I need to call a timesout…

March 26, 2010

I heard something interesting last night while watching an NCAA game against Kansas State and Xavier (awesome game, by the way; mad props to those K-State players for a game well played). The announcer, towards the end of the game, had said timesout twice in a matter of no more than five minutes. He seemed skeptical about it after he processed what he had said, but then not five minutes later, he said it again and I believe he felt a bit more confident about his saying it.

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Old Spice morphology

March 19, 2010

There have been words I’ve been hearing lately on TV that are quite  interesting (morphologically). One that comes to mind is a recent commercial for an Old Spice deodorant.

The scenario: the screen is split in four and shows four underarms putting on deodorant. All four views shift the photo to landscape and the underarm becomes animated. The first is said to be fresh. The second is said to be fresher. The third is, of course, the freshest. Here’s where it gets interesting. The fourth is said to be freshershest. Now, let me say that this is what I heard. I’ve only seen this commercial one time. I believe I heard correctly, but I will pay closer attention next time the commercial airs. Anyway…

I find the process of forming a “super-superlative” quite interesting. First thing that strikes me is that to do so, they would return the form to its -er form, add -sh, and then the superlative -est. Two questions: (i) why go back to the -er form, and (ii) what is this -sh form?

It appears that their logic went something like this: since we had the form freshest, to add another superlative level to it, why not add -er? We do not want to reduplicate -est because it will just sound silly and not “cute enough” for television (freshestest). But where can we add this -er suffix? Freshester? No. It seems like meaning would be taken away in this form. So it must be infixed in the word. But where and how? Let’s create fresher again and try removing the boundary of the two morphemes fresh and –est, namely -shest. This, then, gives us freshershest. The question still remains, though: why this boundary? What is it about this form rather than, say, freshester. My guess is that is has to do with the prosody of the latter when compared with the former. The former, somehow, sounds more likely to fit like real words that exist (e.g., freshest).


January 4, 2010

I’ve had something on my mind recently and it can’t seem to go away. I’ve spoken to some people about it and the results differ from person to person. I’m trying to make the best sense of this as I can, but somehow it eludes me. Here it is: what does ASAP actually mean?

Okay, sure, people will say it means, I need this paper immediately! And that is reasonable, sure. I don’t disagree with that. But Where in APAP (As Soon As Possible) is the immediacy stressed? This is an honest question, folks. I just don’t see it.

If I were to do something for a professor and they tell me, Do this as good as you possibly can, what does that mean? It means that, to the absolute best of your ability, you should perform the said task. How do we know that? Because the sentence states it should be done as good as I can. That, to me, means that that statement is subjective and limited to the hearer’s abilities. So if I were to do something as best as I possibly can will almost certainly be different than someone else’s “as best as you can.”

So, what’s different about As Soon As Possible? As far as I see it, nothing. It’s still limited to the hearer’s abilities. To the hearer, it means they should take into consideration matters such as their current schedule. If their schedule permits them to finish the ASAP request immediately, then immediately it is. If not, then the ASAP request will wait until it’s possible (after all, the request is essentially, Do X for me at your earliest convenience). If my earliest possible time available is not until three days from the request, then I’m sorry, the request will have to wait three days. Again, there’s nothing in the request that states any immediacy whatsoever.

The argument some people give is that it’s pragmatic. We just know that ASAP means Do X for me right this instant. Then there are certain requests like, Get in my office, ASAP! That request, usually in an angry tone, stresses immediacy not in its structure, but tone. Moreover, I think it’s used in correctly. The person requesting should say, Get in my office immediately! if they want to stress importance or immediacy. So I don’t think it’s as much pragmatic as much as it is incorrect usage of ASAP.

If it’s on TV, it must be true…not quite

August 6, 2008

Ted Allen has a new show called “Food Detectives” and it aired for the first time last night.  It’s a relatively entertaining show, although I think there have been some shows like it in the past that answer some of its “mysterious” questions, one being Myth Busters.  Anyway, the point of this post…

One of the myths being tested was that ginger can prevent motion sickness.  The way they go about testing their hypotheses is relatively satisfactory (i.e., a control group and an experimental group), but this one had one huge glitch.

When testing, they properly gave some participants a placebo, which is great, ergo preventing false positives.  When the teacup ride was over (8 minutes, I believe), the group that had taken the ginger pills were not as sick as when they performed the control (where no one had taken anything).  The conclusion: taking ginger before motion-related events does indeed prove helpful and will make you less sick.  Not quite…

What they failed to do was test other spices and/or other perennial plants (I can’t say for certain which ones as I’m not very familiar with its similar species aside from what’s listed in the Wikipedia entry).  All they had done on the show is prove that ginger could potentially help with nausea produced by motion sickness, but it wasn’t conclusive that ginger is indeed the main factor in attenuating the nausea.  In my opinion, this is a huge flaw in the show’s scientific reasoning.  

