Heidi Harley

Website: http://dingo.sbs.arizona.edu/~hharley/

Posts by Heidi Harley:

    Wondering who did Frank think he was talking to?

    Biking home listening to an old Fresh Air podcast from my backlog, I was amused to hear the story of Frank Sinatra giving a grammaticality judgment. Sammy Cahn describes how Sinatra objected to his lyric for the song "The Last Dance."

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    Here's the relevant bit of the transcript from the Fresh Air site:

    CAHN: So when you speak, you would say they're wondering just when we will leave. You wouldn't say, they're wondering just when will we leave. So he said that one, just when we will leave. I said no, it isn't – hold it. I said they're wondering just when will we leave. But till we leave. He said what kind of cockamamie word is…


    CAHN: I said no one speaks like that. I said no. I said no one speaks like that, but we aren't speaking, Frank, are we? We're singing, aren't we, Frank? And that's the only time we ever kind of good-naturedly quarreled about a line.

    Apparently Cahn shared the judgment but justified the inversion on artistic grounds. Sinatra subsequently did it Cahn's way, not his way.

    I also love Cahn's bisyllabic pronunciation of "aren't" here.

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    Grid takes off her derpants

    I'm going to play this for my morphology class next week when we start talking about affixation… but there's no reason why you all shouldn't enjoy it now, now, now!

    Thanks to Alex Trueman.

    If you enjoyed this, you may also want to check out this oldie but goodie: How I met my wife. Happy Valentine's, if you're into that sort of thing!

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    Fifth annual Simpsons linguafest blowout!

    Hello, blogosphere — the fifth collection of Simpsons linguistic humor is up, here. Enjoy!

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    High Five((')s) for Science

    Ten days ago I was returning to the US from Europe, and the first and main leg of the trip was a flight from Amsterdam to Houston. After passing through customs and immigration in Houston, I was stripping off shoes, belt, wallet, fillings, etc. to walk through the security scanners and re-enter the gate areas for my connecting flight. The scanners were being worked by a few twenty-somethings, and one of them was enthusiastically telling the others, "You know, today's Darwin's 200th birthday! High five for science!"

    He was given a slightly bemused high-five by one of his coworkers, and then he turned to another with the same celebratory request, but sadly the other coworker, conforming more to my mental Texan stereotype, wouldn't meet his eyes and wouldn't high five him.

    "I'll give you a high five for science!" I called out happily. "That's what I'm talkin' about!" he said, and so after exchanging a high five for science with a perfect, if slightly goofy, stranger, I trotted off to my next five hours of travel feeling all warm and fuzzy. I didn't have the heart to tell him he was off on the birthday by ten days; hopefully he's exchanging high-fives today as well. Maybe he's exchanging high-fives for emancipation today instead.

    To give this post some mildly linguistic content, I refer you back to its header, which I assert would be a perfectly grammatical headline in any of its permutations: with or without the -s, and with or without the apostrophe…

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    Linguists on the job market

    Chris's post on the job market for linguists circulated instantly here at the University of Arizona, and one of our enterprising recent grads, Shannon Bischoff, thought of comparing Chris's job posting numbers, sorted by area, to numbers of dissertations produced in each area. I post his revised table of figures including the diss numbers below the jump.

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    Androids, electric sheep, plastic tongues…

    For your edification and amusement: An articulator-based, rather than acoustic, speech synthesis device.

    The original context, here on Botjunkie, says that the ultimate goal is a voice compression system for cellphones. I'm a bit confused about this — I *think* that the idea is that representing speech articulatorily will be less data-intensive than representing it acoustically, but that seems wildly improbable to me.

    Here's the description of the system on the Takanishi Labs page. Amazingly, they even have a rubber set of vocal cords at work! (scroll down to see them in action).

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    From lax to tense

    The complexity of the English vowel system, specifically the tense/lax distinction, in nefarious conspiracy with our phonemic word-initial glottal fricatives, strikes again: France's foreign minister was quoted as saying that he wasn't too worried about Iran potentially developing nulcear weapons, because Israel would eat them before that could happen.

    Perhaps M. Kouchner might consider a quick burst of training in the HPVT method.

    Hat tip to Andrew Carnie.

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    Grammar: Carrot or stick?

    On my recent trip to Paris, I took time out Wednesday evening to go to the Louvre, which is open until 10 (that's 22h for those unambiguous Europeans) on Wednesdays. My eyes happened to encounter Un jeune homme présenté par Venus (?) aux sept Arts libéraux, which reminded me that one of these lovely young ladies would represent Grammar. Here they are, with Venus (whose question mark is in the Louvre label — that's not my editorial addition1); I've omitted to photograph the young man.

    Since it's clear that the top middle one is Logic (aka Dialectic), with her scorpion, and since Logic is one of the three liberal arts in the Trivium, I assume that one of the women on either side of her is Grammar — let's say the lady to her left holding a scroll.2 Here she is in close-up (you can click on this or the above image for a bigger version):

    Quite a charming-looking person, perhaps a little shy and young, but not at all offensive, right?

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    Phrasebook pronunciation, or, kawnbyang der tahng dewr ler vwahyazh

    Apparently Mark and I overlapped in Paris! Who knew. I was there for une journée d'études for the CNRS project Temptypac, which was fun and interesting, plus of course being in Paris is always superbe…

    My French is up to most basic communication needs, but my husband's isn't, so we shopped around a bit for a phrasebook to help him maximize touristic enjoyment while I linguistified. We found four suitable candidate pocket phrasebooks. One cost 5 euros rather than 7. It also happened to be the one that included the all-important phrase, "Je voudrais cinq tranches de jambon, s'il vous plaît", without which phrase one cannot navigate Paris at all. But the main deciding factor for us, besides the extremely valuable euros, was the pronunciation guides.

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    Nature's dominoes

    My colleague Tom Bever felt he had really hit the big time today when he learned that one of his example sentences had made it into the funny pages. Admittedly, it was in the linguistically hypersophisticated Dinosaur Comics (as usual, click on the image to see it full-size):

    For a brief introduction to the example, try the Wikipedia article on garden-path sentences1, or for a rather more thorough discussion, Chapter 1, section 4.2 of this on-line introductory neuropsychology coursebook, in which Tom is referred to as 'a famous psycholinguist'. [Aside to Tom: It's true! Big time! Quick, ask for a raise — my finder's fee is a mere 10%.]

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    Keep related words, as a rule, together

    Whee! I think I'm the first to post using the swanky new system, which has a wisywig interface and everything! First!

    Nodding to the giant posts of yesteryear, I return to the Language Log classic of finding howlers in that horrid little book.

    I hadn't looked at the thing since freshman composition, remembering it vaguely only through the scientific and unbiased reminders provided by Language Log posts. But a talk I attended last Friday referred to a S&W rule, purportedly about avoiding ambiguity: "Keep related words together".

    I was curious about how Strunk and White would formulate the notion of 'related words', so I went to check it out. And, I kid you not, this is the formulation of the rule:

    "The subject of a sentence and the principal verb should not, as a rule, be separated by a phrase or clause that can be transferred to the beginning."

    I was afraid someone was playing a joke on me. But no, that's really it!

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