Part-of-speech classification question

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Brett Reynolds (who writes the blog English, Jack) raised an interesting question of detail about English grammar the other day in an email to me and Rodney Huddleston: What is the syntactic category (part of speech) of slash, as used in There is also a study slash guest bedroom, or We need a corkscrew slash bottle opener? (Brett's email, incidentally, provided what I think is the right answer.)

The syntactic categories of a language are supposed to be grammatically definable natural classes of words that share syntactic properties with each other to an interesting degree — to a degree that clearly makes it easier to describe how sentences are put together. You can assume for present purposes that the categories to choose from are the ones used in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language: Noun (dog, gratitude, . . .), Verb (walk, instantiate, . . .), Adjective (good, ridiculous, . . .), Adverb (carefully, soon, . . .), Preposition (of, through, . . .), Determinative (the, some, . . .), Subordinator (that, whether, . . .), Coordinator (and, or, . . .), or Interjection (ouch, hey, . . .). Where would you put slash? (In the use exemplified by the sentence given above, that is.) Think about it a little before you read on.

The CGEL list of categories isn't definitive, of course. Huddleston and I didn't get it from God. (In post-Babel times He has been regrettably silent on the topic of how exactly human languages are to be analysed.) Our proposed list has the status of a hypothesis. The full inventory of possible categories is a matter for actual investigation of human languages. At any given point we linguists might be shown wrong in what we have assumed:

  • two categories we had taken to be distinct might be in fact collapsible;
  • some category might be shown to be completely eliminable by rediagnosing all of its members as belonging elsewhere;
  • some new set of facts from a language might reveal the necessity of an entirely new category that we had not previously entertained as a possibility.
But the question on the table here concerns which out of the list of 9 categories that CGEL uses for describing Standard English seems to come closest to being the right one to contain (this use of) slash.

Well, comments were left open for a little while without me giving the answer, and the first comment was posted within four minutes flat: db48x said confidently: "It's punctuation, of course." Funny how people simply do not read the instructions! Punctuation is the topic of a whole chapter of CGEL, but is not on the list of syntactic categories that I gave. Nor is the word "slash" (as opposed to "/", which I never mentioned) a punctuation mark: it has a pronunciation, it has a spelling entirely composed of letters… Its etymology, of course, is that it's the name of a non-alphabet printing character. But I didn't want an etymology for it. I wanted a category. I'm afraid db48x gets an F.

Later Hamish and various other people said "conjunction". Same answer: read the instructions. The old-fashioned word "conjunction" was traditionally used for a mish-mash of coordinators, subordinators, and prepositions taking clause complements, and it's no damn use. The analysis that used it is a complete crock. But above all, it wasn't on the list, and you get no points at all for answers that aren't on the list. But I repeat myself. But I repeat myself.

Richard's comment said it was "a coordinator for adjectives only", but then he immediately contradicted himself, deciding that it "can be seen an adjective", apparently meaning an adjective that modifies coordinators rather than nouns. I truly have no idea what the great public out there imagines adjectives might be, but people sure are a long way away from grasping the concept. (Richard added one further suggestion: that slash might be "defined as an adverb due to ontological reasons", and I am even further away from being able to understand that. About a million miles away, in fact. Ontology is the philosophical study of what things actually exist and what things are just fictions. For example, some people think there actually are sentences, physically, and we hear them and see them; others think sentences exist physically but evanescently as transitory brain states; others think they exist outside of space and time and we only have access to them through intuition; and still others think they are nonexistent and linguists' talk about them among mathematicians is just a kind of useful fiction. There is no way to connect up ontology with the business of classifying words as adjectives or adverbs on the basis of their syntactic behaviors, it seems to me.)

Next, Dierk said slash was a noun. Well, in a sentence like There were two large slashes across the middle of the painting, it is. But not in the examples I gave. It simply isn't in a location where any noun would fit. It can be a verb, too: The madman slashed the painting. But not in the examples I gave. Read the instructions.

Finally, we got somewhere: Chris said it was a coordinator, adding unnecessarily: "Strikes me as so blatantly obvious there must be a catch." (After that comments flooded in faster than I could keep up, and the commenters didn't read all the earlier comments before commenting; you will see the resultant chaos below.)

There is no catch. Slash is a coordinator. But it isn't so blatantly obvious, for at least two reasons, the first being that some people were wildly wrong about it. But more seriously, there is an alternative: slash could be at first sight be a preposition. Prepositions (unlike nouns or adjectives) can stand between nouns: must have study near guest bedroom; corkscrew with bottle opener, etc. So it is at least conceivable that preposition might be the right answer, and Chris gave no arguments against that.

Well, it seems to me that there is a very nice argument in favor of it being a coordinator. With coordinators you can get what is called multiple coordination, as in red and orange and green and yellow and blue, which doesn't group the color names together in clusters of two, it just connects all of them. With prepositions you don't get that. You can say glass of milk or glass of beer or glass of wine, but not *glass of milk of beer of wine. And although you can say I saw a kitten on a box on a table on a platform, it isn't true if what you saw was a platform on which were situated a box that had nothing on top of it, a table with a clear top over on the other side of the platform, and a kitten wandering around somewhere. It means the kitten was on top of the box, and the box was on the table top, and the table was on the platform. They are nested phrases: a table on a platform modifies box, and so on.

That isn't true for I saw a kitten and a box and a table and a platform:
that could be true without any of the four things having any particular spatial relationship.

The key point is that it seems to me that you can have phrases like this:

At the top of the stairs on the left is a sort of spare bedroom slash boxroom slash clothes-drying room slash sewing room.

There's no grouping in that example: the room is claimed to fulfil all of those functions at once. You understand the phrase in a way that doesn't need brackets. Slash works like a coordinator, not like a preposition. That seems to me to be a new discovery about English. And a fairly surprising one, since the class of coordinators is thought of as an extremely small, closed category that has hardly ever expanded since the Middle Ages (when at some point the preposition buton, meaning "outside", turned into the modern-day coordinator but). We seem to have actually added a coordinator to the language.

