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).


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.


A few problems with the Flintstones, et al.

July 30, 2006

Recently, I’ve wondered about certain coinages that are happening or have happened in the past. For example, last night on Fresh Prince, he offered his “black book” of beauties to a professor who was going through a divorce. Will called it his chicktionary (spelling is of course probably off, but who’s actually an authority on its spelling?). But the thought didn’t come to me last night, it’s actually been bugging me for quite some time. Another great reference for such occurrences is Flintstones. Without spending a lot of time searching online for references from the Flintstones, the one example I do remember is from their flick, Viva Rock Vegas. As I was walking downtown several weeks ago I saw a sign on a local store (the exact phrasing I don’t remember) and a word on it was Kidventure. Anyway, you see the point.

Now, I ask how these coinages came to existence? I’m not saying that when the average person walks down the street and hears or reads such words they won’t know what they are in reference to (which is another excellent topic to be discussed at a later date), but how are they put together the way they are? There’s no sense to them, really. Let’s take a closer look.

When we examine the morphology of dictionary we find three morphemes: dic(t) ‘to say’; -ion- ‘state of, result of’; -ary ‘pertaining to; connected with’. Dic(t), here, we can see has absolutely zero relation to gender (male, female, dude, chick, etc.). So all that aside, we can clearly see how you throw those three together to form a word like dictionary, fine. Two question come up for me, though: (i) how is it decided that dic- will be omitted and replaced with chick-, and (ii) what are the rules for such formations?

Well, what else could we try? [A * denotes not ungrammaticality, but rather awkwardness in sound]

*Dudetionary
*femaletionary
*maletionary (this has a strange hint toward missionary)
*penis(t/s)ionary
*vaginationary

At any rate, I think we can begin seeing a pattern of sound in relation to the real word. The prefix must end in a velar plosive [k], which would then be followed by a postalveolar fricative [∫]. But again, it goes beyond looking at what requirements are needed for this transformation to happen. What exactly are the constraints? Why doesn’t it go at the end, e.g. dictionchick? What is it about the two morphemes fused together, -tionary, that causes immediate thought and relation to dictionary? The same is true for the other words I’ve listed: Rock Vegas and kidventure. Where exactly in Las and the letter a do they decide that that would be a good place to replace it with words to fit some real-world description? The instance with the letter a could actually be the prefix ad- ‘to, toward’, but still, what does that seriously have to do with the word adult? I also don’t believe that the ad- in adventure has any reference to ‘adult’ or ‘kid’; it’s just there to form and complete and meaningful word without any “hidden meaning.”

I suppose what I will try is to just throw tionary into a conversation and see what people can construe of it. Language isn’t rocket science, but sometimes it seems like a close descendant of it.


Guntha..

July 28, 2006

Hey, I was wondering if anyone from the New Jersey area knows about the meaning of guntha. All I’ve seen it in was insults, as in yo motha and yo cuzin a guntha.

But if anyone can help out in terms of what exactly it means, I would be greatful.

Thanks.

LM

UPDATE: No, I still haven’t found out the meaning, but if you’ve gotten here from a Google search of guntha, or the like, I’m still the same person who has posted this question in various places. People are probably getting sick over this guntha business. But at least it’s getting out there, and who knows, maybe even into the Urbandictionary!


Kal-El — superman

July 19, 2006

i don’t follow comic or the shows that depict certain comic themes, so it’s not a surprise that i’ve never heard of superman having the birthname kal-el (or kal-L). it didn’t take me long to question the origins of the name.

a brief search of the name on google proved nothing but other sites to superman. now, although i am still clueless, i know that the creator(s) could not have randomly created the name; there’s always a reason and a structure to these kinds of things (even of made up languages).

but here’s what i did find: there also exists jor-L (jor-el) and Lora (Lara). so we have three made-up names.

  1. Kal-El
  2. Jor-El
  3. Lora

the third one is obvious, but the other two are troubling. there is definitely something more in the morphology of that name than is apparent now. how it would be parsed i don’t know. what appears to be apparent is that el is a separate morpheme; no doubt about it. now, whether “Kal” would be k-al or ka-l, it’s hard to tell with only three (it’s really only two since lora doesn’t have the same qualities as the other two) names to go off of.