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September 28, 2005


that to which Cassirer refers

I find it helpful to think of parts of speech—like that noun phrase up there, say—as kittens, and apply the general rule that you should not torture kittens.

I promise not to torture the noun phrase "that to which Cassirer refers", if you tell me how to avoid doing so. Is employing said phrase equivalent to torturing it? If so, does that hold for other phrases as well?

When I wrote "that noun phrase up there", I had in mind (implicitly, you see) the NP in its unhorriblymangled state. I imagine it was something like "what Cassirer refers to".

When I quoted "that noun phrase up there", I too implicitly had in mind the NP in its unhorriblymangled state. Now can you get on with telling me how to avoid torturing said NP?

Surely you don't subscribe to the antiquated notion that a horribly mangled NP is a tortured NP. (NPC, sure.)

You never quoted "that noun phrase up there".

I was wondering how to go about writing that. (Ought it to have been "'that noun phrase up there'"? That's what I was originally going to write.) When I quoted the following five words: that noun phrase up there.

In the world of a language pedant, do we find only "language pedant things"?

Now you're just dodging the question. Is it because, despite your intimate familiarity with torturing kittens, you don't actually know what it is to torture a noun phrase?

You're right. I am simply incapable of torturing a noun phrase.


NP ::= "that" PP "which" NP VP

Whereas not-torture:

NP ::= "what" NP VP PP

This is not proper BNF.

I have abused notation!

My normal form is not rigorously bisjunctive.

Backus-ALGOL Form would be more appropriate anyhow.

Thinking about it some more, what I meant to indicate by "that noun phrase up there" was the phrase's equivalence class under syntactic hocus-pocus—its phraseme—and by "torture", I meant your realization of the phraseme by one of its unlovely members, or allophrases.

"what Cassirer refers to" is just syntactic sugar for "that to which Cassirer refers", and as we all know, syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon.

NB most of those epigrams I find rather ... wrong, I guess. Perlis was (apparently) a smarty, though.

Yes—some of the epigrams are all pith and no, uh, helmet.

Uexküll is so fantastic a name it hurts.

This is a hydra in the same way that it's a hair split with a scalpel

The Nagel essay is anthologized in 'The Mind's I', edited by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett, which is a book in which I read all sorts of crazy stuff.

SB, surely when you wrote "that noun phrase up there" you meant the NP as it exists in LF? (Note: antiquated vocabulary if not concept.)

Actually "phraseme" is most likely more up-to-dately what I said. Consider me pwned.

Is "phraseme" in current use? I thought I was just making it up, by analogy to other linguistic terms of art. Also, my vast ignorance uncomprehends your use of "LF". "Logical Form", maybe?

This seems like the place to comment: Wolfson, do you have thoughts on the proper ratios of liquors for a "perfect manhattan"?

LF does mean logical form--I think it's Chomsky's original thang. I really have rather poor linguistics chops--enough to snow first-years from Stanford, but by the third year Ben will be pwning me left and right. (This would be the subject of a post at my blog about philosophical insecurity if I didn't have norty-feven other things to do.)

Point being, I don't even know what's in current linguistic use. Tried to read Barriers, Chomsky's 1986 book, recently, and could not make head nor tail of it. Quite humbling. Though the part about how "government" is defined in terms of exclusion rather than domination might be nice to throw to the anti-idiotarian crowd.

2oz rye or bourbon, 1/2oz dry vermouth, 1/2oz sweet vermouth. This is based on my understanding of the meaning of "perfect" and proper ratio for an ordinary manhattan.

On Uexkull, see large portions of Agamben's _The Open_, if I remember correctly.

Thanks, I picked it up in the library. Interestingly (based on what of it I've read so far) it seems that, as opposed to Cassirer's interpretation, on Agamben's account (which discusses ticks, hence ticks not flies here) there simply is no world of the tick, let alone tick things; he seems to describe ticks as essentially biological state machines.

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