LINGUIST List 2.505

Fri 13 Sep 1991

Qs: Chomskyan, signs

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  1. "Michael Kac", *Chomskyan/ite*
  2. David Powers, Signs: "In case of fire"; "WARNING: <imperative>"

Message 1: *Chomskyan/ite*

Date: Thu, 12 Sep 91 19:50:51 -0500
From: "Michael Kac" <kaccs.umn.edu>
Subject: *Chomskyan/ite*
A recent article in the New York Times (Monday Sept. 9, I believe) about
new work in mapping localization of language function in the brain identi-
fies several people, including Vicky (sic) Fromkin as 'Chomskyite linguists'.
Question: to my intuition, *Chomskyan* means 'follower of Chomsky' (neutral)
while *Chomskyite* means 'fanatical follower of the anathematic Chomsky'
(highly derogatory). Is this intuition shared by others?
Michael Kac
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Message 2: Signs: "In case of fire"; "WARNING: <imperative>"

Date: Fri, 13 Sep 91 16:01:15 MET DST
From: David Powers <powersinformatik.uni-kl.de>
Subject: Signs: "In case of fire"; "WARNING: <imperative>"
"In case of fire ..."
I was waiting for that one to come up. But I had expected it
in the context, "In case of fire do not use lifts", seen all round
the world: a phrase I find most irksome, and which means
to me "Do not use lifts in case it causes a fire".
Do Americans really find that a natural way of saying "In (the) event
of fire do not use lifts"? Or is it a sign invented by OTIS or
some other non-English speaker, and to be compared with the
laughable signs to be found in public transport, in four languages,
throughout Europe ("Do not use WC while standing in station" etc.)
and subtlely different between the languages, and often not quite
correct in half of them.
Another related topic pertaining to signs.
In Australia recently I noticed several usages of WARNING which I
felt were inappropriate in that they were not followed by
information about a danger but simply an imperative (with or
without the implicit specification of the danger). E.g. at Darling
Harbour in Sydney, at IJCAI, "WARNING. No swimming." Or in the
train "WARNING. Do not lean out of window."
Does this usage seem appropriate to people?
David Powers
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