Two other update points:

  1. My University of Edinburgh colleague Heinz Giegerich, Professor of English Linguistics, has pointed out to me that although slash has the syntax of a coordinator, it seems strongly inclined toward being used with lexical rather than phrasal categories, and especially noun-based predicate complements. She's an film actor slash model is very natural, but it is very hard to imagine anyone saying ??This is where I watch TV slash play video games (the result of using slash to coordinate verb phrases). I think he's right on that. With clauses, I think there is no possibility of using it at all: consider *I think I'm having hallucinations slash someone is playing tricks on me. Doesn't seem like English at all, does it?
  2. And I should mention that Brett Reynolds thinks cum (borrowed from Latin, where it was a preposition meaning "with") works the same way as slash in modern English (somebody else mentions that in a comment below).

    One other thing: I made up my example with multiple coordination using slash. I was wondering if anyone could find me a real example of this sort on the web — no time to do my own work because I had a lunch appointment with a recent PhD graduate. People have found some below now. Jesse Sheidlower exhibits some nice examples of slash in multiple coordination that he found in Oxford English Dictionary files; but they are not in the dictionary itself, which lists slash solely as a noun and a verb.

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92 Comments »

  1. db48x said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 4:54 am

    It's punctuation, of course. "There is also a study/guest bedroom?" ;)

  2. Richard said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 5:08 am

    It seems to me to be coordinator for adjectives only, as 'and'. The problem is that it modifies the adjectives themselves: a study/guest room is neither a study as it's conventionally known, nor a guestroom. It's a mixture – which I would think means that / can be seen as an adjective.

    (I can see it being defined as an adverb due to ontological reasons, but I'm 90% certain that's the undergraduate in me speaking, not the linguist.)

  3. Dierk said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 5:12 am

    It's a noun, curiously used instead of the actual symbol [/], describing the use of the symbol. Typographically it's a remnant of a dictation.

  4. Chris said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 5:12 am

    I'm going to dutifully play the part of Alan Davies in QI and say "coordinator". Strikes me as so blatantly obvious there must be a catch.

  5. mondain said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 5:14 am

    I will go for coordinator, as in and slash or.

  6. Hamish said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 5:18 am

    Why not conjunction?

  7. PFranklin said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 5:31 am

    We (ever since we were Roman) used to use "cum." I'll choose PREPOSITION.

  8. Adrian Bailey said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 5:47 am

    Easy. Look up "cum" in the dictionary. Answer: preposition.

    Richard: Are you happy with "due to ontological reasons"?

  9. Ian said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 5:48 am

    Yes, why not conjunction? It certainly feels like it has most in common with "or".

  10. Alan Palmer said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 5:48 am

    I feel the same way as Chris and expect a siren to go off at any minute indicating a ten-point penalty for giving an obvious answer. To me it would be a conjunction, but the list doesn't include them, so it must be a Coordinator. Another way of putting it might be study or guest bedroom.

  11. Outis said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 5:49 am

    The real question is:
    Is it a slash or a stroke?

  12. Peter Howard said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 6:11 am

    The dictionaries don't agree about "cum". dictionary.com says it's a preposition meaning "combined with" but Merriam Webster says it's a conjunction meaning "and".

    So I'll go with the crowd and say "slash" is a coordinator, though my opinion is probably worth less than most people's here as I've no pretentions to being a linguist.

  13. Oskar said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 6:18 am

    I'm certainly no linguist either, but choosing from those categories, it seems pretty clear to me that it's a coordinator. It seems to function just the same as and or or, at least to me, the ignorant, english-as-a-second-language non-linguist that I am.

  14. Nightstallion said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 6:22 am

    I'd go with coordinator, as its function appears to be akin to "and" or "or" to me… Though it's not quite the same, as in cases like "corkscrew or bottle opener", we have two separate objects which are being conjoined, while a "corkscrew slash bottle opener" is a single object.

  15. Luis said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 6:25 am

    [I can't speak English, and I don't have anybody near me who can, so I'll leave the task of providing the actual grammaticality judgements for people endowed with a native competence in the language]

    Assume, as seems intuitively right, that "slash" is a coordinator. If so a simple substitution test predicts that (1) through (8), where "slash" is replaced with, respectively, nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, determiners, prepositions, subordinators, and interjections, are all ungrammatical. In contrast, replacing "slash" with a coordinator, as in (9), should be possible.

    1) We need a corkscrew {dog/gratitude} bottle opener.

    2) We need a corkscrew {walk/instantiate} bottle opener.

    3) We need a corkscrew {good/ridiculous} bottle opener.

    4) We need a corkscrew {carefully/soon} bottle opener.

    5) We need a corkscrew {the/some} bottle opener.

    6) We need a corkscrew {dog/gratitude} bottle opener.

    7) We need a corkscrew {of/through} bottle opener.

    8) We need a corkscrew {ouch/hey} bottle opener.

    9) We need a corkscrew {and/or} bottle opener.

    Assume further that the substitution test yields the expected results. If so, we could strengthen our hypothesis by checking whether "slash" triggers Coordinate Structure Constraint effects. Specifically, we expect (10) and (11) to be ungrammatical, as we are extracting out of only one conjunct. In contrast, (12) should be grammatical due to the fact that we are extracting out of both conjuncts simultaneously.

    (10) This is the man that I work with ____ slash compete against Bob.

    (11) This is the man that I work with Bob slash compete against ____.

    (12) This is the man that I work with ___ slash compete against ____.

  16. Michael said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 6:25 am

    Not every squiggle deserves to be syntactically identified. We also say fullstop, or comma, when reading out a message, write all kinds of strange symbols (such as ~ or ^). Do they all have a syntactical function?

  17. Jesse Sheidlower said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 6:47 am

    Multiple _slash_es from the OED files:

    [I particularly like the "slash and whatever" here:]

    2002 _N.Y. Times_ (National ed.) 15 Dec. i. 30/2 I'm a dishwasher slash cake maker slash cookie scooper slash and whatever else they want me to do.

    2004 _Village Voice_ 25 Feb. 12/4 Halcyon, the café-slash-restaurant-slash-record store, is closing its doors in April.

    2005 B. Kendrick _Fashionably Late_ 66 I'm an actress-slash-model-slash-hostess.

  18. NW said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 7:09 am

    Michael's suggestion 'Not every squiggle deserves to be syntactically identified' doesn't work for two reasons. First, if we are avowedly reading out punctuation, then 'cafe/restaurant' is said "cafe slash restaurant", but that makes the written form 'cafe-slash-restaurant' the spoken form "cafe hyphen S L A S H hyphen restaurant".

