Natural languages, communication, etc

Archive for June, 2013

Mystery (?)

I downloaded the following from Paul Postal’s website on 06/19/2013 :

<cut and paste>

To me the most fascinating feature of current linguistics is that

although natural languages have been studied by untold linguists for

thousands of years, even the most intensively studied languages remain

sources of nearly endless mystery. In my own field of concentration,

syntax, even the most intensively studied languages like English

reveal in domain after domain properties which are unaccounted for.

For example, I am confident that not even the most exhaustive search

of the literature will provide any basis for such sharp differences as

those between (Ba, b), given the apparent parallelism in (Aa, b)

(prefixed stars indicate that the expression does not satisfy the

rules of English grammar):

    a. The director never reached Adam.

    b. That book never reached Adam.

    a. Adam was never reached by the director.

    b. *Adam was never reached by that book.

The puzzle of why, as syntacticians say, there is a good passive (Ba)

corresponding to (Aa) but none corresponding to (Ab) deepens when one

notes such corresponding differences as those in (C)-(F):

    a. Adam was difficult for the director to reach.

    b. *Adam was difficult for that book to reach.

    a. the reaching of Adam by the director

    b. *the reaching of Adam by that book

    a. Adam was unreachable by the director.

    b. *Adam was unreachable by that book.

    a. The director didn’t reach Adam although she did Louisa.

    b. *That book didn’t reach Adam although it did Louisa.

Such facts suggest that there is some systematic difference between

the (only) seemingly parallel expressions in (A), but of course they

do not tell us what it is. Research into such questions is one small

aspect of syntax. The fact that there is no known account of such

facts despite the immense body of work on English syntax, provides, I

think, a true perspective on the dual status of current syntactic

research. On the one hand, a great deal of knowledge has been gathered

and many generalizations and insights have been obtained. On the

other, the true structure of natural languages remains a significantly

open question and the potential scope for original work and

possibilities for current entrants in the field to fairly rapidly have

the possibility of exploring largely unknown and not well-understood

areas even in well-known languages are very great.

</cut and paste>

Assuming we can overlook Postal’s politics, isn’t he here making a

rather stupid mistake. Two different meaning of "reach" seem to be

involved. The director reaches Adam via telephone or the like and is

the active reaching agent. The book reaches Adam, in the only

acceptable example, via the mails or the like and is the passive

object being acted upon.

I think I could quote Postal himself on this issue were I to bother

looking.  Or have I missed the point?

.
posted by admin in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Mystery (?)

I downloaded the following from Paul Postal’s website on 06/19/2013 :

<cut and paste>

To me the most fascinating feature of current linguistics is that

although natural languages have been studied by untold linguists for

thousands of years, even the most intensively studied languages remain

sources of nearly endless mystery. In my own field of concentration,

syntax, even the most intensively studied languages like English

reveal in domain after domain properties which are unaccounted for.

For example, I am confident that not even the most exhaustive search

of the literature will provide any basis for such sharp differences as

those between (Ba, b), given the apparent parallelism in (Aa, b)

(prefixed stars indicate that the expression does not satisfy the

rules of English grammar):

    a. The director never reached Adam.

    b. That book never reached Adam.

    a. Adam was never reached by the director.

    b. *Adam was never reached by that book.

The puzzle of why, as syntacticians say, there is a good passive (Ba)

corresponding to (Aa) but none corresponding to (Ab) deepens when one

notes such corresponding differences as those in (C)-(F):

    a. Adam was difficult for the director to reach.

    b. *Adam was difficult for that book to reach.

    a. the reaching of Adam by the director

    b. *the reaching of Adam by that book

    a. Adam was unreachable by the director.

    b. *Adam was unreachable by that book.

    a. The director didn’t reach Adam although she did Louisa.

    b. *That book didn’t reach Adam although it did Louisa.

Such facts suggest that there is some systematic difference between

the (only) seemingly parallel expressions in (A), but of course they

do not tell us what it is. Research into such questions is one small

aspect of syntax. The fact that there is no known account of such

facts despite the immense body of work on English syntax, provides, I

think, a true perspective on the dual status of current syntactic

research. On the one hand, a great deal of knowledge has been gathered

and many generalizations and insights have been obtained. On the

other, the true structure of natural languages remains a significantly

open question and the potential scope for original work and

possibilities for current entrants in the field to fairly rapidly have

the possibility of exploring largely unknown and not well-understood

areas even in well-known languages are very great.

