Archive for the ‘Modification’ Category

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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Chard semantics, chard art, and chard food

July 17, 2018

My recent Swiss steak posting,”Braised short ribs with Swiss chard, and the Swiss Hotel” on the 15th, in considering Swiss chard as an ingredient in cooking, also looked at the semantics of the composite Swiss chard (it’s relational rather than predicational: Swiss chard isn’t Swiss, but instead is related to or associated with Switzerland in some way — but in what way?) and illustrated one culinary use of the plant’s leaves.

But there’s more. First, there’s more on the semantics. Swiss chard is a synonym of chard; all chard is Swiss chard. That is, the Swiss of Swiss chard isn’t restrictive, but rather appositive: not ‘chard that is related to Switzerland (in such and such a way)’, but ‘chard, which is related to Switzerland (in such and such a way)’.

Second, thanks to the striking colors of its ribs and leaves and to the complex textures of its leaves, Swiss chard is beautiful: it’s a frequent subject for artists (in paintings, water colors, and pencil drawings) and photographers, and it’s grown as an ornamental plant (like ornamental cabbage and kale — the ornamental crucifers — and some herbs, notably rosemary, thyme, and sage).

Finally, my adventures with the composite Swiss chard led me to two specific culinary uses of the plant: in the characteristic dish of Romansh-speaking Switzerland, the chard-wrapped meat dumplings capuns; and the combination of   Swiss chard with white beans (in sautés, stews, and soups) — one of the staples of my Swiss grandmother’s cooking.

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giving a speech on drugs

March 15, 2018

Today’s Bizarro/Wayno collaboration takes us into the world of modifier attachment:

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

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after-SPARs

December 20, 2017

A SPAR message from reader Josh Bischof, with this bulletin from the internet:

From Ragan’s PR Daily “Ultimate grammar cheat sheet” by Brendan Brown on 12/6/17:  “6 grammar errors that can affect your story telling”

At issue is the interpretation of the PP = after + NP here, after a long day at school; the grammar tip presupposes that this PP is, in my terms, a SPAR, a subjectless predicative adjunct requiring a referent for the missing subject — I’ll refer to this as the Referent (for the SPAR) for short —  in which case general principles predict that the missing subject is the dog, which is both the nearest NP to the SPAR (the Nearest Rule) and the subject of the main clause the SPAR is adjunct to (the Subject Rule).

But PPs with the temporal P after don’t generally count as SPARs; only certain ones do — those with an NP object denoting a time span (as above) — and then those SPARs are subject to the complexities of interpretation that attend all SPARs, according to which factors of syntax and discourse context come into play (making the Subject Rule only a default and not a hard constraint).

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