LINGUIST List 2.556

Wed 25 Sep 1991

Disc: -ite, being, change, etc.

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Scott Delancey, Re: 2.548 Chomskyite
  2. "Michael Kac", Re: 2.552 Responses: macs, needs, being, roles
  3. "Bruce E. Nevin", imperatives and progressives
  4. brian kariger, Language change and teleology
  5. brian kariger, Metaphors for language change

Message 1: Re: 2.548 Chomskyite

Date: Mon, 23 Sep 1991 09:16 PDT
Subject: Re: 2.548 Chomskyite
While I'm far from attuned to the ins and outs of political discourse
in/concerning Northern Ireland, my intuitions as well as my limited
knowledge of the situation lead me to doubt that terms like "Paisleyite"
or "Devlinite" are simply innocuous. Do devotee's of Paisley's views
in Northern Ireland really think or speak of themselves as "Paisleyites"?
I should think they would simply consider themselves good Loyalists,
or whatever the appropriate term of approbation would be. It would
only be those outside of that world-view who would have a need for
a sobriquet like "Paisleyite" to tag them with. The same (or more
so) for "Devlinite" -- we are not dealing here with a body of doctrine,
or a personality cult, or an organization specifically centered around
the person of Devlin -- people whose opponents might tag them as
"Devlinites" if asked to describe themselves would be more likely to
find a term relating to their cause (e.g. "civil rights activist"?
I don't know what terms were actually used) than one tying their
beliefs and activities to a specific individual. And then saying
something like "We must all ... Paisleyites, Devlinites ..." uses
the pejorative sense deliberately, as an appeal to everyone to forget
factions and labels for a while.
Scott DeLancey
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Message 2: Re: 2.552 Responses: macs, needs, being, roles

Date: Mon, 23 Sep 91 17:15:48 -0500
From: "Michael Kac" <>
Subject: Re: 2.552 Responses: macs, needs, being, roles
Re Mexican queso fondue: Many years ago, a Chinese restaurant I frequented
in Philadelphia identified won ton as Chinese kreplach.
Michael Kac
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Message 3: imperatives and progressives

Date: Mon, 23 Sep 91 11:58:59 EDT
From: "Bruce E. Nevin" <>
Subject: imperatives and progressives
Phil Bralich <bralichuhccux.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu> wrote in part:
>>An imperative cannot make a command with
>>a progressive form of the verb simply because the progressive refers to
>>actions in progress while the imperative seeks to initiate an action.
He now says that an example like
>. . . "Don't be swinging on that bannister," is not an ordinary imper-
>ative. It has an emphatic sense that imperatives generally do not.
>. . . This emphatic usage quite naturally requires the
>progressive because the sense is something like, "I don't want to see you
>swinging on (i.e. action in progress) that bannister." The ordinary use
>of the imperative, "Don't swing on that bannister" refers to a situation
>where the admonition refers to an action that is not in progress and orders
>that the action not be initiated.
I won't take exception to this, since it is in substantial agreement
with what I had said.
He continues:
>There is still no reason to appeal to
>parts of speech to explain these variations. They are a natural consequence
>of the use of English tenses.
This refers to the question why one cannot say (a) comfortably while
parallel (b) is easy:
(a) Don't be being horrid (the mommy, on the table)!
(b) Don't be swinging on that bannister!
The original claim (quoted from Harris) was that sentences like (a) are
so uncomfortable that it is conventional to elide "being" to yield (a'):
(a') Don't be horrid (the mommy, on the table)!
The claim was that the retort "I'm not being horrid!" suggests that both
occurrences of "be" must be underlyingly present in (a') as shown in
(a). This was really no more than an interesting aside in _A Grammar of
English on Mathematical Principles_.
No appeal is made to the "parts of speech" adjective, noun, and
preposition to explain this. The appeal is rather to the semantics of
these words. The reason (a) is uncomfortable is that for relatively
more durative operator words it is difficult for us to construe a
distinction between punctual and progressive meanings. Note that it is
also difficult to say e.g. (c):
(c) I am in process of being tall.
We must also use "be" with these words to carry their tense morphemes,
and they are superficially categorized with the "part of speech" names
adjective, noun, preposition, but these are ancillary facts not bases
for the argument. For words like "swing" whose meanings are relatively
less durative it is easy and natural to make the punctual/progressive
distinction. Compare e.g. (d) with (c) above:
(d) I am in process of writing this response.
But such sentences are uncomfortable, not impossible, as witness (e):
(e) I hope we are in the process of our being able to drop this now !-)
	Bruce Nevin
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Message 4: Language change and teleology

Date: Mon, 23 Sep 91 01:36:18 PDT
From: brian kariger <>
Subject: Language change and teleology
I would like to clarify my position in order to stave off some criticism
and perhaps save some bandwidth. I cited Peirce's discussions of ``law" and
``causation" because his conception of these and very broad; he was
concerned with the human as well as the physical sciences, as these
additional quotes show:
 a law; but these laws are
 modified so easily by the operation of self-control, that
 it is one of the most patent facts that ideals and thought
 generally have a very great influence on human conduct.
 (Collected Papers, 1.348)
 ...[B]eing governed by a purpose or other final cause is
 the very essence of [mental] phenomenon, in general. (1.269)
The explanation of linguistic change, as I am construing it, is not about
laws of physical necessity (though of course there are global limitations,
i.e. impossible human articulations) but reasonable actions (witness
Whitney, Itkonen, &c.).
And I hope that I have not misrepresented Shapiro's argument re: that
language has no "goal, defined once and for ever." He writes: "The
overarching telos of linguistic change, it would seem... is the
establishment of a pattern--not just any pattern but specifically the
semeiotic kind Peirce called a diagram..." that is, the goal is
diagrammatization or sytematization.
Brian Kariger
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Message 5: Metaphors for language change

Date: Mon, 23 Sep 91 01:38:20 PDT
From: brian kariger <>
Subject: Metaphors for language change
In response to Lee Hartman's question about metaphors, I fancy language to
be a (very complex!) chaotic dynamic system of systems which tend toward
basins of attraction, being constantly perturbed by the actions of the
human will. I thought about this reading James Gleick's book, and recent
articles in Scientific American have reinforced this analogy for me.
Brian Kariger
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