Similarly, in my thesis, I must prove that complex morphological decomposition does occur and that the effects are not due to semantics (e.g., deduction-deduct), morphologically apparent words (e.g., hideous-hide), or orthographic overlap (e.g., brothel-broth).  I must use such conditions or else my results cannot be conclusive.  I cannot just, say, use morphologically complex words (e.g., stupidity-stupid) and a non-related control (e.g., pepper-friend) and conclude that complex morphological decomposition does indeed occur in early stages of lexical access/processing.  

Not only would this be silly of me and my claim, I would look like a fool.  But I suppose if it’s good enough to be on television, people must believe it.

Prescriptivists, part II

June 26, 2008

Ironically, in reference to my recent post, I noticed today’s cartoon from the New Yorker…

A bold move!



June 26, 2008

As many of you know, prescriptivists have it out to preserve our language, as if people are “killing” it.  What exactly are they, the people, “killing?”  And how is this thing, language, being killed?  These are, unsurprisingly, the same people that say that “black English is bad, poor, and unsophisticated English.”  Ironically, these people can’t tell you when English was “perfect,” so to speak.  The 50’s?  40’s?  30’s?  1800?  Because guess what?  I’m almost 100 percent certain that in those mentioned dates, people were saying the exact same thing: “Oh my child is speaking this nonsense and improper English!  Where on earth are they getting this?  I’m trying my best to teach them proper English!”  Surprise.  What a beautiful concept.  Language evolution.  

This stems from a recent prescriptivist blog I accidentally came across: language and grammar.  This guy (Paul, I presume) has this idea that wanna speakers are lazy and that

Wanna isn’t a word; it’s a verbal laziness, same as the non-wordgonna. It started as only a spoken error,…

I need clarification of what “being a word” means.  Is it in the dictionary (and I’m referring to a REAL dictionary, i.e., Oxford English Dictionary)?  A quick look tells me it is (NOTE: a quick Google search on both words, wanna and gonna, both reveal an average of 222,500,000 hits  Moreover, when you do the search, there is a link at the top that allows you to go to a definition.  Go figure).  So, I guess we can scratch that out.  Is it spoken and understood by more people than just your local friends?  Seems to me to be the case.  Can we produce some awkward sentences with this “word”?  Yes sir we can.  

  1. Who do you want to feed the dog?
  2. *Who do you wanna feed the dog?
  3. I’m going to New York.
  4. *I’m gonna New York.

These examples show we know something inherent about this word and its usage possibilities.  It’s not so “haphazard” and/or “lazy”, as Paul (and many other prescriptivists out there!) seems to suggest.  

Prescriptivists will stick by their decisions because they claim they’re “saving our language.”  From what?  Furthermore, I don’t care what they claim because the most annoying thing about them (yes, I’m referring to ALL of you) is the following: I will bet every penny I have and all of my possessions that if you were to follow a prescriptivist all day–and I mean you are right there next to him/her listening to every word from sun up to sun down–they will say MANY constructions that they are so vehemently against.  Why do you think that is?  Simple.  Because language is so engrained in us that we use it without thinking back to what we “learned” (I’m using this term VERY loosely) in Freshman English class.  We have such a vast knowledge of language that it requires no thinking.  And when I say we “know” a language, I’m referring to everything about a language–the semantics, phonology, syntax, et cetera.  And for those who know anything about linguistics will know that reasons for constructions such as wanna and gonna are hugely phonological in reason.

One last thing.  On the matter of “laziness,” why does the author use other contractions such as isn’t, it’s we’re?  Oh, let me take a guess: because they’re words!  And maybe because they use an apostrophe?  🙂

Define “word”.

It’s been way, way, way too long

May 4, 2008

Wow.  It’s been so long since I’ve posted here that I almost forgot about it.  Several people have left some comments and I’m sorry I haven’t replied, but I somehow don’t get the emails when someone leaves a comment.  Sorry.

Anyway, I’d like to start posting here more often in order for me to get out some ideas (or other psycho-neurolinguistic matters).  My interests have slightly changed since my last post almost a year-and-a-half ago.  I’m much more into (English) lexical processing now.  So I now do things like masked priming studies (psycholinguistics) and EEG experiments (neuro).  My thesis will be on the decomposition of morphologically complex words in English, primarily productive and unproductive suffixes.  I’d like to post more of this soon.

I hope to get some feedback from anyone on this topic either now or when I start posting some topics.  It will help to clear out my thoughts.  🙂

The Lady Brizendine

January 16, 2007

The mess with Dr. Louann Brizendine on LanguageLog has prompted be to accidentally fall upon this article in the New York Times Magazine, published 10 December 2006. The following quote is from a question about women using 20,000 words per day while men apparently use 7,000.

The real phraseology of that should have been that a woman has many more communication events a day — gestures, words, raising of your eyebrows.

