LINGUIST List 3.83

Mon 27 Jan 1992

Disc: Postposed Modifiers

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Brian Linson, Re: Big Time
  2. , Australian postposed "but"
  3. Howard Geyer, Re: Postposed modifiers

Message 1: Re: Big Time

Date: Sat, 25 Jan 92 22:55:44 -0Re: Big Time
From: Brian Linson <>
Subject: Re: Big Time

A disturbing trend on LINGUIST has finally inspired my response. Comments on
matters like the post-position intensifier "big time" have the quality of
indicating that these are non-serious concerns or a pseudo-hobby (and I am not
only referring to the person I cite here).

Lisa Russell writes (Fri, Jan 24 Jan):

>I believe it (big time) is more often used as a response to a question than as
>a declarative statement. Thus, it's more natural to answer "Are you hungry?"
>with "Big time." than it is to just blurt out "I'm hungry. Big time." Only
>someone who was totally faced or completely gauche would say such a thing.

In fact, these questions are within the domain of linguistic science and are
amenable to study using methodology. One cannot simply declare that a sentence
like, "I'm hungry big time." is awkward or starrable based on beliefs, thoughts
or feelings, or declare that a speaker using it is "totally faced or completely
gauche". Were it so easy to dismiss any counter-examples to a syntactic or
phonological theory by such characterizations we might be faced with a plethora
of non-falsifiable hypotheses. While we make it a general practice not to
attempt transcriptions and analyses of drunks' speech, the facts are
 clear.Utterances are made by speakers. And as the prescriptivists can tell
 you, they
don't always conform to what we feel is "right". Additionally, whether
something is heard more often is not an indication of whether it is more
natural, any more than the fact that subjects of sentences in conversations are
more often human indicates that nonhuman subjects are less natural. So let us
continue our observations and hope that the more diligently interested among us
can actually analyze the data. It is hard work, but until it is done can we
make generalizations.
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Message 2: Australian postposed "but"

Date: Sun, 26 Jan 92 13:17:44 ESAustralian postposed "but"
From: <elc9jprime.acc.Virginia.EDU>
Subject: Australian postposed "but"

A recent posting mentioned sentence-final "but", apparently an
Australian phenomenon. Those who don't live in Australia can
hear some examples of this in the movie "Fringe Dwellers",
directed by Bruce Beresford (available on video). E.g. (from
memory) "We got in trouble. We had a great time but." Unlike
American teenage postposed "not", Australian postposed "but"
seems to form an intonational unit with the preceding material in
the sentence. From the examples in the movie, it looked as if it
never occurred on clauses that were (intonationally) part of
longer sentences. Not having paid attention to clause-initial
"but"s while watching the movie, I can't say anything about what
discourse or semantic factors might lead speakers to use pre- vs.
postposed "but". Socially, if one can believe the screenplay, it
seems to be used by people of wide age ranges-- from a teenage
girl to an elderly man. All were Aborigines. It's a good movie,
by the way.
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Message 3: Re: Postposed modifiers

Date: Sun, 26 Jan 92 14:34:33 ESRe: Postposed modifiers
From: Howard Geyer <>
Subject: Re: Postposed modifiers

	I came across the following sentence today in a newsgroup posting
about a recently installed set of commands:

		Users should be able to invoke them no problem.

-Howard Geyer
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