Archive for the ‘Complementation’ Category

Non-standard sex talk

May 26, 2017

I’ll start with the steamy gay sex talk from an on-line messaging site — sensitive readers are hereby warned about this content — and then go on to focus on a non-standard syntactic construction in this exchange, what the YGDP (the Yale University Grammatical Diversity Project: English in North America) calls the Needs Washed construction (using as a label an instance of the instruction), involving a PSP complement of a head V.



May 19, 2015

Part 1:  Back in my posting on “Words to eliminate”, I looked at a site that proposed to get you to improve your writing by eliminating 15 words from it. (Yes, a silly idea.) One of these was that:

[Mashable advice] It’s superfluous most of the time. Open any document you’ve got drafted on your desktop, and find a sentence with “that” in it. Read it out loud. Now read it again without “that.” If the sentence works without it, delete it.

The idea is fraught with problems, most turning on the fact that there are several distinct lexical items that, with a large number of uses, and with distinct syntax, discourse functions, and sociolinguistic statuses for each use.

Part 2: On one of these items, the complementizer that, and its use to mark the object complement of a verb, as in

They know (that) pigs can’t fly.

(where the that variant and the ∅ variant are both fine).

But then I started an e-mail to a friend:

 I do wish people would credit sources.

(with the ∅ variant; the that variant is also possible) and thought to link to previous context with a though — but then the ∅ variant struck me as very awkward indeed:

?? I do wish, though, people would credit sources.

though the that variant is fine:

 I do wish, though, that people would credit sources.

What’s crucial is that material intervenes between the complement-taking verb and the complement. It turns out that this intervention effect is well-known in the variation literature.


The poetry of green tea

April 25, 2014

Among the many teas sold by Tazo (from South Seattle WA) are three green teas that my daughter got for me recently, to replenish my supplies. The company is into lush, poetic descriptions of its products — quite entertaining, if you’re in the right mood.

The descriptive material comes in two parts: one part characterizes the taste of a tea, the other is copy poetically evoking a scene or feelings associated with it. Sometimes I think these are cool, but often I think they’re just funny.


New Yorker cartoons

January 14, 2014

From John McIntyre on Facebook, this link to the TED blog of 7/26/13, “Bob Mankoff picks his 11 favorite New Yorker cartoons ever” by Helen Waters. (Mankoff is the cartoon editor of the New Yorker.) Hard to choose, but here are four I especially like.


Sunday funnies

October 13, 2013

Two of today’s strips: a Rhymes With Orange and a Bizarro:


Logo time!


Two different uses of wish here: as a mental-action verb (‘They each wished that the other were dead’) and in a resultative construction (‘They each caused the other to be dead by wishing (in a wishing well)’.

The far reaches of GoToGo

April 27, 2013

From Laura Staum Casasanto this morning:

Here is a sentence taken straight from an email about encouraging students to fill out course evaluations at Stony Brook:

[(1)] Did you know? Students can complete their evaluations on their mobile devices, and some instructors have found success with taking the first 10 minutes of class and ask their students to do the evaluations.

Wow, she said, and I concur. This is formally like classic GoToGo, but deviating from central examples in two respects. And it’s the second such example Laura has found.



August 28, 2012

The topic of the go get (or go + V) construction in English (Let’s go see what’s happening) has now come up (in comments) in connection with V + V compounds (sleep walk, stir-fry). I’ve spent years probing this construction, mostly in collaboration with Geoff Pullum, so I thought this would be a good time to reproduce a summary I wrote in 2000 for the Usenet group sci.lang (with editorial amendments and additions over the years).

Note: This is going to be long and pretty technical. And you should first read (at least) my 2007 Language Log posting “Go, go, go!”, which will put things in context and set aside a collection of issues off the main topic.


I feel like sushi

February 19, 2012

A recent Rhymes With Orange:

Among the many uses of the verb feel is is the one OED2 glosses as:

to feel like (doing something): to have an inclination for

with the usage note “(? orig. U.S.; now common)” and the usage label “colloq. or vulgar” (I wouldn’t say that vulgar is appropriate now, even if it was in 1989, but colloquial is about right). In the cartoon, this sense competes with a sense in which the subject of the verb is the source of a touch perception (with the experiencer of this perception optionally expressed by a PP in to). (more…)

seem as if that

November 17, 2011

Heard this morning in an interview on NPR, an instance of seem as if + that-clause, where an unmarked complement clause would be standard. Many examples can be found on the net, with seem and with other perception verbs (look, sound, feel), so as if joins complementizer like in allowing that-clause complements as a (non-standard) option (discussion of like here).


feel like that

October 18, 2011

Back on August 26th, I caught “I feel like that if …” in an interview on NPR. Saturday morning it was “I just feel like that we …”. That’s the perception-verb feel plus the subordinator like ‘as if’ and the complementizer that (and then a finite complement clause) — where feel like plus the complement clause would be standard.

The usage is far from rare, and extends to the related verbs sound, look, and seem.