51,532 reputation
355156
bio website umich.edu/~jlawler
location Bellingham WA
age
visits member for 2 years, 9 months
seen 3 hours ago

I'm a retired English grammarian. I enjoy answering questions.

  1. My Website at the University of Michigan
  2. My alt.usage.english English Grammar pages
  3. Details and handouts from some recent talks.
  4. A term paper about K-12 Language Science
  5. Two scanned coursepacks from my Intro Ling class. (each ~100 pp)
  6. Scanned teaching materials from my Etymology class
  7. Abstract of a recent talk (4/12/12) in Denton, TX.

7h
answered “There was a man known as the 'Toe Suck Fairy'” — is “there” a complement?
7h
revised Negative in a question with various negative valence words
edited body
14h
comment A thesaurus with prepositions
Though that's the wrong way to find out information like that; you hafta look up each one individually unless you know the metaphoric rules, which you won't find in a thesaurus.
14h
comment What is the exact difference between “irony” and “sarcasm”?
Look up the etymologies. While irony can be humorous and gentle, sarcasm is involved with rending flesh (it has the same Greek root as sarcoma and sarcophagous, q.v). The rending is metaphorical, but only because it's not allowed to be real -- i.e, animosity is being displayed.
14h
comment Books on punctuation
The bibliography in the Punctuation article is all useful stuff, too. Though it's not prescriptive, except for Truss, who's hopelessly confused like all prescriptivists.
14h
comment Books on punctuation
Virtually none of the questions here have definitive answers; what "the site militates against" is usually pretty irrelevant to -- and unknown by -- the questioners or the answerers. And I would say this venue is not optimized toward recommending anything.
15h
comment How to use “The first thing I did was”?
Right. It doesn't have anything to do with tense, though -- the conjoined infinitive clause to shut down the laptop and (to) go outside simply gets its repeated infinitive marker to deleted by conjunction reduction. The problem with tense came up because shut is the same form in infinitive and past tense, whereas go and went use completely different roots (the technical term for this is Suppletion). So if shut is parsed as a past tense form, then the question is what the parallel verb should be. But it's a false trail.
15h
comment A thesaurus with prepositions
The relation between preposition and object is not normally a governed relation -- it has to do with what's meant, instead of what's required. Use of prepositions is governed by predicates that they modify -- tired of this, interested in it, look at it, etc. -- but not by the nouns the prepositions take as object.
15h
comment Books on punctuation
On the other hand, the fact that there is no such authoritative reference on punctuation may be useful information. Punctuation is a part of orthography, and one of those areas where everybody believes that there is a definite correct standard, and usually that it is in fact the one that they use themselves. However, since they all use different and incompatible systems, with completely different logical, metaphorical, and occasionally linguistic rules for punctuating. English punctuation is not standardized, and probly never will be.
15h
comment Why do some questions not start with an auxiliary verb?
As for the examples in the answer, Come again? is short for Would you come again?, where come refers to the previous utterance. It's an idiom for "repeat", and it must be uses as a question, with question intonation: *She came again but I still couldn't understand her. The others are basically optional constituents of a previous utterance that can be inquired about; since the utterance is in the context, its constituents can be deleted ad lib. Q: What kind of ice cream is this? A: I believe durian. The answer is ungrammatical out of context. And this isnt limited to questions.
16h
comment Why do some questions not start with an auxiliary verb?
@dotvav: In Wh-questions, the Wh-word comes first, and then the auxiliary verb. Every Wh-question starts by making a yes/no question (with auxiliary inversion), and then the Wh-word is moved to the front. The OQ was about yes/no questions, though it didn't say so. The examples you present above are Wh-questions, and they all have a Wh-word first, and then an auxiliary verb.
17h
comment When do you leave out the preposition in a relative clause?
A little strange; the second person is jarring. But it's clear where it comes from -- the admonitory voice of the Doctor, directed at you, telling you, badly, to follow the golden rule. Which you probly will, also badly. They match up. One can't expect rigor on signs that try to tell you too much in one glance.
18h
awarded  Nice Answer
1d
comment How to say the plural of IP?
I would pronounce the names of the letters: /ay'pi/ and /ay'piz/. For writing, there are no rules since IP has no history. Anyway, nobody cares whether you use an apostrophe or not, so why bother? Apostrophes are so pre-electronic tech.
1d
comment Is agreement required between subject and prepositional phrase?
You're dealing with Generic noun phrases here. The plural of Animals is not a real plural, but a plural generic; it doesn't individuate -- i.e, you can't depend on one liver per animal -- since it's not referential, but generic.
1d
answered Why do some questions not start with an auxiliary verb?
1d
revised What's the meaning of “to him who”?
edited title
1d
comment Negative form of “satisfy”, correct usage of “such”, difference between “quick” and “fast”
The un- prefix can go on the derived adjective satisfied, but not on the verb satisfy itself. He was unsatisfied with our answers, but not *Our answers unsatisfied him.
1d
comment parallelism: the farther/the more
If you want to make a disquisition on optics and geometry, don't try to do it in three reduced clauses. Go ahead. Spend a period. Make several sentences; they don't cost that much.
1d
comment Is there a neutral word for an olfactory impression?
We humans have evolved an olfactory system with significant danger triggers; so most smells that we recognize have meaning, in the sense that developing the ability has contributed to survival; many things smell good, but more smell bad, and the ones we perceive as "strong" are almost universally dangerous in one way or another. If you say This smells without specifying anything else, it means that it stinks. You have to add good to mean good; that's why smells good so common in the data.