    Second, if 'slash' is being said as the name of the symbol, then it's a noun, and it's in an asyndetic coordination: if I utter "cafe slash restaurant", I'm using a coordination of three nouns. Its function in my wider utterance might analogous to that of text after a speech verb, if for example I say, 'It says, "cafe slash restaurant".'

  19. Ben Hemmens said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 7:17 am

    So what about stop, comma, open bracket, close bracket, hyphen and does that gesture with 4 fingers in the air have a syntactic category?

  20. Randy Alexander said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 7:41 am

    Here's one from COCA:

    "we're going to get an exclusive look inside the small box of which magician slash contortionist slash performance artist David Blaine is going to step tomorrow for 44 days."

    -Diane Sawyer, ABC News, 2003

    This is a great post. Thanks, Geoff, and congratulations, Brett!

  21. John Cowan said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 8:40 am

    The first appropriate Google hit — it's the 19th overall for me, but YMMV — for "slash * slash" is "pimp slash poet slash hustler".

    In any case, surely and/or is a coordinator more recent than but but not as new as slash? The OED's first hit is 1855, but that is a quotation of a yet earlier document. As a neologism, it has received the usual drubbings at the hands of prescriptivists (as quoted in a legal opinion):

    The phrase "and/or" has been dubbed an "ugly device," H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage 29 (E. Gowers 2d ed. 1983), said to "destroy [...] the flow and goodness of a sentence" and "[u]seful only to those who need to write diagrammatically or enjoy writing in riddles." W. Strunk & E.B. White, The Elements of Style 34 (1959). The term "kills the plain sense of [...] words formerly deemed adequate by the layman," W. Follett, Modern English Usage 64 (J. Baizun ed. 1966).

  22. army1987 said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 9:09 am

    I immediately thought it's a coordinator, and I'm surprised that anyone would answer any other way (unless they misunderstood the question).

  23. Dan Lufkin said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 9:18 am

    It's a coordinator, period.

  24. Ralph Hickok said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 9:23 am

    There is (or perhaps was) a very funny BBC comedy program called "Man Stroke Woman," in which "stroke" = "slash"

  25. army1987 said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 9:24 am

    BTW, the "if" in "there are constant if sporadic references" (semantically quite similar to "sporadic but constant") is a coordinator, innit?

  26. chris said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 9:36 am

    I agree with the coordinator consensus, and furthermore claim that the "closed" categories are really only "low traffic" and therefore the addition of a member shouldn't be all that shocking. No syntactic category is truly closed, it's just that some are more likely to receive new entries than others.

    Also, as with categories in general, I think the categories are imposed by the mind of the theorist(s), who should take care not to imbue them with more significance than they deserve. Expecting a system of categories to be "definitive" seems a little silly — at most, they are descriptively useful. Crude Platonism springs eternal, but it's still a fallacy every time.

  27. Bob C said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 9:44 am

    This discussion reminded me of the phrase "quote unquote," as in "My lazy brother-in-law keeps telling me he's quote unquote between jobs." Not sure what category to put that in, either.

  28. Jerry Friedman said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 10:07 am

    And what about Dan Lufkin's example with "period"?

    Doesn't the use-mention distinction fit in here? Slash seems like a coordinator now, but I'd say it started as a mention of the noun.

  29. Mr Fnortner said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 10:38 am

    Lufkin's period would be an interjection, I believe, similar to the way other nouns are used as emphatic utterances: Bump! (as an advance warning while driving), Fore! (in golf), Rats! and so forth.

    To NW: to accept your premise means we are to accept the coordinated series cafe, slash, restaurant as the intent of the writer. This is facially absurd. Another example of a symbol, pronounced, used as a coordinator in the way of slash is "point" (.), as in "two point four". Mathematicians understand "point" to be a noun representing the dot, and as a coordinator linking the decimal fraction to the whole number.

  30. Rebecca said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 10:43 am

    In response to the author's point about what categories can be joined with "slash": I agree that nouns are more likely or "natural" than verb phrases, which are more likely than full clauses, but I'm certain I've heard young people (20-something Americans) use it with both verbs and clauses. "I think I'm having hallucinations slash someone is playing tricks on me" sounds a bit strange to me, but not impossible. I don't know how to do a corpus search for this kind of thing, but I'd be interested in the results if someone else knows how (or if others have also heard these kinds of utterances).

  31. Jerry Friedman said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 10:50 am

    "Honestly, the number of times that I've been to slash ordered from Siam might actually require me to add them the Acknowledgments section of my dissertation"

    From an informal restaurant review.

  32. Spell Me Jeff said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 11:00 am

    This may be my subjective experience, but I find interesting how the meaning of these utterances is typically clearer when spoken than written. Jerry Friedman's quote took me several attempts to parse. When I spoke it aloud, it made perfect sense immediately.

  33. Anna Phor said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 11:21 am

    I saw an elephant at the zoo on Saturday with my friend.

    This sentence has three prepositional phrases, but they aren't nested. You can change the order (I saw an elephant with my friend on Saturday at the zoo) and not change the sense; you can remove one without changing the truth conditions: the elephant was indeed still seen (i) at the zoo (ii) on Saturday and (iii) with my friend.

    So you can co-ordinate some types of PPs in English. It's not a knock'em-down argument against analyzing slash as a coordinator, but I don't think you can definitely say it's not a preposition yet, either.

    [Hold it, hold it, hold it: you've used three different prepositions! I'm talking about iterative use of a single coordinator, as in A and B and C and D. You're not anywhere close to relevant here. You've cited a case of three different kinds of adjunct (locative, temporal, and comitative) that can all be used with a VP. That's got nothing to do with the issue. —GKP]

  34. ak472 said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 11:48 am

    I have difficulty thinking of a natural-sounding sentence in which "but" is used with multiple coordination. Can you provide an example?

    [No, I can't, because but is very special: it is well known to be a peculiar coordinator that is limited to binary coordination. So multiple coordination is not guaranteed for all coordinators; it's just that it is never found with anything other than coordinators. —GKP]

  35. greg said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

    My first thought was coordinator. And I definitely agree that it seemed too obvious, but that is likely a result of being fooled by previous trick questions from the bloggers here!