I think it’s a pretty weak Q & A session, but that’s just me and my criticalness towards this matter. But what they hey…we’re all entitled to our opinions, whether ignorant or not. She’s very opinionated, so I, too, will be opinionated (after all, two wrongs may not make a right, but it makes you feel better). Personally, I don’t like her looks. But I sometimes judge arrogance on looks. She could be the identical twin to a philosophy professor I once knew. She, too, was arrogant. But this is not the issue at hand. I just thought I’d give my two-cents worth of opinions.

Yeah, I know him…

December 1, 2006

How do we know what words are? Do we need context? Or does the single lexical item suffice? That’s too broad of a question for this post, so I’ll just post a word and I wanna see if anyone knows about it. I can guarantee that this word, as is, in isolation will not be as quickly recognized as in context. There are other factors involved as well, but let’s just start here for today.


        (yes, they are all the same word. The only question is which one is which?)

        I am always annoyed by this. Maybe it’s a virus…

        Words and/in pages

        December 1, 2006

        I think the strangest thing is when we think of an advanced degree program requirements in anomalous  ways. Take this, for example.

        These degrees are supervised by Professor X, and result in a written research thesis of around 80,000 words.

        Wow. 80,000 words? Okay, so that’s roughly 320 pp, so why couldn’t they say 320 pp? In this publications defense, it is from the UK. But then that makes me wonder about the way they perceive not just situations differently from the way we do here in the states, but the way that advanced degree programs are perceived. Personally, I think this is torture only because it’s harder to look at and absorb such a large number. Would you rather hear 80,000 or 320? I would choose 320. But that’s just me.

        It is true that we have to keep in mind that although 80,000 is large, it is measured in words, as opposed to pages. There’s a difference. Conceptually, a page (or pages, whatever) is larger than, say, a word, since words are the things that fit onto a page. So something seems to happen when we say 320 pages as opposed to 80,000 words. Something in our mind neutralizes these numbers and they somehow become one-of-the-same. My guess is that it happens because since the concept itself is large and that includes a small(er) number,  it becomes of the same level with 80,000 since that large number is part of a small measuring unit (words per page).

        So does this mean that concepts are scarier than the words? Or is it that they are the same? Do they play off of each other? Neutralize each other?

        Weird. Maybe someone knows something about this.

        The brief hiatus should be over…(very) soon

        September 5, 2006

        I need to apologize for the delay in posting. There have been many, many things happening in my life, both prior to school starting and as it started.

        Many of you don’t know, but I started this year at a new school in the grad program. Therefore, there is a lot to get used to (the normal things). One of the biggest adjustments for me is the way linguistics is taught (the school of thought). Not a world of difference, but enough to make me rethink a few things. So, this has paused my writing here as I try to wrap my brain around a few (new) ideas.

        As this progresses, I will write about a few problems. I’ve got one brewing right now in syntax, but I need a better understanding of this matter before I write about it. Just as a preview, it deals with T(ense) and V(erb) categories. The split between the two is slightly new to me (well, okay, pretty damn new, to be honest). I’m not saying anymore, because I may say something untrue or flat-out wrong.

        So, again, sorry and there’s definitely more to come.

        Are you for cereal?

        August 7, 2006

        So when I’m a little bored and restless with myself, I wander into the Urbandictionary. It’s a nifty place to find they new hippest sayings (not that I’m trying to be hip…) defined by the people saying them (I’d hope that’s the case, but I’m sure there are many poseurs posting as well). Anyway, I came across something new (for me) as I was snooping around: for cereal. Yep. That’s it. Not sure about its origin, but it’s interesting, nonetheless, to see how youngsters are processing language these days.

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        Guntha…the most up-to-date!

        August 4, 2006

        Okay, okay. I had to post this because I got a HUGE tip on this word AND its origin. Let me start at the beginning, so this story makes better sense.

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        Stop stressing

        August 4, 2006

        I recently had a conversation with someone on line about a similarly structured sentence,

        John and Billy’s dog ran away last night.

        Seems easy enough. No problems here. Yep. Whoa….wait. Does that dog belong to John and Billy? Or is it saying that John had a dog and Billy had a dog and they both ran away last night (yes, to shack up in Vegas!). If I had ONLY that context given to me in a survey, written that exact way, I would say the former. However, if there was another example written thusly,

        John AND Billy’s dog ran away last night. (CAPS = stress)

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        A resolve to “yo mothas a guntha”

        August 2, 2006

        So I’ve finally contacted people from Myspace and got an answer to the meaning of guntha from a cooperative person. Apparently, it’s simply: fat whore. Now, the only question I am still posing is whether that word (based on the presupposition from it’s definition) can also mean “lazy.”

        Yo man, stop being a guntha.
        Wuz up, guntha-ass bitch?

        Furthermore, I want to ensure that the origin is indeed New Jersey, since this is the only place it’s used in that context based on Myspace searches. I did find a street rapper who is from Brooklyn who uses that word as well, I obviously don’t know his hang-outs, so he might live and hang in NJ. Who knows? But it would be strange for guntha not to have originated in NJ and that be the only place it’s said. If that is the case, why aren’t the youngsters in other areas saying it on Myspace? That would be weird.