LINGUIST List 5.837

Thu 21 Jul 1994

Sum: Goodnight, sweet Prince!, Period disambiguation

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  1. Larry Horn, Goodnight, sweet Prince! (Good morning, O{+>!)
  2. Christiane Hoffmann, SUM:Period disambiguation

Message 1: Goodnight, sweet Prince! (Good morning, O{+>!)

Date: Thu, 21 Jul 94 11:03:42 EDGoodnight, sweet Prince! (Good morning, O{+>!)
From: Larry Horn <>
Subject: Goodnight, sweet Prince! (Good morning, O{+>!)

First, a grateful nod to the following respondents who helped clarify my
thinking about the issues I raised in my earlier posting ("ex-Prince"):
 Barbara Abbott Dave Kathman
 Mark Aronoff Mike Lake
 Gosse Bouma Mireille Langenbach
 Barbara Brunson John McCarthy [thanks for the subject line!]
 John Coleman Joyce McDonough
 John Cowan Miriam Meyerhoff
 Tom Cravens Kathy Mitchell
 Nancy Frishberg Benjamin Moore
 Lisa Frumkes Jerry Neufeld-Kramer
 Georgia Green Nik Silver
 Jim Jewett Todd Sieling
 Trey Jones schwa (the sociolinguist frmly knwn as Dave Britain)
 Charles Juengling (frmrly knwn as Aaron Broadwell)

On the glyph: This is a logo or logogram designed by Prince around five years
ago. Its form has been described in the following ways.
 - the male or Mars sign. (This seems unlikely, in view of the artist's
 portrayal of himself: "I'm not a man. I'm not a woman."
 - combination of male (Mars) and female (Venus) sign. This is the most
 frequently employed description.
 - a cross between the Scorpio astrological sign and female/Venus symbol
 - a 'curly dagger'
 - 'looks like an ankh'
 - 'looks like a combination of a circle, an arrow, and a trumpet'
 - 'looks like something from Dr. Seuss's On Beyond Zebra
The generally accepted semantic interpretation (if we allow names to have
senses, pace Kripke 1972) is that of a transcendence of the male/female
distinction, in that both are encompassed, as with the Chinese yin/yang
representation or perhaps the Hegelian notion of Aufhebung (that's my reading,
not something claimed by the artist or his acolytes).
Many contributors pointed out that there is a priori NO phonetic
representation for the glyph, despite an apparently apocryphal story that a
fan hotline dispensed the authorized pronunciation for a while. An AP
dispatch reports that Prince "changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol so
that he could move on to the next stage of his musical development" [cf. Hegel
1892: 180]. When asked how the symbol is pronounced, he responded (in either
a Vibe or Rolling Stone interview) "You don't." He is also reported to have
claimed that Prince has retired or died. ("Prince is dead but I control his
 The "two high whoops" mentioned in the Times review were evidently
intended as an attempt not to refer but to imitate, approximating the vocal
stylings in Prince's earlier performances, and can thus be considered (in John
McCarthy's words) "an improvisation by vocally frustrated fans".
 While the symbol (also appearing as the new name of his group, formerly
known as New Power Generation or, later, as NPG, and as their eponymous--if
that term can be felicitously used here--album) is not itself pronounced,
the human drive for reference is a stubborn thing. The album just mentioned
has been called "Symbol", and the artist has been variously referred to not
only as "ex-Prince" (after the fashion of "the former Yugoslavian republic of
Macedonia") but also, and more conventionally, as "the artist formerly known
as Prince". He apparently accepts this designation, which (through the
Principle of Least Effor of Zipf's Law (see Zipf 1949) has generally
become truncated to "(The) Art. Frmly Knwn as Prince". (Note the
process of "impure name formation", as Strawson (1950: IV) calls it, in which
"substantival phrases grow capital letters" and move from descriptions to
proper names.) The final stage, attested both among music reporters and Mark
Aronoff's daughter's friends, is TAFKAP (a.k.a. tafkap), which is of course a
perfectly good name, and eminently pronounceable. To the extent that Prince
was attempting to transcend language by adopting the glyph, I think we can all
enjoy the irony of the fact that his fans, reviewers, promoters, and distribu-
tors have opted for something pronounceable after all, whatever the solution
chosen. Linguistic revenge!
 As far as orthography goes, Gosse Bouma pointed me toward the users
group for various solutions to representing the glyph (or
"love symbol", as it is sometimes called) in ascii format. Favored spellings
There are also the expected mixed representations (e.g. "Prince/O+>") and an
ultra-Zipfian "P". The asciified glyphs take normal inflectional endings, as
in "Personally I think the song is among 0+>'s worst". And then there was the
wistful reflection, "If I changed my name to a symbol would it be harder to
cash a check at 7-11?"
 Aaron Broadwell has suggested that we consider the role of taboo avoidance
in TAFKAP's adoption of the glyph, as an instance of the process whereby the
tetragrammaton (YHWH or JHVH) representing the proper name of God (or G-d) in
Hebrew is avoided and replaced by "Adonai" ('the Lord'), but space does not
permit extended discussion of ineffability here.

Hegel, G. (1892) The Logic of Hegel: Translated from the Encyclopaedia of
 the Philosophical Sciences by W. Wallace. 2d ed. Oxford Univ. Press.
Kripke, S. (1972) Naming and Necessity. In D. Davidson & G. Harman, eds.,
 Semantics of Natural Language. D. Reidel.
Strawson, P. F. (1950) On Referring. Mind n.s. 59: 320-54.
Zipf, G. K. (1949) Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort.
 Cambridge: Addison-Wesley.

--&* (frmrly knwn as Larry Horn)

*Note that my new glyph not only is directly characterized in ascii but has
both a straightforward phonetic and semantic representation, the latter
glossed roughly as 'let's all conjoin and intersect with one another in unity,
harmony, and universal siblinghood'. Of course, it's not REALLY translatable.
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Message 2: SUM:Period disambiguation

Date: Tue, 19 Jul 1994 16:14:18 SUM:Period disambiguation
From: Christiane Hoffmann <>
Subject: SUM:Period disambiguation

Dear Linguist readers,

some months ago I posted a query concerning the disambiguation
of sentence final stops.

Your responses were very helpful esp. since exhaustive
search for references in the library turned out to be
very difficult.

Since a concrete solution for a newspaper corpus
(30 MIO running words of the Berlin "taz" (die tageszeitung))
had to be found, my algorithm is rather corpus-specific.
Basically, it makes use of lex-rules and list-look-ups
to classifiy potential sentence final stops.

A documentation and the sources are available per ftp from:

get /pub/local/parsing/punktdisamb.tar.Z

I am sorry, but practically all of the NL-parts of the documentation
are written in German.

Thanks to:
"Henry S. Thompson" <>
"logendra (l.) naidoo" <>
David Palmer (
<> (Andras Kornai)
Cathy Ball <>
David Bree <>
Ed Haupt <>
Frens Dols <>
Mark Steedman <>
Marti Hearst <>
Oliver Christ <> (Bryan Thompson) (Christopher Bader) (Dan Everett)
edwardscogsci.Berkeley.EDU (Jane A. Edwards) (Helmut Feldweg) (G. Foster [TAO]) (John E. Koontz) (Manny Rayner)
regierICSI.Berkeley.EDU (Terry Regier) (Michael D. Riley)
roscheisCSLI.Stanford.EDU (Stephen Helmreich)
sriniCoLi.Uni-SB.DE (V.Srinivasan) (Ted Dunning)
wachal robert s <>

Christiane Hoffmann

"It is not enough to discover how things seem to seem.
 We must discover how things really seem."
 -- Niels Bohr

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