    However, with regard to Jesse_S's examples:

    2002 _N.Y. Times_ (National ed.) 15 Dec. i. 30/2 I'm a dishwasher slash cake maker slash cookie scooper slash and whatever else they want me to do.

    2004 _Village Voice_ 25 Feb. 12/4 Halcyon, the café-slash-restaurant-slash-record store, is closing its doors in April.

    2005 B. Kendrick _Fashionably Late_ 66 I'm an actress-slash-model-slash-hostess.

    In the sense that "bed-and-breakfast" would be considered either a noun or an adjective depending on use with the embedded "-and-" being considered as part of the larger "word", would the latter two examples not also be considered nouns with the "-slash-"es simply parts of those "words"? Though that gets even weirder in my mind if you re-order the second example as "cafe-slash-record store-slash-restaurant" with the non-hyphenated "record store" embedded in the larger entity which I would otherwise consider as a single noun.

  36. Neal Whitman said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

    My wife actually prefers slash to the coordinator "or" in some situations. When she asked me to proofread an email, the last line invited the reader to contact her if they had "any questions/comments". I suggested changing it to "or," and she considered and ultimately rejected the change, deeming the slash to either sound better or come closer to the meaning she wanted. However, as for actual pronunciation, I think she pronounced the slash as simply a pause.

    Now that I think about it, her use of slash was closer to "or" in meaning, while the examples given here have all been closer to "and". I don't have a point to make with that; I just was interested to note it.

  37. Ben Hemmens said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

    How about "bleep"?

  38. Scott said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

    @Rebecca: As one of those twenty-somethings, I completely agree that the clausal coordinations (or whatever) with "slash" are more or less normal sounding. They admittedly might be more marginal than lexical ones as Geoff says, but I think for younger speakers they are not as categorically ill-formed as he suggests.

    Another aspect as "slash" that strikes me, which I haven't seen mentioned above is that it frequently (I think) co-occurs with focus or some other special intonational pattern to highlight the presence of alternatives. It is different from focused "or" though since it doesn't give rise to inferences of mutual exclusivity. We might think of it as the focused version of "and/or", which is itself not easily focused.

  39. greg said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

    @Ben -
    "Bleep you!" = verb
    "What the bleep?" = noun
    "Get the bleep out of here!" = adjective(?)
    "Bleep!" = interjection

    etc

  40. Aaron Toivo said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

    I'm naturally suspicious of any categorization of a word that requires the category's description be revised to accommodate it, and of all those listed, none have anything else that works exactly like this use of 'slash'.

    There's no "true" answer of course, the world works however it works and our task is to describe it in ways that help us understand whatever that consists of; so in attempting to categorize "slash" with a larger, established syntactic category our target is not to find the true categorization but the most useful (and perhaps elegant) one. So the chief use of calling this 'slash' a coordinator is that it would be shorthand for "it works like 'and' and 'or' do".

    And in certain ways it does, as GKP has shown, but in others it does not, such as:

    1. it prefers to link lexical items rather than phrases, as already mentioned;

    2. wherever it appears between nouns, those nouns are alternative descriptors for the same referent;

    3. determiners have scope over the whole slash-linked phrase:

    a) a [study slash guest bedroom]
    b) ??[[a study] slash [0 guest bedroom]]

    Doesn't this smell a lot more like morphology than an independent word? In particular I'm thinking of compound-linking morphemes, like English -o- (e.g. in "blogosphere" or X-o-rama) or the comparable German -s-. Of course both those morphemes result in head-modifier compounds, but coordinative compound structures do exist, like dvandvas, in which no particular element is the head over the others.

    And if that weren't enough, the word 'slash' in this use retains a substantial paralinguistic feel, like saying "L O L" out loud, or making the air-quotes gesture. It is not entirely divorced from the original typ-o-graphical source and still evokes a mental glyph when we speak and hear it.

    My conclusion: this morpheme looks like a turkey, quacks like a duck, and tastes like chicken, so we may get more mileage out of simply saying so than from forcing it into a category it only partially fits.

    [These are sensible comments, despite their orneriness and divergentness. My friend Heinz Giegerich pointed out immediately that slash seems to work as a word-formation element that cements together two lexeme stems to make what's called a dvandva compound. And I agree, in many cases it seems to do that. But it also seems to be developing a syntactic life. —GKP]

  41. PaulB said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 12:37 pm

    The retired quarterback Kordell Stewart was nicknamed "Slash" on account of the several american football positions he was willing and able to play. Does that make him an offensive coordinator?

  42. Mary Bull said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

    Ben Hemmens said,
    How about "bleep"?

    "Bleep" is a synonym for the past participle "deleted." :)

    And, BTW, what part of speech is "/" in the HTML instruction /B ?

  43. Jonathan said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

    In the phrase "9 point five" what part of speech is "point"?

    In the phrase. "I'm finished with you period" What part of speech is "period."

    If I am dictating a letter (something I never do) and vocalize that word "semi-colon" or "close parentheses" what part of speech is that?

    If I am giving a talk and say "close quote" what part of speech is that?

  44. lucia said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

    There was some discussion of what people say when they might write "bedroom/study". If I'm speaking, I would way "Bedroom and or study" which someone transcribing might write "Bedroom and/or study".

    The reason I would say 'and or' is to communicate that it's specifically 1 room which could be used as a bedroom, or as a study or a study most of the time, but if furnished with a small bed or pull out, it could be used as both. "And" doesn't work because there is only one room. "Or" doesn't work because it's not either a bedroom or a study, it could be used as both. So, "and or" better communicates the idea.

    I know almost nothing about linguistics, and my sophomore-senior year high school teachers said absolutely nothing about grammar, they just had us write lots of essays. But my guess was going to be "slash is whatever and/or is; so it falls in the category of what both 'and' and 'or' are".

    Given the examples of each type of thing, I would have guessed "coordinator".

  45. Kai Samuelsen said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

    What's most interesting to me is that the slash originally was a shorthand way of saying "or" but now has a different meaning. For example, you used to be able to say that a job opening was for men/women – i.e., men or women. However, if you advertised for a man slash woman now, you'd get a very different kind of applicant. It seems like slash fills a gap, showing that these two nouns are one object, with two ways of thinking about it. Or that it functions now more like "both … and" – both men and women, for example.

