LINGUIST List 9.806

Sat May 30 1998

Disc: Recent Change in English

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <martylinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. bwald, Re: 9.795, Disc: Recent change in English
  2. Ernest McCarus, Re: 9.797, Disc: Recent Change in English
  3. Carl.Mills, Re: 9.795, Disc: Recent change in English

Message 1: Re: 9.795, Disc: Recent change in English

Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 23:34:32 -0700 (PDT)
From: bwald <bwaldHUMnet.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 9.795, Disc: Recent change in English

There's no compounding the problem of 'fun game'.

Naturally, I agree with Mark Mandel's comments concerning Earl
Herrick's equation of 'fun game' with 'card game'.

Apart from the adjectival nature of 'fun' in 'fun game', Mark pointed
out that 'card game' has typical compound forestress, whereas 'fun
game' has even stress. Therefore, 'fun game' is more comparable to
'diamond ring', 'stone wall', 'apple pie', 'chocolate fudge', 'vanilla
cheese' and so on (but not so much to 'house rules', 'animal
instinct', etc.).

And 'fun game' contrasts with such compounds as 'fun house' (at an
amusement park) which has forestress, vs. 'fun house' with even stress
(= 'the house is fun'). In mentioning syntax, Mark implied (if he did
not overtly state) that forestress was indicative of nominal
compounds, whereas even stress is characteristic of ADJ+N, i.e.,
modified noun phrases. With regard to different stress patterns, the
well-known minimal pair is reflected in such examples as forestress
"English teacher" (= teacher of English), where we might say 'English'
is an N, vs. even stress "English teacher" (=teacher who is English),
where we might say 'English' is an ADJ.

The issue is, however, more complicated. Thus, theoreticians are at a
loss to give a principled explanation for why 'apple pie' is
even-stressed, but 'apple sauce' is forestressed (and it may be
significant that there is dialectal variation here). 'apple pie'
shows that a noun can be used as a modifier in English. This is the
most rarified property of ADJ, but seems to demonstrate that a
modifier of this type does not have to be an ADJ. I suppose that 'the
pie we had at dinner was *apple*' does not demonstrate anything
further, any more than 'the game we played was *fun*'. Once we get
into 'this pie is *more apple* than that one' we are starting to move
deeper into ADJ territory, so I suppose some speakers would balk at
it, but I don't get uneasy until the further step 'really? how *apple*
was it?' (to which I guess the answer is 'very/real apple', but not
'much/a-lot apple')

Finally, note that while 'stone wall' has even stress as an NP, as a V
it has forestress 'stonewall', and, I would assume that forestress for
such a nominal as 'he pulled a *stonewall* on me' derives that stress
from the V, or better, from the fact that 'stonewall' is a single
"word", not a larger syntactic construct. To compare compounds with
'fun' in 'fun game' is inappropriate. 'stonewall' demonstrates that a
compound is a word, and as a word it is subject to the same kinds of
changes as other words, changes that often obscure the significance of
its internal constituents, and lead to the charge of exocentrism.
With 'fun game' we are moving in a quite different direction, not in
the direction of converting a phrase into a word, but in the direction
of making an ADJ out of an N. Now, class, what is 'stock' in 'stock
example' (and why the even stress)? Next, what is 'chock' in 'chock
full'? What is 'past' in 'past tense'? Finally, what is 'split' in
'banana split'? (I think it's ADJ, and worse yet, it's the modifier,
cf. 'whiskey sour', 'page four', 'Generation X', 'Mr. Right', 'Prince
Charming' and 'Lincoln Continental'; note how the ADJ keeps primary
stress. Automatic "F" for anyone who says this demonstrates that
English is drifting toward canonical head-initial syntax.)
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Message 2: Re: 9.797, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Thu, 28 May 1998 13:36:54 -0400 (EDT)
From: Ernest McCarus <enmumich.edu>
Subject: Re: 9.797, Disc: Recent Change in English

I have not seen these two items mentioned:

+ The transitive verb "to lay" has pretty much replaced the
intransitive verb "to lie (down)", as in

"You look tired; why don't you lay down for a while?"

+ In my youth I heard only the expression, "I couldn't care less",
meaning just that. Today the predominant usage seems to be "I could
care less", meaning the same thing.

Another illustration of how much a convention language actually is.

Ernest McCarus
 
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Message 3: Re: 9.795, Disc: Recent change in English

Date: Thu, 28 May 1998 14:29:55 -0500 (EST)
From: Carl.Mills <Carl.MillsUC.Edu>
Subject: Re: 9.795, Disc: Recent change in English

Regarding fun card games, I have frequently uttered (more so when I
was younger) sentences like:

(1) Basketball is funner than football, and soccer is the funnest game
of all.

But I do not think I could ever say

*Pinochle is a carder game than poker, and bridge is the cardest of
all.

So the distinction between nouns and adjectives, though tenuous in
some dialects, including mine, appears to exist in English.


Carl Mills
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