LINGUIST List 3.162

Wed 19 Feb 1992

Qs: Selectional, English Prime, Spanish, Fieldwork

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Arran, Selectional Restrictions (Help!!!)
  2. Helene Ossipov, English Prime
  3. , Spanish la -> el rule
  4. Bruce Rigsby, Linguistic Fieldwork & Its Methods

Message 1: Selectional Restrictions (Help!!!)

Date: Mon, 17 Feb 92 15:10:11 GMSelectional Restrictions (Help!!!)
From: Arran <>
Subject: Selectional Restrictions (Help!!!)


I'm about to start a project on the formal modelling of selection restrictions
and I need loads of different examples.

Selectional restrictions are restrictions on the type of argument that certain
lexemes can take, for example the verb 'eat' must take an animate subject and
an edible object. So, for example, 1) is meaningful but 2) is not:

So: 1) 'The pig eats the banana'
 2) 'The idea eats the car'

This is allright in theory but there are lots of idiomatic uses of language
which break these simple restrictions, for example:

 3) 'Rolls-Royces just eat gasolene.'

Where the subject is not animate and the object is not edible.

Some examples seem to be the normal English usage. For example
you might expect the verb 'climb' to have an animate (or even movable) subject
and an inanimate object, but consider:

 4) 'The goat climbed up the mountain'
 5) 'The house climbed up the stairs'
 6) 'The road climbed steeply up the hill.'

Example 4 is fine because the subject is animate, example 5 is
not because the subject is inanimate, but example 6 is perfectly
good English even though it breaks the selectional restriction.

So there is more to it than simple selectional restrictions, and
perhaps breaking usual selectional restrictions can communicate
more information than is actually said.

If you can think of other sentences where 'normal' selectional restrictions
are broken but the sentence is still good English then please please
send them to me. My address is

Let me know what you think the normal selectional restrictions
would be for the sentences. They could be anything you like from the
conventional 'abstract' and 'concrete' to 'edible' and 'pretty'.

Thanks a lot,



PS: Here are a few more examples:

1) The new theory stabbed the old one in the back.
 -stabbed usually takes an animate subject, not an abstract one.

2) The commander barked out the order.
 - bark usually takes a doggy_like_animal as the subject, not a human.

3) This show is just a barrel of laughs.
 -a barrel usually contains a concrete object, not an abstract one.
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Message 2: English Prime

Date: Mon, 17 Feb 92 08:56:30 MSEnglish Prime
From: Helene Ossipov <ATHXOASUACAD.bitnet>
Subject: English Prime

Query: A friend recently asked me about English Prime, which is a form
of English that doesn't use the verb "to be." Apparently, it was invented
(?) by a linguist in Indiana. Does anyone on the list know anything about
E-prime? Thanks.
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Message 3: Spanish la -> el rule

Date: Mon, 17 Feb 92 14:23:20 ESSpanish la -> el rule
From: <>
Subject: Spanish la -> el rule

There has been much discussion in (fairly) recent work on
phonology of Spanish forms like el alma, el almita. The
assumption seems to be that the (historically correct) rule
is still productive, viz., that feminine words beginning with
a stressed /a/ take el instead of la (and, of course, that this
somehow extends to their derivates, this last point being what
the theoreticians are interested in). However, my informant
seems to treat these forms as lexical exceptions, since in
made-up examples like 'The Anne', he says 'La Ana', not 'El Ana'.
Also relevant are la a 'the a' and la hache 'the h'. If there
are any linguists/informants out there who could help with
relevant data or comments, I would be grateful.
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Message 4: Linguistic Fieldwork & Its Methods

Date: Wed, 19 Feb 1992 19:49:08 Linguistic Fieldwork & Its Methods
From: Bruce Rigsby <>
Subject: Linguistic Fieldwork & Its Methods

	I am preparing a six-hour module of lectures about linguistic field-
work and its methodologies (including sociolinguistic and ethnographic-type
methods and techniques, as well as the classic/traditional linguist-
informant methods and techniques). I would be grateful for any relevant
course outlines, materials and reading lists that colleagues might send me
by email or snail mail.

	Thanks in advance.

Bruce Rigsby, Dept of Anthropology & Sociology, The University of Queensland,
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