  46. Jeremy Merrill said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 1:49 pm

    it seems strongly inclined toward being used with lexical rather than phrasal categories, and especially noun-based predicate complements. … With clauses, I think there is no possibility of using it at all.

    I, and many of my peers (i.e. 20-something USAmerican undergrads), use "slash" on a regular basis to coordinate whole CPs.

    Commenter Rebecca asked for examples, so here we go, from the corpus also known as "Jeremy's instant messanging logs."

    (1) Objectivity is stupid. slash there's no such thing

    (2) how's your neck, is it hurting a lot because the greyhound driver was negligent and should have known better than to crash in to you and cause ensuing and long lasting harm? slash is he probz ["probably" -jm] gonna lose his jorb?

    (3) how targeted is it? slash can we somehow steal kids from UTL to be witnesses?

    In other words, Geoff, your example "I think I'm having hallucinations slash someone is playing tricks on me" is perfectly grammatical to me.

    [All examples taken from instant-messanging logs from the past few weeks; none of the speakers, save myself, are linguists.]

  47. Boris said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

    I think there is something to slash being punctuation. Refutation would require written examples that are not transcripts of speech. I think the pronunciation of slash is a way to make clear that "/" is intended in the sentence when it's not already clear. For example "work/study program" would be said without pronouncing the slash whereas "hobby/future career" does not make sense without pronouncing the slash. Just as we can sometimes pronounce commas and colons for the same reason (though not nearly as often). Anyway, if somebody actually pronounced the slash and you want to make clear that that is in fact what they said, you would spell out the word slash because otherwise it is possible that the slash was not pronounced. Of course there are alternatives to pronouncing slash which happen to be coordinators, such as "and/or" (and do you pronounce the slash there? I wouldn't), but I think the meaning is not quite the same.

    It may be that there is a future coordinator being born here, but without evidence of people pronouncing slash when it's not necessary or writers spelling out slash where there is no quotation, transcription, or dialog, it has not happened yet.

  48. John said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

    Unfortunately I don't have a copy of CGEL handy, but maybe this is another argument in favor of "slash" not being a preposition:

    For all the prepositions I can think of, it's possible to form sentences of the form, "This [noun] is [preposition [nounphrase]]." But you can't paraphrase "This is a sofa slash bed" as *"This sofa is slash bed."

    [Quite right. This seems like a perfectly good argument against prepositionhood. —GKP]

  49. Gerlof said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

    With coordinators you typically have the option to conjoin more than two elements with only one coordinator. So in addition to:

    Tom and Dick and Harry

    there's:

    Tom, Dick and Harry

    Anyone of the native speakers want to comment on whether that works with slash? Is something along the lines of:

    Tom Dick slash Harry

    as good as:

    Tom slash Dick slash Harry

    If not: are there other coordinators that insist on being repeated for multiple conjuncts slash is there some explanation for this?

  50. Brett R said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

    To give credit where credit is due, it was DCDuring at English Wiktionary who originally suggested that cum seemed more like a conjunction than a preposition and Ruakh who replied that he took it to be like slash, which he considers a clear conjunction.

    Disappointingly but unsurprisingly, neither of these is a new analysis. Merriam-Webster's lists cum as a conjunction and The American Heritage Dictionary has slash as a conjunction.

    My observations are now on English, Jack.

  51. groki said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

    great post! like many others, I also chose coordinator, modelled on "and/or."

    John Cowan: In any case, surely and/or is a coordinator more recent than but but not as new as slash?

    nice catch. re "and/or," note this ghit for +"and slash or" from wiki.answers.com/Q/FAQ/6326-3: Greys Anatomy Questions including "George and slash or Liz from Grey's anatomy are dead" and "Will izzy be back in season 6 greys anatomy": when pronounced "and slash or" we have a coordinator coordinating coordinators!

    army1987: "if" in "there are constant if sporadic references" (semantically quite similar to "sporadic but constant") is a coordinator, innit?

    yeah, like "though" in "constant though sporadic."

    Scott: As one of those twenty-somethings, I completely agree that the clausal coordinations (or whatever) with "slash" are more or less normal sounding. They admittedly might be more marginal than lexical ones as Geoff says, but I think for younger speakers they are not as categorically ill-formed as he suggests.
    and Jeremy Merrill: I, and many of my peers (i.e. 20-something USAmerican undergrads), use "slash" on a regular basis to coordinate whole CPs.

    not just 20-somethings: I'm decades past that, yet in GKP's examples I would completely remove ?? and *: they most certainly do seem like English to me.

    Aaron Toivo: My conclusion: this morpheme looks like a turkey, quacks like a duck, and tastes like chicken
    Turducken!

    Mary Bull: And, BTW, what part of speech is "/" in the HTML instruction /B ?
    my take is that the "/" is a "letter" used in spelling the ("word" for the) HTML instruction.

    lucia: "Or" doesn't work because it's not either a bedroom or a study, it could be used as both.

    I share this sense of "or" as exclusive, and I use "and/or" for the "could be both" sense. however, among the primitives used in logic circuit design, an "OR" or "inclusive OR" gate–in which A is true or B is true or both are true–is distinguished from an "XOR" or "exclusive OR" gate–in which A is true or B is true, but not both. so the default in the circuit design sense of "OR includes both" is opposite my everyday use of or.

  52. chris said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

    wherever it appears between nouns, those nouns are alternative descriptors for the same referent

    I think this is true ("I went to the zoo with my sister and girlfriend" invites the reader to infer from knowledge of the world that those are probably two separate people, but "I went to the zoo with my sister/girlfriend" is an admission of incest), but it seems more like a statement about the semantics of "slash" than its syntactic classification.

    determiners have scope over the whole slash-linked phrase

    Well, the long and short of it is that that can happen with other coordinators too. I don't know if there are others for which that effect is mandatory, though.

  53. Mr Fnortner said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

    One thing is clear–quite a few people have learned something today about parts of speech, or at least they have thought a bit about them.

    I remember a(n apocryphal) story from the early days of charge cards about a fellow whose last name was Van Bergen. His card arrived with the name spelled Vanbergen. He called the company to request a new card for his name: Van-space-Bergen, and received a card embossed Van Space Bergen.

