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.  🙂