LINGUIST List 3.173

Sat 22 Feb 1992

Disc: Register, Linguistics In The Popular Press

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Dan I. Slobin, Re: 3.145 Intonation In Announcements
  2. , Register
  3. Sarah Jones, the Popular Press discovers NOT
  4. Fran Karttunen, Re: 3.161 Queries: German, cowabunga, media

Message 1: Re: 3.145 Intonation In Announcements

Date: Sat, 15 Feb 92 22:12:53 -0Re: 3.145 Intonation In Announcements
From: Dan I. Slobin <slobincogsci.Berkeley.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.145 Intonation In Announcements

The airplane-talk phenomenon seems to be limited to English,
and probably only American. I don't think I've noticed it
on British Airways. Nor have I detected anything like it
in other languages--on international flights with native
speakers making announcements in German, Dutch, Spanish,
French, or Italian. Any explanations?

The phenomenon has also entered the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour.
About a year ago I started noticing, "Our lead story this
evening IS the..." All of the commentators use it, so it
must have been a conscious decision. (The airplane-talk
phenomenon is much older--15-20 years, I would guess.)

Dan Slobin (
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Message 2: Register

Date: Mon, 17 Feb 1992 14:07 CSTRegister
From: <>
Subject: Register

With regard to the recent discussion on register, I thought the following
might be of interest. It seems to me we are looking at another reason for
the same apparent phenomenon.

This is from a column by Miss Manners that was printed a few years ago.
(Sorry, I don't have the exact date.)

******************************* begin quote *******************************

Dear Miss Manners -- You often address the problem of responding to nosy
questions, such as how much money one earns or why one isn't having a baby,
but my concern is the opposite problem.

A young woman I have just met is expecting her fourth child. She mentions
to all and sundry (her invariable topics of conversation are herself, her
husband and her family) that she is going to have her tubes tied after the
baby is born.

She is not an isolated instance of this lack of decorum. Strangers and
casual friends tell me, without prompting or inquiry, details of their
lives that I think are none of my business. What is an appropriate polite

Gentle Reader -- "How nice for you."

This is properly pronounced with the emphasis on "for." It is accompanied
by a "so what?" smile (eyes fixed on confessor, closed lips briefly moved
upwards and then down again) and followed by a change of subject.

******************************* end of quote ******************************
Alan F. Lacy
Marquette University
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Message 3: the Popular Press discovers NOT

Date: Mon, 17 Feb 92 15:06:57 ESthe Popular Press discovers NOT
From: Sarah Jones <>
Subject: the Popular Press discovers NOT

Lately, it's seemed pretty easy to bash the popular press for
its treatment of linguistic/pseudolinguistic issues. The other
side of the coin appeared in this morning's paper--the Indianapolis
Star ran an article from the Orlando Sentinel, by Linda Shrieves...
a report of the varying theories of the origin of post affirmative

It's quite a nice article, surely with great appeal to the "mass
market" with its light tone and references to Wayne's World and
the 70's Steve Martin SNL skit in which he used NOT (the appearance
of which she refers to as "a linguist's archaeological find")

In trying to track down somebody to comment on the phrase, the author,
getting nowhere with the various SNL folks, ends up with Pamela Munro
and none other than our own Larry Horn and references to our own
LINGUIST discussion. It was a very faithful treatment of the whole
matter, yet still very "readable".

So, maybe there's hope for a "pop" linguistics that doesn't make us
cringe, after all.

--Sarah Jones
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Message 4: Re: 3.161 Queries: German, cowabunga, media

Date: Wed, 19 Feb 1992 15:36:08 Re: 3.161 Queries: German, cowabunga, media
From: Fran Karttunen <kartunenuhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu>
Subject: Re: 3.161 Queries: German, cowabunga, media

This AP release appeared in Ka Leo o Hawaii, the UH student newspaper
on Feb. 19:

Wilmington, Del. (AP) -- Deaf people who communiocate with the use of sign
language are often at odds with the proper use of grammar.

When they write, verb tenses may not match, noun phrases may be omitted, and
there may be dropped words. Some things that are implied while communicating
in American Sign Language may cause confusion when written.
In an effort to help deaf writers catch their mistakes, a University of
Delaware professor is developing a computer program that will catch
grammatical errors that appear to be unique among deaf writers.

"We're really trying to give them a tool they can use to raise their
ability at written English," said Kathleen F. McCoy, associate computer
science professor, who has been working on the project for nearly two
years under a $45,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Ms. McCoy and her graduate assistant, Linda Suri, have collected writing
samples from deaf students from the National Technical Institute for the
Deaf in Rochester, NY, the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Philadelphia,
the Delaware School for the Deaf, and the Bicultural Center and Gallaudet
University, Both in Washington, DC.
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