  54. chris said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

    I share this sense of "or" as exclusive, and I use "and/or" for the "could be both" sense. however, among the primitives used in logic circuit design, an "OR" or "inclusive OR" gate–in which A is true or B is true or both are true–is distinguished from an "XOR" or "exclusive OR" gate–in which A is true or B is true, but not both. so the default in the circuit design sense of "OR includes both" is opposite my everyday use of or.

    ISTR that some languages have separate words for them, so someone translating from English has to resolve the ambiguity every time.

  55. Sili said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

    The real question is:
    Is it a slash or a stroke?

    It's a solidus.

    Slash has of course also been reäppropriated as a word describing a type of fiction: Kirk/Spock, Paul/John, Cox/Goldacre, Liberman/Pullum.

    I feel special for thinking of "cum*", myself, before getting to the end.

    * "cum" not "cum" as might be thought given the subject of slash.

  56. David Walker said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 3:15 pm

    When I read the first paragraph, I thought of "slash fiction", where "slash" is an adjective modifying "fiction". (In case you're not familar with the term, it comes from fictional "romantic pairings" that are usually "male/male" or "M/M" (such as Kirk/Spock) and, according to Wkipedia, slash fiction is generally written by women.)

    It seems that the term "slash" has now taken on the form of a noun. If you say "I read some interesting slash today" it refers to slash fiction.

    I have also heard people say "actor slash model slash waiter", but these odd people all live in the Los Angeles area. :-)

  57. Charles in Vancouver said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

    While it is true that "and", "or" and "slash" don't seem to depend on the order of their constituents, the well-accepted conjunction "but" does have some dependence.

    Let's take:
    1) He's cute but married.
    2) He's married but cute.

    In both cases, we're stating that this guy is cute and he's also married, but doesn't the conjunction introduce an additional layer of meaning that does depend on sequence? In 1), I tell you he's cute and then ask you to disregard the usual implications of that statement because he's also married. In 2), I tell you he's married and then ask you to entertain the information that he's cute despite what I've already told you.

    As for multiple "buts" I am not sure how to search for genuine example, but I feel like it stands out as being used for a particularly quirky effect. And when you have a second "but", the sequence does make more of a difference. Each new "but" seems to act directly in opposition to the previous item.

    1) He's cute but married but separated.
    2) He's separated but cute but married.

    In 1), I tell you he's cute (positive) and then ask you to disregard some of those implications because he's married (negative). Then I also tell you that you can disregard some of the implications of his marriage because he's actually separated (positive). In 2), I tell you he's separated (negative), and then I ask you to disregard some of those implications because he's cute (positive). And then I point out you can also disregard some of the implications of his cuteness because ultimately I still know he's still married in the eyes of the law (negative).

    There is more I could say but I need lunch…

  58. Rubrick said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

    I don't know whether or not Jonathan's post was intended to show that the whole question is stupid, but it strikes me that his first two examples, at least, ("Nine point five" and "I hate you, period") are in fact linguistically interesting.

  59. blahedo said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

    @Sili: Eeee, nice job slipping Liberman/Pullum into that list. I can't stop giggling now.

    @Geoff "With clauses, I think there is no possibility of using it at all: consider *I think I'm having hallucinations slash someone is playing tricks on me. Doesn't seem like English at all, does it?":

    It's at least close, and the problem I have with it is chiefly semantic/pragmatic, in that "slash" would normally indicate that on some level it could be *both*, or at least that the two options time-share with each other. This sort of situation doesn't arise as often with clauses.

    Another way to look at it is in terms of fuzzy logic; a study-slash-bedroom isn't exactly either one, sort of both, perhaps 80% a member of the "study" set and 80% a member of the "bedroom" set. (Note that in fuzzy sets the memberships need not add to 100%.) Fuzzy sets and fuzzy logic only really work if you have a semantic type that can be expressed as a predicate or set: < X, t >, which clauses can't be, or at least it's harder. (I guess you could get into intensions and tease out a fuzzy-based meaning that way. I'll have to think about that.)

    For the record, I have no problems at all with "slash" coordinating adjectives or verbs or, of course, nouns.

  60. Xmun said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

    @Sili: "It's a solidus."
    Hear, hear. Also sometimes called the virgule. But the virgule/solidus I'm familiar with serves a different purpose. E.g. (I quote from my edition of a 17th-c. translator of Virgil):

    "O Pallinure how dare yow this request?
    To pass thease banks vnbid? oh humor strawnge,
    No./ never thinke the fates with prayr to chawnge."

    And sometimes (rarely) it's doubled:

    "Till then by fates decrees yt ys forbidden,
    and they that prease to passe are sharply chidden.//"

  61. Dan T. said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 4:33 pm

    So you don't like "conjunction" as a part of speech? How dare you contradict the holy scripture of Schoolhouse Rock?

  62. groki said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

    an invented example of multiple buts that coordinate clauses instead of just adjectives (which correlates with Charles in Vancouver's immediate-reversal analysis):

    we were pretty full after dinner, but we wanted dessert, but we didn't like any of the menu choices.

    like a complement in a Venn diagram (not-A is the whole rest of the Universe), the opposition sense of "but" is just too broad: its dichotomizing semantics make it less suitable for joining more than two (at a time).

  63. Colin said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 5:08 pm

    As far as your two questionable phrases go (in update #1), both of those seem perfectly acceptable to me. I'm a college-age undergrad linguistics student in Oregon, and I'm almost positive I've heard 'slash' to coordinate both verb phrases and clauses before, and most likely used those ways myself.

    (Looking back I see Jeremy has said the same thing as me, and we're in similar demographics. Here's another attestation though!)

  64. Geoffrey K. Pullum said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 5:22 pm

    Make sure you visit "English, Jack" and see Brett Reynolds' post on this topic. One piece of news is that he has now discovered that the American Heritage Dictionary lists slash as a coordinator (they say "conjunction"). It's not there in my old third edition, but perhaps this means I should upgrade. It's not in Webster's either. But kudos to whichever edition of the AHD has added it!

  65. Anonymous said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

    I have heard "slash" used in the sense of "or, rather," where the second element is meant to clarify or refine or even contradict the first. Here is an invented example:

    He is a banker slash swindler. (Formally he is a banker, but his banking activity amounts to swindling; he is not an honest banker; or all bankers are swindlers. Only one job, not two, are being described.)