</cut and paste>

Assuming we can overlook Postal’s politics, isn’t he here making a

rather stupid mistake. Two different meaning of "reach" seem to be

involved. The director reaches Adam via telephone or the like and is

the active reaching agent. The book reaches Adam, in the only

acceptable example, via the mails or the like and is the passive

object being acted upon.

I think I could quote Postal himself on this issue were I to bother

looking.  Or have I missed the point?

posted by admin in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Regional Genealogy and Local History Research: Local History and Genealogy Portals to the World.

Regional Genealogy and Local History Research:

Local History and Genealogy Portals to the World.

http://academic-genealogy.com/regionalgenealogy.htm

This sub section web page is currently being updated

for quality assurance of all link sites and sources.

Please email us and report any not found, broken,

changed, inappropriate, misdirected, new, outdated

or undiscovered pertinent genealogy and family history

links. New formats allow continued easy, simple source

access.

posted by admin in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Regional Genealogy and Local History Research: Local History and Genealogy Portals to the World.

Regional Genealogy and Local History Research:

Local History and Genealogy Portals to the World.

http://academic-genealogy.com/regionalgenealogy.htm

This sub section web page is currently being updated

for quality assurance of all link sites and sources.

Please email us and report any not found, broken,

changed, inappropriate, misdirected, new, outdated

or undiscovered pertinent genealogy and family history

links. New formats allow continued easy, simple source

access.

posted by admin in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Regional Genealogy and Local History Research: Local History and Genealogy Portals to the World.

Regional Genealogy and Local History Research:

Local History and Genealogy Portals to the World.

http://academic-genealogy.com/regionalgenealogy.htm

This sub section web page is currently being updated

for quality assurance of all link sites and sources.

Please email us and report any not found, broken,

changed, inappropriate, misdirected, new, outdated

or undiscovered pertinent genealogy and family history

links. New formats allow continued easy, simple source

access.

posted by admin in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Regional Genealogy and Local History Research: Local History and Genealogy Portals to the World.

Regional Genealogy and Local History Research:

Local History and Genealogy Portals to the World.

http://academic-genealogy.com/regionalgenealogy.htm

This sub section web page is currently being updated

for quality assurance of all link sites and sources.

Please email us and report any not found, broken,

changed, inappropriate, misdirected, new, outdated

or undiscovered pertinent genealogy and family history

links. New formats allow continued easy, simple source

access.

posted by admin in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Yorkshirisms & dropping letters

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a neighbour in the park & the

various local schools came up.  I mentioned that I was under the

impression that they were all pretty good, & she said that at some of

them, "kids will come home speaking Yorkshirisms & dropping letters".

Then in her next sentence, she used "while" in the sense of "until" &

said "she were" (not subjunctively).  She didn’t drop any letters

though.

(Yes, I know: "g-dropping" (for example) is a popular but technically

incorrect term.)


Slade was the coolest band in England. They were the kind of guys

that would push your car out of a ditch.         — Alice Cooper

posted by admin in Uncategorized and have Comments (4)

a most excellent mixed religious metaphor

A male Israeli computer programmer was recently explaining to me that

a lot of programming there is done by ultra-Orthodox wives working in

big all-female or mostly female offices, set up so they aren’t left

unchaperoned with men, & that such arrangements were growing in

popularity.  I expressed a little surprise because in many other kinds

of traditional or conservative communities women are supposed to stay

at home instead of working.  He said the wives had jobs so the men

could study Yeshiva.

"Oh, you mean the men study all day instead of working at all?"

"Yeah, that’s the Holy Grail of the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle."


The kid’s a hot prospect. He’s got a good head for merchandising, an

agent who can take you downtown and one of the best urine samples I’ve

seen in a long time.                           [Dead Kennedys t-shirt]

posted by admin in Uncategorized and have Comments (4)

how happy became homosexual

The following excerpt on semantic change was featured in the June 3rd Natl Post is from my just released book How Happy Became Homosexual and other mysterious semantic shifts.

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/06/04/howard-richler-when-go…"

posted by admin in Uncategorized and have No Comments

semantic change

The following excerpt on semantic change was featured in the June 3rd Natl Post is from my just released book How Happy Became Homosexual and other mysterious semantic shifts.

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/06/04/howard-richler-when-go…

posted by admin in Uncategorized and have Comment (1)