Thursday, 15 October 2009

Toronto Diary (3): can you be 'bicoastal' when neither place is on a coast?

Second of three trips to the Peg this month. Last weekend was a trip arranged before any other obligations cropped up when a super-cheap seat-sale came available. Then this trip is a longer trip inspired by an MA student who is defending her thesis tomorrow. Third will be in a couple weeks (after Halloween) so I can see my doctor, cuz she insisted she see me. Oh well, it gives me a chance to get my flu shot(s).

The good thing about travel(l)ing between homes is that you can travel really light. Like no underwear, no extra clothes (except 2 pairs of socks, just in case you don't have any clean ones on the other side) (hey, I don't wear socks in the summer, and last time I was in Winnipeg it was still summer). Cuz you have clothes and food and stuff on the other side. Just grab the pills, the computer and the CPAP machine and you're golden.

Okay, as to socks, I have fired my Toronto lifestyle advisor, for giving me bad advice on socks. He/she/it/they (he/she/it/they are paranoid I will divulge details of his/her/its/their personal life, so I'm doing my best to maintain his/her/its/their anonymity) advised me to buy cheap socks (and underwear, if it comes to that) at Winners.

Winners is a Canadian (I think) chain that sells end-of-run stuff at lower(ed) prices. They claim nothing is irregular, but frankly... well, I don't know.

The socks I bought at Winners were good looking, cheap, and apparently designed to come off easily. Which is fine if you're trying to crawl into bed after a night on the town but not so convenient when you want to walk from your apartment to the elevator and not have to stop to pull your socks up. Not so convenient when you walk the thirty steps to the subway and pull of your shoe to get rid of a rock and discover you sock has worked its way halfway off your foot.

I prefer socks that stay on. So I went out the other day and bought new socks, cheap socks, from a place called H&M, which is another Canadian chain, but this one they don't have in Winnipeg, so I'd never heard of it. Lots of trendy stuff, but okay prices. And good cheap socks. Socks that stay on all the way from one's apartment in Toronto to one's apartment in Winnipeg.

Plan for tonight--finish dinner, go out (again) and get some distilled water for the CPAP machine, go to sleep.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

This one of those times I hate being a linguist

Non-linguists, ignore this post.

I was on Facebook recently (when am I not?) when a friend posted a link to an event with the warning to go to said event or "I will shun you like an Amish child with an iPod". Seeking clarification, I asked whether that meant he intended to shun me "as he would shun an Amish child with an iPod" or "as an Amish child with an iPod would shun me". After initially suggesting "both", he settled on "as an Amish child with an iPod would be shunned by his (or her) community".

I had considered the last possibility, but discarded it as a) not funny, and b) not following from the initial claim.

But thinking about it, I couldn't decide why I thought it was an bad reading of the claim. I think it's because it involves the supposition of an entity (the Amish community) which isn't instantiated (that isn't the right word, but follow me) in the discourse. But why isn't it? Specifying the child as Amish surely presupposes an Amish community, doesn't it?

So maybe it is, and I am being misled by the syntax, or maybe it's the semantics, or some combination thereof. Experts feel free to chime in on that question too. "Shun" is a two-place predicate, involving a shunner and a shunnee, who (as the speaker and addressee) are clearly instantiated into the discourse in the possible world in question in "or I will shun you". So my readings of the (elliptical) clause "like an AcwaiP" involve filling in the predicate (to shun) and the other role, i.e. I read the clause as "like [X will/would shun] an AcwaiP" or "like an AcwaiP [will/would shun" Y]. And my preference, and perhaps it's only me, is to coreference the empty NP with one of the available antecedents (the speaker, or the addressee). There's a syntactic contraint here, in that the established entities (the speaker and the addressee) cannot be switched, i.e. there is no reading of "like an AcwaiP [would shun the speaker]" or "like [the addressee would shun] an AcwaiP".

So my questions are:

a) Am I the only one with these intuitions?
b) Is this a matter of discourse operations (or Gricean-type information construal issues)?
c) What *is* the syntax/semantics of this situation and its solution?

and for good measure

d) What is the syntax/semantics of [like an AcwaiP] w/r/t the rest of the clause? I suppose it's a manner, which makes the whole thing an adverbial, but heck if I know how to draw the tree.