both terms of the ambiguity are of interest on their own: short-form location names (as in Men’s Fragrances in Meet us in Men’s Fragrances, with the PP in Men’s Fragrances functioning as a VP adverbial, referring to the place of the meeting) vs. (subject-oriented) predicative adjuncts (as in Meet us without a shirt, with the PP without a shirt functioning to denote some characteristic — here, shirtlessness — of the referent of the subject).

Mother Goose intended the VP location adverbial reading of in Women’s Dresses, where Women’s Dresses is the name of a department in a department store (readers are expected to know, even these days, what department stores are and how they are organized and labeled). The dogs Grimm and Ralph understood instead the predicative adjunct reading of in women’s dresses, and so they appeared wearing women’s dresses, outré though that might be.

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Briefly noted: NAILS

January 10, 2020

The name of a business establishment in this cartoon by Adam Douglas Thompson in the January 13th New Yorker:

A wry, and potentially ominous, play on the central ambiguity in the noun nail; and implicitly a reflection on how business establishments are named: what products or services are provided at a place called NAILS?

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There was a singer had a dog

January 8, 2020

The Epiphany Rhymes With Orange is an exercise in cartoon understanding:

(#1)

Without the title and the comment balloon (on the left), the cartoon is still compensible, and funny — this material adds some extra humorous depth — but none of it works at all unless you know the song.

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Comedic NomConjObj

November 12, 2019

Tell it to Kim. Tell it to me. Tell it to Kim and I.

The new paradigm for case-marking of pronouns, including the nominative conjoined object (NomConjObj) in to Kim and I — now judged to be the correct form by a large population of young, educated American speakers, as against the judgments of older speakers, who use instead accusative conjoined objects (AccConjObj), as in to Kim and me.

Entertainingly, the new paradigm is evidenced in tv comedies in which grammatically fastidious characters freely use NomConjObj and even admonish those who use AccConjObj.

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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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