Archive for the ‘Syntax’ Category

Prepositions matter

May 22, 2017

Today’s Zits:

V + P~Ø (V with oblique object, marked by a P, vs. a direct object, with no P) was the topic of my 2009 Stanford SemFest paper; detailed handout here.


A failure of parallelism, sort of

May 22, 2017

In this headline from the 21st:

The crucial part is the NP

(PA) child- and gang-rapes

a reduced variant of the coordination child rapes and gang rapes — with rapes “factored out” of the full coordination, leaving the two-conjunct constituent child and gang. What gives this reduced coordination the whiff of non-parallelism is the difference in the way the factor rapes is semantically related to the two conjuncts child and gang: the first conjunct, child, functions as patient, or affected participant, with the factor rapes (like a canonical syntactic object; in a child rape, someone rapes a child), while the second conjunct, gang, functions as agent, or active participant, with this factor (like a canonical syntactic subject; in a gang rape, a gang rapes someone).

The coordination of patient with agent has a mildly zeugmatic flavor. It probably adds a bit of processing difficulty to this example — and it’s certainly enough to make a linguist like me take notice of the headline.



May 19, 2017

The occasion is the discovery of more photo albums from the past, in this case the relatively recent past. One had photos of two friends who shared the Columbus OH house with Jacques and me in the 1990s: Philip Miller (during a postdoc year in linguistics at Ohio State) and Kim Darnell (while she was finishing her PhD in linguistics at Ohio State). Then there’s our last housemate before Jacques and I moved entirely to Californa, our bookfriend Ann Burlingham, who was working in Columbus bookstores at the time.

After teaching in (mostly) Lille, Philip is now in Paris. After years teaching in Atlanta, Kim is now in Palo Alto. And Ann has been in Perry NY (south of Rochester), where she owns and runs Burlingham Books, for some time now.


The news for food, 5/11/17

May 11, 2017

Following on yesterday’s food bulletins — “The Z with the ‘za”, on robot pizza trucks (here), and “Regional potato chips” (here) — today brought Facebook postings by Dan Everett and Kyle Wohlmut, taking us to: recursive pizza, a pizza place in Williamsburg (A Slice Bakes in Brooklyn), camo gouda, a cheese shop in Utrecht, cheese slicers, red and green gouda, camo ice cream, and camo cheesecake.


Conjunct order in the comics

May 5, 2017

Today’s Rhymes With Orange.on love and conjunct order:

So: in coordinated pairs of names, which comes first, and why?

In the case at hand, whoever creates the coordination (here, carving it into a tree) will almost always put their own name first; people are strongly inclined to take themselves to be the measure of all things. Similarly, if you’re referring to a couple of people and one of them is a friend of yours while the other is someone you know mostly through your friend, you’ll probably put your friend’s name first. But beyond that, there’s a complex set of factors that tend to favor one order of names over the other. It seems that these factors conspire in (now well-studied) ways to favor — wait for it… — Guys First.


Chub and chums in the morning

April 17, 2017

Yesterday’s morning name was chub (the name of a fish), which led me to the rest of the bilabial-final family: chum, chump, and chup. (And that led to the velar-final family chug, Chung, chunk, chuck, but I won’t pursue that one here.) As it is, the bilabials will lead us into many surprising places, including the Hardy Boys books, eyewear retainers, Australian dog food, gay slurs, and hunky underwear models.


The Congressional Brain Injury Task Force

April 6, 2017

The U.S. has such a thing, and its name is a compound with three possibly relevant parsings into constituents (for in the glosses conveys something like ‘to investigate’):

(1)  [ Congressional ]  [ [ Brain Injury ] [ Task Force ] ]

‘ a task force, associated with Congress, for brain injury

(2)  [ [ Congressional Brain ]  [ Injury ] ] [ Task Force ]

‘a task force for injury to the Congressional brain

(3)  [ [ Congressional ] [ Brain Injury ] ] [Task Force ]

‘a task force for Congressional brain injury

(1) is the intended reading. (2) has an entertaining sense involving a Congressional brain, a brain that Congress has (or is otherwise associated with). (3) involves (a) brain injury that is associated in some way with Congress. I’m much taken with readings (2) and (3), especially (2), which reminded me of the October 1980 Doonesbury sequence “The Mysterious World of Reagan’s Brain”.

The intended reading is entirely clear, but sportive readers will play with the alternatives


More on early “is is”

March 30, 2017

Background: a posting of mine (“An early “is is”? Probably not”) on the 27th, looking at a 1964 quote (from published fiction) submitted by Jon Lighter to ADS-L:

(1) “The thing of it is, Waldron said… “is that this order was set up for you personally.”

(1) is a quotation from the writer that seems to have Waldron saying:

(2a) The thing of it is is that this order was set up for you personally.

or, possibly,

(2b) The thing of it is, is that this order order was set up for you personally.

(that is, a spoken sentence like (2a), but with a pause between the two occurrences of is).

JL responded the next day on ADS-L:

1.8 million raw Googlits for “The thing of it is is.”

This is supposed to be evidence about how the sentence from fiction in (1), from over 50 years ago, is to be interpreted: as (2a) — which would be an early example of the vernacular construction Isis, hitherto dated only back to 1971 — or as (2b), an utterly everyday disfluency in speech.

Now to look at the reasoning.


It was correction killed the desire

March 19, 2017

Yesterday’s Bizarro:

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

First, the adverb bad in I want you so bad. Then some notes on correction as a social practice, especially in one-on-one interactions.


hyperbaton, hypermasturbation

March 11, 2017

The Dinosaur Comics from the 3rd, in principle about hyperbaton:

But hypermasturbation (which sounds sort of like hyberbaton) intrudes in the conversation.