LINGUIST List 2.613

Mon 07 Oct 1991

Qs: Translation, Modals, Esperanto, Reflexive, etc.

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. "l. valentine", Machine Translation Involving Spanish
  2. "(. valentine", Double modals, "real" data
  3. , query regarding esperanto
  4. Michael Newman, query
  5. Fan mail from some flounder?, Third person indefinite reflexive
  6. Julie Coleman, political correctness

Message 1: Machine Translation Involving Spanish

Date: Fri, 4 Oct 91 01:10:45 -0400
From: "l. valentine" <>
Subject: Machine Translation Involving Spanish
Is anyone aware of any machine translation projects
either ongoing or completed involving Spanish?
Can anyone point me to some current literature
on the subject of machine translation in general,
or more specifically, projects involving
French or Spanish?
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Message 2: Double modals, "real" data

Date: Fri, 04 Oct 91 08:23:00 BST
From: "(. valentine" <>
Subject: Double modals, "real" data
With reference to recent discussions of double modals and genuine data,
how about this one?
 "Might could I offer you a seat, Miss?"
It's from Allan Gurganus's novel, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All,
1989, UK paperback ed. p.606. The novel is full of *might could*s: the main
narrator is a white Carolina woman supposedly nearly 100 years old. The blurb
says that Gurganus is from there (can't recall whether North or South
Carolina). The above example is the only one I have noticed so far which
isn't a positive declarative, and - to make matters worse - it's supposed to
be an utterance TO the principal black female character, as imagined by her
and possibly said out loud by her to her white owner at the end of the US Civil
War, the whole conversation apparently imagined by the fictional white woman
not yet born, and narrated by her to a reporter! The dialects of black
former slave and white friend are usually distinguishable, though they share
many features. So: is this a genuine dialect example of interrogative
*might could*?
 As a historical linguist I sometimes have to rely on novels for examples.
This 19th/20th-century stuff could be checked with real informants,
presumably, but it does raise some interesting questions, doesn't it? (And
if it IS genuine, the syntax is fun too.)
 David Denison
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Message 3: query regarding esperanto

Date: Fri, 4 Oct 91 15:51 EDT
From: <>
Subject: query regarding esperanto
Can anyone on this network tell me if there is an electronic discussion
group devoted to Esperanto? I ask this on behalf of a colleague who
has been studying it for the last several years. Does linguist-l
perhaps have a sub-group of Esperanto devotees? As I'm not a member
of linguist-l, I'd appreciate it if you would contact me directly if
you have any knowledge of such a group. Thanks in advance.
Mark Amodio
Department of English
Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
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Message 4: query

Date: Sat, 05 Oct 91 21:02:07 EDT
From: Michael Newman <MNEHCCUNYVM.BITNET>
Subject: query
Howard Lasnik in his 1976 article, Remarks on Corefernce, in Linguistic
Analysis used a few examples along the lines of"*Everyone/*No one sat down
after he walked in." His point is the impossibility of coreference under these
circumstances. His theoretical point aside, what I find interesting is his ex-
clusive mention of HE as the possible coreferent pronominal--following the old
fashioned norm. He ignores what would be the most typical coreferent pronoun
for EVERY under all syntactic configurations: ie. THEY. Gareth Evans in his
response to Lasnik does basically the same thing with one of his examples, star
ring "Every congressman came to the party and he had a marvelous time" and
giving and undeserved marginal status to "?Every congressman came to the party
and they had a marvelous time."
This phenomenon of ignoring useage in favor of school-grammar norms seems wide-
spread in theoretical studies of pronouns, at least if my memory does not
deceive me. My query is:1. does anyone remember other such cases? 2. Does any-
one's thery get into trouble because they have ignored this? 3. Has anyone
pointed out the inconstency before? 4. If not why in the ruthless world of
theoretical linguistics haven't they?
Michael Newman
Hunter College
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Message 5: Third person indefinite reflexive

Date: Sun, 6 Oct 1991 16:33 EST
From: Fan mail from some flounder? <>
Subject: Third person indefinite reflexive
We've all heard (and Anne Bodine has documented) sentences like (1):
	(1) If anyone calls, tell >>them<< I can't come to the phone
or even (2):
	(2) Someone dropped by, but >>they<< didn't say what they wanted.
The following sentence appeared in today's New York Times (Section I, p. 27),
and although I think I've heard things like it, I've never seen its like
in print:
	(3) (quoting the Georgia Attorney General) "I'm not going to hire
someone who holds >>themself<< out to the public by their own admission as
being engaged in homosexual marriage," Mr. Bowers said.
I found this fascinating, since as (1) and (2) show, colloquial English
does use a plural for indefinite third person pronouns (as well as the
well-known "everyone...their" constructions that English teachers try to
bash out of us. However, (3) seems to be the most felicitous way to express
the intended idea in this case, since the "correct" >>himself<< is inappropriate
given the genders of the participants, and even >>themselves<< is a little
funny since the pronoun is semantically singular, and unlike the case of
"their", there seems to be a singular counterpart. Has anyone else
encountered constructions like (3)?
Susan Fischer
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Message 6: political correctness

Date: Mon, 7 Oct 91 9:41 GMT
From: Julie Coleman <>
Subject: political correctness
I'm informed that the term "individual" is 'politically incorrect'. Can
anyone tell me why this should be?
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