Archive for the ‘Modification’ Category

Our reclusive pangolinists

May 4, 2020

On the dangler watch, a report by Ben Zimmer on 4/29 about this Reddit posting, which seems to have appeared without any preceding context:

TIL [Today I Learned] Due to their reclusive nature, scientists are unsure how long a pangolin lives in the wild.

(now entry Z4.87, coded SUB(due to)-I-EMB-3P, in my collection of examples)

The writer of Z4.87 was no doubt intending to write about the endangered animal the scaly anteater, or pangolin, and the creatures were paramount in their consciousness; and they also wanted to introduce an observation on scientists’ knowledge about pangolins. All of that is fine. But we can’t be mind-readers, and what they wrote fell afoul of a general strategy in sentence comprehension that leads even well-intentioned readers to understand, at least for a perceptible moment, the claim to be that scientists, not pangolins, are reclusive.

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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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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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Resources: dangler examples

March 2, 2019

Having worked on non-canonical SPARS — called dangling modifiers (or danglers, for short) on Usage Street — for several decades now, my files of SPAR examples have piled up alarmingly. I’ve cited a fair number of the examples in my postings on danglers (see the Page on this blog on dangler postings), but in line with general urgings to make data sources publicly available wherever possible, I’ve now posted the files here as a Page (where, like the dangler postings Page, I can update it regularly).

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Ask not for whom the reaper scythes

December 20, 2018

Two Grim Reaper memic cartoons: today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro collab, and a Harry Bliss cartoon in the current (12/24&31) New Yorker, both requiring signficant background information for understanding (beyond recognizing the figure of Death with his scythe):

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Return to Dangle City

November 30, 2018

It’s been a long time since my last “dangling modifier” — non-default SPAR — posting (on 3/15 in “giving a speech on drugs”, according to my records). Now, from Josh Bischof on the 23rd, this excerpt (now item Z4.86 in my files) from Paul Tremblay, The Cabin at the End of the World (2018):

He passes Wen’s grasshopper jar; sunlight flares off the glass and aluminum lid (screwed on tightly) as though saying see me, see me. Lying on its side and sunk into the taller grass, the earth is already absorbing it, consuming the evidence of its existence. (p. 175)

The subjectless adjunct in the boldfaced material has both a PRP VP (lying on its side) and a PSP VP (sunk into the taller grass) in it, and picks up (the referent of) its missing subject, not from the subject of the main clause (by the Subject Rule, as in a default SPAR), but, apparently, from the direct object in that clause. Nevertheless, unless you cleave unswervingly to the Subject Rule, you shouldn’t find the boldfaced sentence problematic, and there’s a reason for that.

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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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The news for shoes

September 17, 2018

… and toucans, but not, surprisingly, pandas, despite the brand name.

Originally encountered in ads from the Footwear etc. stores (a California chain with a store on University Ave. in Palo Alto): Wanda Panda,

We Are Wanda Panda

Shoes, ankle boots and sandals for women. Made in Spain. [The company’s headquarters are in Alicante, on the Costa Blanca]

Hours of attention: Monday to Thursday, 9:00 – 13:00, 16:00 – 18:00, Friday 9:00 – 13:00 [notably Spanish hours]

Phonemically /wandǝ pændǝ/ in English, apparently involving the bamboo-eating bear Ailuropoda melanoleuca (I have two friends with the panda as a very serious totem animal, so I’m alert to pandas) — but phonemically /wanda panda/ in Spanish, with no allusion to (el) panda ‘panda’ at all; instead the reference is to (la) panda ‘gang, crowd, group of friends’ (in European Spanish slang). And the Wanda Panda mascot is a cartoon toucan (tucán in Spanish):

(#1)

Some notes on the shoes. And then a digression on why Wanda and panda don’t rhyme in English (though they do in Spanish).

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Further adventures with Low Attachment

September 1, 2018

Bonnie Taylor-Blake to ADS-L on 8/10 under the heading “Another zoological crash blossom”:

The headline for a blog post hosted by the Smithsonian:

“Scientists track a mysterious songbird using tiny backpack locators

This reminded me of a favorite from a few years ago, “Public urged to keep track of squirrels with mobiles.” (See Ben Zimmer’s column about this and other crash blossoms [here].)

Two ambiguous headlines that might be understood in an unintended way because of how modifying phrases (underlined above) are attached to preceding material:

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EDM +of +a :PL

August 29, 2018

The example: because of how good of a friends we are (from the Canadian-American tv series The Good Witch, S3 E3, first aired 5/14/17)

An example of a type that’s very hard to search for, so I tend to treasure each one I come across.

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