Thursday, June 09, 2005

Unpacked in the UK

Greetings again, blogosphere, from Cambridge, England. I had promised myself I wouldn't blog anymore until I got through two outstanding overdue reviews. They were done a week ago, and I still didn't blog, and now I should probably swear off blogging again until I get through another review, due soon. But I've been saving up a pile of rants and notes on my bedtime reading material while here, G.M. Treveylan's 1926 "History of England", which I'm dying to get off my chest, so look for a series of posts on that soon.

But in the meantime, I've been catching up on my blogroll reading, and am fascinated by the unpacked problem. I don't have anything too new to add, but thought I'd remark on one aspect of the situation that hasn't received much airplay yet: the fact that it's not really restricted to this one lexical item. Browsing through the comments at LanguageHat's post on the topic, I see that many commenters have provided parallel examples with other roots, all of which sound perfectly sensible to me (and take me to corners of the web I had not previously thought to explore):

unrolled ("still unrolled condom")
unwrapped ("still unwrapped mummy")
unloaded ("still unloaded faecal matter")
unfurled ("still unfurled [fiddlehead fern fork]")

Seems clear to me that what we have here is a happenin' haplology, as Geoff Nunberg has asserted -- and that it's not restricted to "unpacked", but is really pretty robustly productive when adjectival and verbal uns stack up.

Link

"Apparently Weigall assumed that the objects he saw were retaining straps or mummy "braces," used to hold the shroud and wrappings covering the mummy in place. (A good example of such "mummy bands" appears on the still-unwrapped mummy of Isiemkheb-D.)"

Update: Also:

unfolded ("still unfolded leaves")

2 Comments:

Blogger Lance said...

"Still unrolled" is tricky, since I think the act of opening a condom to its full length could be called either "unrolling" it or "rolling it (out)".

It seems to me that, by and large, these words seem to describe a process done in one place, to be undone in another. So for instance, you wouldn't think of pointing to a full box in the apartment you're moving out of and saying, "Now that this is unpacked, we can do the kitchen." Rolling and wrapping are like that; furling may be like that. (I so utterly don't want to check the "unloading" context.)

But maybe that's just the nature of the adjectives, i.e. that they all describing packaging of some sort (even "furled" in a way implies a closed fern package).

1:46 PM  
Blogger hh said...

Yeh, I think you're right about the undoing of a process.. though sometimes the process wasn't ever really 'done' in the first place, as with the furling ex., or the still unloaded faecal material. :) But it's definitely true that one wouldn't say, 'now that this is unpacked...' during a packing activity. But I think it would be pretty ungrammatical to say of a condom that it was 'still unrolled out,' at least, without a lot of prosodic help ('still un rolled-out').

But I was thinking about the circumstances needed to produce the haplology, and they're pretty special. Seems like you need an 'un' verb (i.e. like 'undo', with verbal, reversative un- attached), which denotes a change of state that can be easily (re-)reversed (and, ideally, is usually re-reversed). Then, when the re-reversal hasn't yet been accomplished, you'd want to talk about it being un((unV)ed), setting the stage to see the haplology effect. That's a pretty small group of verbs, I think. ('Unbutton' should also work well, I think, though a google for "still unbottoned" leads to a lot of steamy prose about blouses and trousers and things, all with a non-haplological 'unbuttoned'.)

By the way, shouldn't 'haplology' be 'haplogy'?

(And shouldn't 'iamb' be pronounced iAMB?)

5:41 PM  

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