LINGUIST List 4.1078

Mon 20 Dec 1993

Qs: Distant assimilation, Contrastive focus, Phractured, Idiom

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  1. Brian D Joseph, Query: Distant Assimilation
  2. Steven Schaufele, Query: comparative focus constructions
  3. MARC PICARD, Phractured Phrases
  4. sharon shelly, "pushing the envelope"

Message 1: Query: Distant Assimilation

Date: Fri, 17 Dec 93 13:21:38 ESQuery: Distant Assimilation
From: Brian D Joseph <>
Subject: Query: Distant Assimilation

Rex Wallace of UMass and I have been trying to find clear examples of
distant (i.e. nonadjacent) assimilations. All of the ones we have
seen so far (e.g. the well-known case of --> in Italic
(kw = labiovelar here, by the way)) seem to involve place assimilation
or nasal assimilation (Medieval Greek mespilon --> later musmulon), or
aspiration (e.g. under one interpretation, Ancient Greek thuphlos versus
tuphlos, where the unaspirated initial may be the older form), but
we have not seen any involving manner assimilation e.g. in which a
stop becomes a fricative in the distant environment of another fricative
(as with hab --> haf or the like).

Any examples people might have of such distant assimilations not involving
place or nasality or aspiration would be greatly appreciated. Please
send any responses to, and we will
summarize for the list if enough interesting material emerges.

Brian Joseph
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Message 2: Query: comparative focus constructions

Date: Sat, 18 Dec 1993 13:19:50 Query: comparative focus constructions
From: Steven Schaufele <>
Subject: Query: comparative focus constructions

I'm interested in doing a survey of focus constructions amongst the world's
languages. I don't know how many languages have been looked at
sufficiently closely for the question to be properly asked. But i know of
some languages (e.g. English) in which (unless one uses a cleft
construction) a constituent getting at least contrastive focus is typically
put as late in the clause as is grammatically possible:

1a. I gave a book to JOHN.
 b. I gave John A BOOK.

2a. We put the books ON THE TABLE.
 b. On the table we put THE BOOKS.

I know of other languages (Hungarian, Sanskrit, and many other South Asian
languages) in which the focussed constituent is typically put in a position
immediately adjacent to the verb. In Hungarian, the focus position is as
far as i know always before the verb, but i'm not convinced this is the
case in all languages with 'adverbal' focus.

Does anyone know of any other options? I'd like to know what there is in
the literature on as many languages as possible. If adverbal vs.
clause-final focus are the only options (apart from biclausal constructions
like the English cleft), can any typological generalizations be reliably
made about them? For instance, do all languages with typically adverbal
focus favour head-final phrase structure? Do all languages with typically
clause-final focus favour head-initial phrase structure? Any suggestions,
especially of good published studies, and discussion welcome. If desired
i'll post a summary.

Dr. Steven Schaufele 217-344-8240
712 West Washington Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801

*** O syntagmata linguarum liberemini humanarum! ***
 **** Nihil vestris privari nisi obicibus potestis! ****
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Message 3: Phractured Phrases

Date: Sun, 19 Dec 1993 16:56:15 Phractured Phrases
From: MARC PICARD <PICARDVax2.Concordia.CA>
Subject: Phractured Phrases

When people say THAT'S ALL SHE WROTE, the intonation they use indicates
that they mean "that's everything she wrote". Once in a while, however,
someone will say it as if it were "THAT'S ALL", SHE WROTE. Dooes anybody know
which of the two is the original?
This is similar, it seems to me, to Leo Durocher's famous NICE GUYS FINISH
LAST which he never said. What happened was that one day during spring
training, he was sitting with a sports reporter watching the team they
were going to face that day practicing before the game. The reporter asked
him what he thought about that team's chances that year, and he said:
"Nice guys. Finish last", i.e. they're nice guys but they'll finish last.

Does anybody know of any other cases of this type?
Marc Picard
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Message 4: "pushing the envelope"

Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1993 09:32:13 "pushing the envelope"
From: sharon shelly <>
Subject: "pushing the envelope"

I have come across the expression "pushing the envelope" in the American
popular press at least a dozen times in the past 3 months. From the
contexts in which it appeared I gather it means something like "expanding
the frontiers" ....

Is anyone aware of the origin of this idiom? Is it new, or am I just
getting around to noticing it? Is it strictly American, or is it showing
up in other English language publications?

Sharon L. Shelly
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