Archive for the ‘Syntax’ Category

Collocation restriction

January 17, 2021

Today’s Ada@Home cartoon by Rob Harrell exemplifies the restriction of lexical items to specific collocations:

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secret cabal

January 13, 2021

(Hanging in my posting queue for some considerable time, but just as relevant now as then.

From John McIntyre on Facebook on 9/6/18:

Guardian writer refers to a “secret cabal” in the Trump administration. What other kind does he think there is?

The crucial point is the definition of cabal. From NOAD:

noun cabal: a secret political clique or faction: a cabal of dissidents.

That is, cabals are by definition secret, and secret cabal is pleonastic, so is to be avoided (in favor of plain cabal). The general principle is the Strunk / White Avoid Needless Words dictum. (Yes, we can dispute the applicability of the dictum in particular cases. More below.)

In my mental filing cabinet, the relevant drawer is labeled pilotless drone, after a specific example I discussed at some length back in 2007. Then, of course, the question will be whether my treatment of pilotless drones carries over to secret cabals

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Callipygian in his Levis

January 10, 2021

(About the male body, in particular, men’s buttocks as objects of male sexual desire, and, eventually, about sexual acts between men, so not suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

Two things from Pinterest recently: a vintage Levis ad prominently focused on the model’s buttocks:


(#1) My caption: fanning the flames of desire around the campfire with butt-flattering jeans

and a link to a comic piece “How the West Was Worn” (from 9/18/14, by Christopher Harrity) on the Advocate magazine’s site, about the history of callipygian men in Levi’s ads, with mocking captions added to the ads. (Note: the Advocate provides news and features for LGBTQ readers.)

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The lexicon of masturbation

December 30, 2020

(A spin-off from today’s posting “Manual labor”. Obviously inappropriate for kids and the sexually modest: it’s all about sex, and a lot of it is raunchy.)

This is a compact summary of usages, confined here to male masturbation (all participants are men), in particular such acts involving men who have sex with other men.

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A fresh approach to English dangling modifiers

December 29, 2020

Recently defended:

Control in Free Adjuncts: The “Dangling Modifier” in English by James Donaldson. Ph.D. dissertation, Univ. of Edinburgh, 2020 (supervisors: Geoffrey K. Pullum and Nikolas Gisborn).

Donaldson presents a fresh approach to the topic, uniting a huge body of commentary on observed examples by reference to sentence processing in real time.

Below, the dissertation abstract and a “lay summary”. These are not (yet) for quotation: this is not yet the final form of the dissertation — as is common in academia, there will be some editorial revisions before final submission, though it’s to be expected that there will be no substantive changes. I provide the abstract and lay summary here because I think the leading ideas deserve to be heard and appreciated.

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All they will call you will be “escapees”

September 13, 2020

Well, maybe also “escapers”, or even “escapettes”, as in this One Big Happy cartoon from 8/17, which taps into a much-studied phenomenon in English morphology:

(#1)

From my 1/9/15 posting “-ee” (warning: this goes, unavoidably, pretty deep into the technical weeds of syntax and semantics):

The great resource on [the English derivational suffix] –ee is a 1998 paper by Chris Barker in Language (74.695-727), “Episodic -ee in English: A thematic role constraint on new word formation” (stable URL here), which uses a database of “fifteen hundred naturally occurring tokens of some five hundred word types” to analyze the semantics of the suffix; it also has a full bibliography of relevant literature on the subject.

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empathetic

August 14, 2020

Standardly, ‘exhibiting or expressing empathy’, but now also, in some contexts, ‘eliciting empathy’. A semantic development now prominent in the U.S. because of (former vice-president, now presidential candidate) Joe Biden, who is famously empathetic in the first sense (he appreciates our feelings) — subject-oriented EXHIBIT — but because of his life history is also empathetic in the second sense (we appreciate his feelings) — object-oriented ELICIT.


EXHIBIT empathetic (sense one), from cartoonist Baloo’s site

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Annals of ambiguity: I feel like making it rough for Schrödinger

June 24, 2020

Playing with ambiguity:

— a One Big Happy cartoon with: I feel like a tuna fish sandwich

— a domestic exchange about: I will make a dessert of my youth

— a Pearls Before Swine cartoon with: Tell me roughly

— a photograph, labeled Schrödinger’s Dumpster, of a dumpster with the signage: EMPTY WHEN FULL

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Duolingo’s Latin cheese

June 20, 2020

From Mike Pope on Facebook yesterday, this Duolingo exercise:


(#1) Mike’s note: “Duolingo is really great for learning those phrases you need every day”; word by word: ‘Marcus cheese greatly smells’ (with verb-final syntax)

A little hymn to Marcus as a cheesy comestible:

Marcus smells greatly of cheese

ripe, redolent of cheddar, his
pubic bacteria broadcasting his
manscent to any intimate nose, a
deeply tasty hunk, serve him up
with a young cabernet

Well then: some Latin, and some reflections on cheese and male sweat.

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Exulting in Pride

June 18, 2020

This afternoon my grand-daughter Opal arrived at my house (dutifully standing about 7 feet away and wearing a mask (as I was) to deliver two items: the DVD of Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run (“It says GUB”), which she’d borrowed from me, oh, three years ago; and a celebratory Pride t-shirt from my daughter Elizabeth, whose bold NSFW message in Pride rainbow colors I defer to under the fold.

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