Thursday, April 28, 2005

Coupla notes from a G4 powerbook

In the unlooked-for happiness category: Ivory-billed woodpeckers are not extinct after all:

In the rolling-eyes category: someone over at blogthings reads eats shoots and leaves:

Sample question:

6. Which is correct?

Chocolate and strawberry, both my favorite flavors, are on the menu.
Chocolate and strawberry are both my favorite flavors and they are on the menu
Shouldn't that be, 'Does your English cut the Grey Poupon?'


But -- hooray!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Syllabifying vexedly

(Caveat: there may be IPA mistakes below!)

Here’s a question for any morphophonologically sophisticated readers out there, following up on something I noticed a few months ago:

As we all know, the adjectival participle in English is formed with the same -ed suffix as the past tense and verbal participles, and has the same allomorphs /t/, /d/ and /əd/, conditioned by the same phonological environments (modulo a few morphologically specified exceptions; see some of Dave Embick’s recent work).

But adjectives can be subject to a further morphological process in English: you can usually adverbialize a participial adjective with -ly:



But, in my judgment, when certain such adjectives have -ly added, their -t or -d allomorph of -ed has to become syllabic. Looking at *edly sequences that actually have entries in the metadictionary, I see things like

marked /markt/
markedly /mar.kə

perplexed /pər.plɛkst/
perplexedly /pər.plɛk.sə

perturbed /pə.tʊrbd/
perturbedly /pə.tʊr.bə

resigned /rə.saɪnd/
resignedly /rə.saɪ.nə

fixed /fɪkst/
fixedly /fɪk.sə

confused /kən.fjuzd/
confusedly /kən.fju.zə

amazed /ə.meɪzd/
amazedly /ə.meɪ.zə


I noticed this when I made one up writing to a student, 'relaxedly', from adj. ppl. 'relaxed' /rə.lækst/; thinking about it, I felt I had to pronounce this /rə.læk.sə, not /rə.læ

It’s easy to show that this is something about -ed, not something about the phonological shape of the stem to which -ly attaches, by comparing pairs like the following

blind~blindly /blaɪ with resigned~resignedly /rə.saɪ.nə (not /rə.saɪ

and sound~soundly /saʊ with renowned~renownedly: (Actually I don't really have a judgment on this one, but some dictionaries seem to be saying it has to be /rə.naʊ.nə, not /rə.naʊ

So the generalization so far is as follows, I think: when a /t/ or /d/coda allomorph of -ed follows a consonant, it is resyllabified with an epenthetic ə as /Cəd/ when -ly is attached.

Syllabic 'l', unsurprisingly, gets treated like a vowel, not a consonant, so when /d/ follows it, no epenthesis is required:

unbridled /ən.braɪ.dld/ unbridledly /ən.braɪ, not /ən.braɪd.lə

Syllabic ‘r’ similarly, when followed by a /d/ allomorph of -ed, doesn’t need epenthesis:

e.g. good-naturedly = /gʊd neɪ.tʃ not /gʊd neɪ.tʃə.rə; also
bewilderedly, self-centeredly, laboredly, measuredly, ill-mannerdly

But consonantal -r, following a stressed vowel, does need the epenthetic vowel:

assured ~ assuredly: /ə.ʃʊ.rə; also
endearedly, preparedly, declaredly, deploredly

I think one could turn this into an argument that there really are two syllables in words like tired, inspired, retired, the second being a syllabic /r/, because they don’t need an epenthetic schwa when suffixed with -ly:

tired~tiredly, inspired~inspiredly.

If they were like 'prepare', etc., syllabically speaking, then epenthesis ought to be required.

A similar thing seems to be going on with stems with stressed syllables ending in a diphthongized vowel, too (compare to unstressed ones like 'worriedly', on the right); seems like the offglide is treated consonantally in that it triggers resyllabification

avowedly /ə.vaʊ.wə worriedly /wʊ (not /wʊr.ri.jə
appliedly /əplaɪ.jə hurriedly /hʊ
cowedly /kaʊ.wə studiedly /stʌ; also

renewedly variedly
allowedly unweariedly
dignifiedly frenziedly

Some judgments are a bit fuzzy, e.g. some stems ending in -z seem to be fine without resyllabification (though I can also resyllabify):

uncivilized /ən.sɪ.və.laɪzd/ uncivilizedly /ən.sɪ.və.laɪ seems ok, although /ən.sɪ.və.laɪ.zə is also fine to my ear.