  66. Stefie Kuzmack said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

    I'm currently doing some research on slash, so I was delighted to find a discussion of this topic. I'm afraid that I have to contradict you on one point: slash is used with phrases, although I have only a few examples (so far) where it's used with clauses.

    Phrase: These posts may become hackneyed if you are boring slash never do anything.

    Clause: It hadn’t yet occurred to me to question the teachings of authority figures, or to doubt heaven and hell, so the good-equals-heaven slash bad-equals-hell equation made sense.

    I also have a spoken example of multiple coordination with slash to offer, from the Daily Show: Folks, we all know that these difficult economic times have taken a toll. But I'm not sure any of us truly comprehend the devastating ramifications of this recession, slash depression, slash aaaahhhh! that we've been going through… until now.

    As others have noted, it also appears to have another use, forming coordinative compounds. For instance, I've collected a few examples where an affix is added to the end of the unit rather than to both conjuncts, e.g., Chomsky slash Jackendoffian.

  67. Jerry Friedman said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

    In keeping with some comments above, what if the NYT had transcribed the jack-of-all-trades' job description as "dishwasher / cake maker / cookie scooper / and whatever else they want me to do"?

    And does it imply anything about the status of "slash" that "cook / captain bold" will probably be read aloud the exact same way as "cook slash captain bold"?

  68. Xmun said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

    I'd be more convinced that "slash" really has an existence as a dinkum coordinator if I ever heard the word pronounced in that sense in spontaneous speech (rather than read aloud from a text where it's written as either "/" or "slash").

  69. Silent D said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 7:25 pm

    Interestingly, I definitely find it grammatical to say something like "This is where I watch TV slash play video games," or "I think I'm having hallucinations slash someone is playing tricks on me." I'm having a hard time thinking of a phrasal unit I _couldn't_ use slash with.

    I'm relatively young–21–so it's possible that this usage is more popular with younger crowds. Pretty much everyone I know my age or younger wouldn't bat an eye at slash used anywhere. It's part of the lexicon as far as most slash all of us are concerned.

  70. Xmun said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

    Oh well, crabbed age and youth again, I suppose. I'm 74.

  71. a said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 7:48 pm

    but it is very hard to imagine anyone saying ??This is where I watch TV slash play video games (the result of using slash to coordinate verb phrases). I think he's right on that. With clauses, I think there is no possibility of using it at all: consider *I think I'm having hallucinations slash someone is playing tricks on me. Doesn't seem like English at all, does it?

    I think these all sound fine slash maybe they don't.

  72. Andrew said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

    I'm 37 – not young. I too find the "watch TV slash play video games" construction completely well-formed.

  73. Aaron Toivo said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 9:31 pm

    Looking back, I do see I was a little ornery in my post, and for this I apologize. It was not my intention to be overly combative, just skeptical, and some residual annoyance from a few hours prior (when I first tried to post only to find comments had been turned off during the half-hour I wasted on writing) must have snuck past my mental censors. Again, I'm sorry for that.

  74. Jonathan said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 9:54 pm

    @Rubrick at 3:26.

    My questions are completely sincere. I really want to know what those parts of speech are. I don't think the original question is stupid at all.

  75. Matt G said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 10:01 pm

    @PaulB:

    Bravo! Made me laugh out loud!

  76. Nick Lamb said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 12:05 am

    Ontological reasons:

    Although Ontology is a discipline, us naughty computer scientists, forever kidnapping innocent words or phrases and corrupting them, have re-purposed the same word because of its meaning from formal logic (where it means sort of assumptions).

    "An ontology" to a certain species of computer scientist is a document in e.g. the Web Ontology Language (OWL, yes, very funny) with rules about knowledge in some specific context. e.g. For a knowledge system which deals with employees it might have "A person is born exactly once" whereas for one about wildlife "Nothing is both a plant and an animal". Because the world is such an infuriatingly interesting place these rules may not hold for all conceivable situations, but they're still helpful. So that's one reason why someone might look at a nice coordinator like 'slash' and say they think it's an adverb "for ontological reasons". They're imagining that there might be a rule which obliges 'slash' to be an adverb because of where you're allowed to use it, even though it seems like a more natural fit as a coordinator.

    Or they might be a crazy person.

  77. maidhc said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 3:38 am

    There's a form of stupid geek talk written humor based on the use of the HTML strike tag. I wonder if people have attempted to create a spoken equivalent?

  78. chris said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 4:38 am

    Since nobody else has yet, I thought I'd mention that "slash" used in this way is extremely close to the most (?) common use of the German word "beziehungsweise," which is often a little tricky to translate. In fact, for some years now I've been translating it with "/" wherever possible, because I've found that it's the closest English equivalent.

    "Beziehungsweise" suggests its coordinator status fairly clearly, as it literally means "in the manner of a relation"; it essentially says "there is a relation between these two terms/phrases/clauses" and that relation is something like AND, OR, or XOR. Quite often which of these is meant is left more or less open. That ambiguity can be hard to achieve in similar English contexts, but slash gives exactly the right level of vague.

  79. Xmun said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 5:43 am

    @maidhc

    It's proverbial that a word spoken is past recalling, but the phrase "I meant to say" serves as the oral equivalent of crossing out. George Herbert even used it in the third stanza of his poem "The Rose":

    Or if such deceits there be,
    Such delights I meant to say;
    There are no such things to me,
    Who have pass'd my right away.

  80. Xmun said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 5:55 am

    Which – _I_ meant to say! — is an example of one of the many touches of quiet humour in Herbert.

  81. Kapitano said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 5:03 pm

    Yes, obviously it's a co-ordinator, but what can it co-ordinate? Are there any of the nine categories mentioned that it can't handle?

    Which if any of these examples would you reject?

    - The board elected Bill as temporary treasurer slash secretary.

    - Thus at meetings he would be quite busy, having to notate slash account for the rest of us.

    - Bill's reaction was mixed – he described himself as grateful slash terrified of the new responsibility.

    - At the first meeting, he did both jobs quickly slash competently.

    - After a while though, he looked like he could use some slash any help.

    - Howeverm he kept on working because of slash in spite of the pressure.

    - Bill seemed to be driven and slash or simply desperate to please.

