53,924 reputation
357164
bio website umich.edu/~jlawler
location Bellingham WA
age
visits member for 2 years, 11 months
seen 2 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.

3h
revised Noun or adjective required
deleted 1 character in body
4h
comment Why do people pronounce “f***ing” like “f***en”?
@Robusto: Yes, in many speech groups precise articulation is taken as a sign of extreme self-control, which is extended to temper control metaphorically. The result is a message of "I'm at the end of my tether".
15h
comment What is the spatial difference between in and on
If it's flat, like the land to the horizon, or the ocean, it's two-dimensional. If it feels like it contains something, though, it's a container, and containers are three-dimensional.
15h
comment Recommended sources for understanding the spatial and abstract meanings of English prepositions
Probably a good (though not visual) place to start is with Fillmore's Deixis Lectures, which cover space, time, and other topics. Read them in order. They have no illustrations, but the word pictures are pretty clear.
19h
comment What is the spatial difference between in and on
Your email is a container; in is used with containers and contents. The spatial difference is that on refers to things located with respect to two-dimensional spaces (on the rug, on the lawn, on the floor, on the page), while in refers to things located with respect to three-dimensional spaces (in the bag, in the yard, in the room, in the message). The semantic space is merged with en in Spanish; that's easy for English speakers to deal with, but hard going the other way.
19h
comment apart from + verb with gerund or not
The only way I can answer that is to say how I would say it, if I ever wanted to. If I intoned it as it's printed (i.e, with no additional comma intonations), I'd probly use the infinitive. With an additional comma intonation after anything, I'd prefer the gerund, though.
19h
comment The structure of the following sentence: “Why may standing up for a long time cause hypotension?”
Yes, might is grammatical there, where may isn't. These are just random facts about random modals, like fact that the epistemic sense of will does not occur in hypothetical clauses. We say if it rains tomorrow but not *if it will rain tomorrow.
20h
revised The structure of the following sentence: “Why may standing up for a long time cause hypotension?”
added 24 characters in body
21h
comment Why do people pronounce “f***ing” like “f***en”?
As to why people use syllabic /n/ instead of /ŋ/ whe saying imprecative fucking (i.e, fuckin' -- it's so common there's an apostrophic indulgence for it in eye dialect): saying fuck is taboo, and so is G-droppin, though not for the same reason. But it is associated with lower class dialects in the popular mind, and so are all other taboos. Basically, if you're gonna say fucking, you might as well say it the way it sounds right to you, and for many speakers (including me) the velar is wrong.
21h
comment Why do people pronounce “f***ing” like “f***en”?
One who longs is a **longer**; something with more length is **longer**. The two words may be spelled identically, but they don't even rhyme. One is /lɔŋər/ and the other is /lɔŋɡər/, which is longer in speech by one stop phoneme. In Indonesian (which has a good spelling system, unlike English) they'd be spelled differently: longer vs longger.
21h
comment The structure of the following sentence: “Why may standing up for a long time cause hypotension?”
@itsbruce: Epistemic may is ungrammatical in questions. That means the structure of the sentence is not correct.
1d
answered The structure of the following sentence: “Why may standing up for a long time cause hypotension?”
1d
comment What do we say when glue does not stick anymore?
We say it's come unstuck.
1d
comment Putative should - what time does it express?
So how many named special cases of each modal verb are there, in toto? There's subjunctive should, and mandative should, and putative should, at least; and I spose Should we? is suggestive should, and Shouldn't we? is tag should, and I can think of a lot more. Does this naming game help anybody understand or learn or write English? Only if one reads Victorian novels, I suspect, or Victorian grammars.
1d
comment Fruitful? Fruitless? Fruitempty? Fruitmore?
The answer to the question is: "No, it shouldn't be something else. It is what it is." One of the basic properties of derivational morphology is that it is irregular and does not form paradigms. It's inflectional morphology that's regular and forms paradigms, but English only has 9 inflectional morphemes left in the whole language, though hundreds of derivational ones like -hood, -ship, -ful, -less, in-, re-, dis-, .. remain. Each follows its own regular irregularities and hasta be learned individually. Sorry about that.
1d
comment apart from + verb with gerund or not
The subjectless gerund clause dividing the document is used as a noum phrase complement, and since than can take a noun phrase, it works.
2d
comment apart from + verb with gerund or not
The gerund would be fine, you're correct; but so is the infinitive, here, in parallel to the infinitive do in it doesn't do anything apart from divide the document. But that use is dependent on the structure of the first clause.
2d
comment Why is the apostrophe spelling of 'Doh!' so common?
I might be able to think of a subject sillier than peeving about the "correct punctuation" of a sound effect, if I tried. But why bother?
2d
comment Word for “entity who/that decides whether to grant or deny a request”?
The Powers That Be.
2d
comment which is Grammaticality correct allowed for me or allow for me
There was no further context given, so any answer taken as an answer to the literal question leaks like a sieve. If you want footnotes, get an editor.