So, I'm wondering if this is something about English (adjectival) -ed that has been described or analyzed somewhere before? And is it productive in most Englishes?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Base 2 birthdays

Back from a weekend celebration of a 70th birthday, I am inspired to publish an idea I have about birthdays, and what intervals are worthy of extra celebration as especially special, in the hopes that it becomes a cultural meme. Hallmark, are you listening?

In these modern times, all our (=anyone with enough computer access to be reading this blog) identificatory information is stored and manipulated in binary form. From a numerological-superstition point of view, this means that our base-10 system's typographical intervals (10, 20, 30, etc.) are insignificant epiphenomena in the vast ocean of binarily-represented numbers ebbing and flowing around us every day. Consequently, I feel, the 'major' intervals ought to be those dictated by the typographical intervals of the binary system, i.e. the powers of two.

At base-10 age 2, one is binary 10. Base-10 age 4 is binary 100. Base-10 age 8 is binary 1000. Base-10 age 16 is binary 10,000. Base-10 age 32 is binary 100,000. Base-10 age 64 is binary 1,000,000. Surely these ought to be the moments we make a fuss over.

This also fits in with an idea I have about the internal perception of passing time, which is that the mental organ of time-measurement uses as its yardstick the amount of time that it has current experience of. Consequently, when one is four years old, a year represents a quarter of the peceiver's total existence-time, i.e. a really long time. In middle-aged years, say, for a 40-year-old, that's equivalent to a decade of perceived time. We all know how the halcyon hours of youth stretched longer and sweeter than any of these cheap mass-produced hours you get nowadays. Celebrating big birthdays at power-of-two intervals would allow the celebrant adequate time between parties to really work up the proper amount of anticipation and sense of achievement.

Sweet 16 would still be a big birthday. And 32 seems like a good age to sit back and think about life past and life to come. And as we all live longer and longer, the occasional human who reaches 128 (=10,000,000) will really deserve their letter from the Queen (if they're a Subject, i.e. a citizen of the commonwealth). Her hand must be getting cramped from all the congratualtory notes she has to write to centenarians these days.

And Hallmark could sell extra-special cards celebrating birthdays that end in -0 for every two years of life, rather than every ten. And just think of the ridiculous lengths that a card for a 100,000th birthday could go to. It could cost at least $10.00. It's win-win, I'm tellin' ya.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

notes from a clamshell iBook

My 3-yr old G3 iBook redied today... its second logic board fritzed out. Just a few weeks after Apple's most recent deadline for (re?)replacing them, too. *Extremely* annoying. Wasn't the replaced one any better than the original bad one? Got all the data off the HD, though, after a day at the FAS faculty help center. Thank you, help center persons! For a while, back to ol' trusty & hefty, and OS 9.2.

Waiting around for news on the patient, though, I ran across a couple of things that you all probably already know about but which were new to me:

Suzette Haden Elgin, of Native Tongue et seq., has a blog:, with musings on science-fiction publishing, language construction and linguistic mimicry techniques, among other things.

And here's a collection of 16th century Dutch idioms, which you can browse while helping out a research project (see the Linguist List post). I estimate that about 10-15 per cent of them are current in (my) English; the others are mysterious to me. And I didn't know about that painting by Bruegel the elder! Uncultured me.

Friday, April 15, 2005

5% Dixie?

This fun little lexicon-sorter blogged over at ilani ilani says I've got 5% Dixie in me (see below). Now, introspectively, it has always seemed to me that my idiolect is a sort of amalgam of my mother's probably mainly Californian dialect and my father's eastern Canadian, including a few distinctly Canadian vowels. It doesn't include, sadly, much if any Newfoundland English, of either variety, despite its being home.

I was recently trying rather seriously to figure out how to describe my speech because a review of my in-the-works English Words textbook asks me (quite reasonably) to 'geographically identify' my dialect, which I refer to in the book. Problem is, saying that I spent the first 20 years of my life in Newfoundland gives entirely the wrong impression.

The profile the blogthing comes up with for me seems perfectly plausible overall, esp. given that there's only 20 words in the little survey, but I really have to wonder what lexical item is giving me that 5% Dixie. I wouldn't have thought that I had the slightest Dixie in my mix at all.