    - Then after a month, he let out an incohearant babble of frustration, screaming damn slash bugger slash fuck them all to hell..and stormed out.

  82. groki said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 8:17 pm

    maidhc: HTML strike tag … a spoken equivalent?

    how about ", that is, " or ", erm, " or the like? as in "we're in for some unfortunate, erm, interesting times."

  83. groki said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

    Kapitano: nicely done! they all work syntactically for me.

    (a quibble: semantically or rhetorically "because of slash in spite of the pressure" feels like it should be reversed somehow. it's as though the "in spite of" would be amplified by "because of" (so "because of" should follow), but "because of" gets a kind of anti-climax when "in spite of" follows. compare "some slash any" in the prior sentence.)

  84. groki said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

    chris: beziehungsweise (and also exactly the right level of vague)

    thanks for those. would you be willing to provide an example sentence in German and its literal translation in English? I'm curious to see "beziehungsweise" in context.

  85. David said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

    "Slash" functions as a coordinator in Swedish as well. In the blogosphere we find for instance "födelsedagsfika söndag slash bakissöndag slash städsöndag." (birthday coffee Sunday slash hangover Sunday slash cleaning Sunday).

    We also find it used with adjective-based predicate complements: "Det är roligt slash ovanligt att det bara finns bilder på Elsa från kvällen, normally brukar ju Emilia alltid stå framför kameran." (It's fun slash unusual that there are only pictures of Elsa from the night, normally Emilia is always the one who's in front of the camera.) [Note the code-switching use of English "normally" instead of Swedish "normalt".]

    Further, we find it with verbs: "Jag har ju upptäckt slash lärt mig mkt saker sen jag började för 4 ½ månad sen, I'll tell you guys." (I've discovered slash learnt a lot of things since I begun 4 1/2 months ago, I'll tell you guys.) [Note the code-switching again.]

    We do seem, after much searching, to find an example that connects two clauses: "Koncentrera er istället på fina smycken, dom finaste är såklart dom jag har gjort (slash dom fulaste har jag gjort eftersom jag inte tycker om att följa modet för mycket och gör udda saker som bara jag tycker är fina och ingen annan, men köp dom gärna ändå)." (Instead concentrate on pretty jewelry, the finest pieces are of course the ones I've made (slash I've made the ugliest ones since I don't like to follow fashion too much and make odd things which only I find pretty and no one else, but please buy them anyway).) You could substitute a full stop for the "slash" and make two sentences out of the clauses.

    Finally, usage guides recommend "snedstreck" (diagonal stroke) as the Swedish term for the slash sign. We also find this word used instead of "slash", such as in the following (about Josef Fritzl): "Det är bara en handfull diktatorer snedstreck tyranner, Osama Bin Ladin och Tommy Salo (åtminstone enligt en bunt svenskar) som når till hans nivå." (It's only a handful of dictators slash tyrants, Osama bin Ladin and Tommy Salo (at least according to a bunch of Swedes) who attain his level.) [Tommy Salo was an ice hockey goaltender who dropped a shot against Belarus in the 2002 Olympics, which meant Sweden lost.]

  86. Michael W said,

    August 29, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

    I did a quick search at Der Spiegel for an example for groki, and found this one, notable for its use of both beziehungswiese and '/'. Not only that but another coordinator, 'sowie' :

    …erst gegen den Pater, dann gegen Zollitsch und die Erzdiözese Freiburg, wegen "sexuellen Missbrauchs von Minderjährigen in Mittäterschaft bzw. durch Beihilfe/Unterlassung sowie Verleumdung"

    (full article)

    Translation : "first against the father[priest], then against Zollitsch and the archdiocese of Freiburg, for 'sexual abuse of minors with accomplices/through assistance/negligence, as well as slander'".

    I'm not too familiar with German law, but I think Mittäterschaft might also be used in cases where US law might have the charge of 'conspiracy'. This was the scandal in the Catholic Church earlier this year, in which abuse had occurred and was also covered up. As I understand it the allegation is not that others at the archdiocese were involved in any particular act of abuse, so their 'assistance' might be called negligence, depending on how you look at their actions. Thus 'bzw.' to explain the 'accomplices', but then '/' since even that role is a little vague.

  87. Michael W said,

    August 29, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

    'beziehungswiese', of course, is probably an academic term for 'related field'. I think I just showed why you never see the word written out – it's nearly always 'bzw.' in print.

  88. groki said,

    August 30, 2010 @ 3:35 am

    Michael W:

    thank you for that example, and for the detailed explanation; it was quite helpful.

  89. outeast said,

    August 30, 2010 @ 9:50 am

    A question:

    If 'cum' can be used in the same way as 'slash' (up to and including in multiple coordination, as in K Crossley-Holland 'He was the poet cum priest cum doctor', cited in the sOED), does that indicate that it has been miscast as a preposition? And if not – if 'cum' is justifiably cast as a preposition and not as a coordinator – then what's the difference?

  90. Martin Ellison said,

    September 1, 2010 @ 2:49 am

    Has noone mentioned slash fiction? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slash_fiction_ Probably just as well…

  91. Randal said,

    September 2, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

    I propose that another new coordinator has crept in, perhaps less new than 'slash':

    Versus.

    I prefer Bush's policies over Obama's.
    I prefer Bush's policies versus Obama's.

    I prefer talking to her over doing anything with her.
    I prefer talking to her versus doing anything with her.
    I prefer talking to her over doing anything with my mom.
    I prefer talking to her versus doing anything with my mom.
    * She's the one I prefer talking to over doing anything with.
    She's the one I prefer talking to versus doing anything with.
    She's the one I prefer talking to over doing anything with my mom.
    * She's the one I prefer talking to versus doing anything with my mom.

    If I were comparing chocolate and vanilla and strawberry, I would pick strawberry.
    If I were comparing chocolate versus vanilla versus strawberry, I would pick strawberry.
    *[wrong meaning] If I were comparing chocolate to vanilla to strawberry, I would pick strawberry.

  92. ohwilleke said,

    September 8, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

    A had never heard the word "Coordinator" before today. This word seems odd and esoteric.

    As I was taught and have always used the word "Conjunction," it has always meant what the list above describes as a coordinaor, and has always had a meaning that excludes prepositions and subordinators.

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