English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Can I get an example of statement that can be said to be Hofstadterian? Also please provide a small comment with the statement if possible. thankyou.

share|improve this question
up vote 17 down vote accepted

On the grounds that sentences written by Hofstadter are surely "Hofstadterian", here's a random sentence from Gödel, Escher, Bach (p. 130):

The proverbial German phenomenon of the "verb-at-the-end", about which droll tales of absentminded professors who would begin a sentence, ramble on for an entire lecture, and then finish up by rattling off a string of verbs by which their audience, for whom the stack had long since lost its coherence, would be totally nonplussed, are told, is an excellent example of linguistic pushing and popping.

share|improve this answer
Excellent. Now I know who must have invented trolling. – RegDwigнt Oct 29 '10 at 9:49
hmmm sorry if I seem unconvinced but isn't that sort of discussion of the conditions of a hofstadterian phrase, rather than an actual example of one? I may still accept if others agree with you, just going to leave question open a bit longer. – Anonymous Type Oct 31 '10 at 21:13
@Anonymous Type, note that the base sentence in the example is "The proverbial German phenomenon of the 'verb-at-the-end' is an excellent example of linguistic pushing and popping." Between the two halves of that sentence, Hofstadter has inserted 49 words and (worse) half a dozen commas. If that's not a Hofstadterian phrase, I don't know what is. – Marthaª Nov 1 '10 at 0:55
oh right, but isn't the verb - rattling off half way through the sentence kind of negate that? – Anonymous Type Nov 1 '10 at 2:26
@Anonymous Type: Well, the sentence is (1) by Hofstadter, (2) about stacks in language, so at the intersection of programming and linguistics, (3) comments on an interesting feature of another language, (4) contains something anecdotal, (5) is self-referential (does involve pushing-and-popping, even if it isn't just of the verb-at-the-end variety it mentions for German), (6) contains humour and makes you think. That seems to suffice for me. :-) – ShreevatsaR Nov 1 '10 at 9:00

Hofstadt talked about levels of recursion in his book "Goedel Escher Bach" - a book which expounds upon many other things, such as strange loops (which are these peculiar not-really-thinking-though-somehow-becoming-conscious-through-entanglement "things" (for lack of a better word (though English does have many words)) that are repeatedly referred to in the book) and various scientific disciplines like Computer Science and logic (which are pretty related to each other, of course) - so if one were to be asked about a Hofstadterian statement, one could say it is very convoluted, deeply nested, and hard-to-parse but maybe not so hard to understand once you've read through it a few times =).

share|improve this answer
nice. if you edit and add a nested loop in english rather than C I'll accept... ;) – Anonymous Type Oct 29 '10 at 4:08
hmm i'm not sure english has a word to itereate.. 1. lather 2. rinse 3. repeat, perhaps, but nothing to make one read a phrase over and over again a set number of times. it's more just nesting of phrases. – Claudiu Oct 29 '10 at 13:55
I've never seen a programming syntax that can't be re-written using pseudocode in English terms, so I'm hopeful of an example. – Anonymous Type Oct 31 '10 at 21:14
@Anonymous Type: You can phrase it in pseudocode, but the computers reading it (humans) won't go into a loop upon getting it as input. – Claudiu Nov 1 '10 at 5:19

This statement is not Hofstadterian.

share|improve this answer
You forgot the part wherein the OP requested an explanatory comment to accompany your example. – tchrist Apr 25 '14 at 19:21
@tchrist I didn't forget it. I chose to ignore it. – user24964 Apr 25 '14 at 22:30
lol. nice answer. i upvoted you. – Anonymous Type May 5 '14 at 6:01

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.