I notice that all the commenters at ilani ilani test at or over 5% Dixie too, although most of them seem to be from California. What test item do you think it is?

Anyway, following a year-long avoidance period for getting over some deep textbook-writing-related phobia or other, the revisions finally got done this and last week, after extreme marathon rewriting by yours truly and extreme marathon proofreading by your blogger's husband. Thank heavens for that. The book should be out (with Blackwell) in December. how big is that to-do list?

Your Linguistic Profile:

55% General American English

35% Yankee

5% Dixie

5% Upper Midwestern

0% Midwestern

Update: Bridget's considered each item individually, and wonder's if it's catty-corner...but that wasn't it for me...I said kitty-corner. hmm!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I'm sure I've heard that somewhere...

In my fieldwork class today, we inadvertently stumbled across something pretty cool. I'm sure it must have been discussed in the literature, but it's not turning out to be easy to find out where. It has to do with whether a finite complement of the perception verb hear can be interpreted as the (aural) perception of direct evidence, or whether it needs to be interpreted as the (not necessarily aural) perception of a report.

Consider the sentence in (1) below:

1. Mary heard that the boys were leaving.

We (four out of five native English speakers) agreed in class that (1) could mean either

(a) some (unspecified) person had told Mary that the boys were leaving, or
(b) Mary herself heard aural evidence that caused her to conclude that the boys were leaving, e.g. she was in another room and heard the noises of departure that they were making.

Now consider (2):

2. Mary heard that the boys left.

We agreed that (2) could only mean (a) -- she had to have heard a report that the boys left from another person, and it couldn't mean (b) -- that is (2) can't describe a situation where Mary heard the noises of departure, which, say, ended with the slamming of a door.

But in a sentence like (3), that 'direct evidence' interpretation seems to be available again:

3. Mary heard that the boys had left.

Here, the direct aural evidence that Mary is using to conclude that the boys had left might be, for instance, an unnatural silence in a house normally filled with the noises of boys.

Note, again, that the 'report' interpretation is available in all three sentences, and that hear in the 'report' interpretation doesn't necessarily literally mean 'hear' -- she might have seen it written in an e-mail, e.g., or someone might have signed it to her. But 'hear' in the 'gathered evidence' interpretation must literally mean 'hear', i.e. 'perceived aurally', and that's the interpretation that's not available (for me and three other English speakers) in (2).

The same set of facts is true of see. The only way see can get a 'report' reading is, I think, if the report is read, e.g. in a newspaper.

5. Mary saw that the boys were leaving.
(visually perceived evidence of their leaving)
6. *Mary saw that the boys left.
(* on the 'perceive evidence' reading -- a 'reading report' or causation reading is fine)
7. Mary saw that the boys had left.
(visually perceived evidence of their having left)

Seems to me that the seeming similarity between concluding P on the basis of direct aural perception and having received a report of P in 1, 2 and 3 is really a red herring, I think; they're actually quite distinct. Evidentiality at work in English, despite the lack of overt grammatical marking.

But why can't one have perceived a proposition in the simple past? This obviously has to do with sequence-of-tense, and the aspectual properties of the embedded clause, and the nature of perception events. In particular, I think it seems like the embedded clause has to denote an eventuality that extends over a period of time, as in the past progressive in (1), or the past perfect in (3) (where the latter denotes the resultant state that holds after the boys' leaving.) For one to perceive evidence of something, the perception and the evidence have to happen simultaneously, but the simple past in the complement of the sentence in (2) doesn't allow the simultaneous reading. Why not? Something to do with the sequence-of-tense, the perfectivity of the English simple past, the temporal structure of hearing events (non-culminating?), the temporal structure of drawing-conclusions events (culminating?)... or what? Tests suggest themselves: I should try with complement verbs from different Vendler classes...try different tenses of the matrix and complement verb. But I know the answer must already be out there somewhere.

The semantics of perception verb complements has been extensively discussed in the literature, but mostly (on a quick scan) with regard to the different interpretations created when they take various broader categories of complement: bare infinitive vs. to-infinitive vs. gerund vs. finite complements (plus a whole sub-literature on the necessity of a to-infinitive in passives of perception verbs). I can't seem to find discussion of differences with different kinds of finite complements. Anyone got any suggestions?