LINGUIST List 13.2209

Tue Sep 3 2002

Qs: Referring Expressions, "Corporate NP Reversal"

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  1. Klebanov Beata, Referring expressions: familiarity/accessibility
  2. Dan Stowell, "Corporate Noun-Phrase Reversal"

Message 1: Referring expressions: familiarity/accessibility

Date: Mon, 2 Sep 2002 17:23:02 +0300 (IDT)
From: Klebanov Beata <>
Subject: Referring expressions: familiarity/accessibility

Dear all,

As far as I know, the classification of referring expressions
according to the assumed familiarity/accessibility of the entity
being referred to usually looks smth like:
pronouns > demonstratives(+NP) > partial names > short DEFs > long
DEFs > full names > short INDEFS > long INDEFS.

However, below are some cases I came across where the expression is an
RE, but it is not quite clear to me where it fits on the scale (all
examples are from the Wall Street Journal):

(1) comparatives:

 weaker results (Digital Equipment's profit fell 32% in the latest
	 quarter, prompting forecasts of weaker results ahead.)
 higher commissions and revenue (The company said the improved
				 performance from a year ago reflects
 higher commissions and revenue from 
 marketing ....)

	=> These assume that some benchmark results/revenue
	 were mentioned before (the 32% fall; those one year ago),
	 although entities referred to with the expressions themselves
	 are new. 
	 It seems to me that "weaker results" has a higher degree
 of familiarity than "weak results", but just how much higher?
	 The anchoring in previously mentioned entity reminds me of
 bridging, which is usually associated with short DEFs.

(2) quantifiers:
 another round of horror
 any other major currency
	=> seem to me somewhat similar to (1)

(3) things that are (possibly) assumed to be singular entities:

 genocide (the reports of genocide taking place...)
 gold (In the Commodity Exchange in New York, gold dropped $1.60 
 to...; The dollar finished mixed, while gold declined.)
 literature (The Nobel prize in literature)

	=> I think these are all REs, since they can be referred to
 	 the killing ... (genocide); it regained ... (gold), this
 category is considered the most competitive ... (literature).
	 One possibility is to treat them as names - genocide
	 standing for "the phenomenon of violence on ethnic basis", 
 literature being "category of competition where writings
	 of fiction by contemporary authors are presented", etc. 
 Another one is
 	 to treat them as shortDEFs, as if every mention was a mention
 of the singular, one only entity (akin to "the sun"), where 
 possibly not all of its aspects are relevant ("literature" in
	 the example does not include "The Iliad", or articles on
	 Computational Linguistics).


I will appreciate any pointers to relevant literature (!), and/or
comments on the examples. Would you know of any attempts to do
automatic classification of REs?

Thank you,	 

Beata Klebanov
PhD student, Computer Science Department
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
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Message 2: "Corporate Noun-Phrase Reversal"

Date: Tue, 03 Sep 2002 12:10:14 +0000
From: Dan Stowell <>
Subject: "Corporate Noun-Phrase Reversal"

Dear Linguistlist,

I've spotted a small trend in English which confuses me. I don't know
if I've named it perfectly, but I'm calling it "Corporate Noun-Phrase
Reversal", because it's a weird little tendency for some corporate
language, in particular product-names, to put the adjective after the
noun. My evidence:

- The yoghurt product I know as "Fruit Corner" now seems to be called
"Corner Fruit", judging by the container.

- I saw an advert in a Sock Shop for "sock toes", which my best guess
led me to expect them to be tiny little socks, one for each toe. ("I'd
like a sock toe, please." "Certainly sir, for which toe?" "The little
toe.") Closer inspection... they were actually advertising the things
I refer to as "toe socks", socks which are shaped so that each toe has
its own little section of sock.

If there is an explanation for this I'd love to hear it. Is there some
internationalisation effect ("je veux un corner fruit"...)? As a
native British English speaker it retards my understanding, so I'm
most perplexed by it.

Dan Stowell
University College London
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