Affective demonstratives

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We can fairly be accused of spending too much time recently on the subject of how Sarah Palin talks, though in this respect, Language Log is simply reflecting the level of popular interest represented by the millions watching her clips on YouTube. This post also pivots (to use a couple of her special words) off of her way of talking — so if you're tired of the subject, you might want to move on, or even avail yourself of our famous double-your-money-back-in-case-of-less-than-full-satisfaction guarantee.

In a comment on a recent LL post, John Curran wrote "I noticed last night that Governor Palin's verbal style seemed to employ more deictic terms". (Here deictic refers to the demonstrative "pointing words" this, that, these, and those.) John's observation is mostly but not entirely true, as this table of word-counts from the debate transcript suggests:

  Palin Biden ratio
this 42 47 0.89
that 300 165 1.82
these 15 1 15.0
those 34 10 3.40

Joe Biden actually used this more often than Sarah Palin did. And a simple word count doesn't test John's hypothesis about that, since this word has four common uses, only two of which are deictic. Examples from Gov. Palin's contributions to the debate:

DEICTIC Determiner He sounded that warning bell.
Pronoun And we need to stop that.
Relative clause
And with the surge that has worked
we're now down to pre-surge numbers in Iraq.
Complementizer And we know that it's real.

If we break out the deictic uses of that, we find this pattern:

  Palin Biden ratio
that-Det 48 18 2.67
that-Pro 74 53 1.40

So Biden used this a bit more often, and Palin used deictic that, these, and those more often. In the case of these, she racked up an impressive 15-to-1 advantage, including some pretty virtuoso pointing:

Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those who are managing our money and loaning us these dollars.
And East Coast politicians who don't allow energy-producing states like Alaska to produce these, to tap into them, and instead we're relying on foreign countries to produce for us.

In general, Gov. Palin often uses demonstratives in situations where others might hesitate because it's not clear that there's anything definite enough to point to. I already quoted her reference to "that warning bell" that John McCain is said to have sounded. Another example is her reference to Condoleeza Rice "trying to forge that peace":

And Secretary Rice, having recently met with leaders on one side or the other there, also, still in these waning days of the Bush administration, trying to forge that peace, and that needs to be done, and that will be top of an agenda item, also, under a McCain-Palin administration.

And another example is her assertion that Americans are "craving that straight talk".

Oh, yeah, it's so obvious I'm a Washington outsider. And someone just not used to the way you guys operate. Because here you voted for the war and now you oppose the war. You're one who says, as so many politicians do, I was for it before I was against it or vice- versa. Americans are craving that straight talk and just want to know, hey, if you voted for it, tell us why you voted for it and it was a war resolution.

Or again:

But even more important is that world view that I share with John McCain.

There's something going on here that I recognize, or at least I think I do. But I'm not sure that I know exactly what it is, and I don't believe that there's a standard term to refer to it, and I certainly don't understand its distribution in time and space and society.

Consider the use of "that twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes" in the second sentence of Peter Keough, "Paul Newman on 'The Road to Perdition'":

Many of the eulogies for the late great Paul Newman have focused on the saintliness of the man, an aura of goodness that emanates from him both on and off the screen. “Someone Up There Likes Me,” indeed. Truth be told, he always had a knack for playing an asshole, whether an outlaw or a rogue or an outcast or a downright villain, that twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes could just as easily evince malice, irony, corruption or anarchy as benevolence and beatitude.

Neither the eyes nor the twinkle have previously been mentioned, though perhaps they're evoked by the "aura of goodness" or just by the mention of Paul Newman. But by using the demonstrative, Keough brings the twinkle into the discourse in a way that makes it seem like comfortable common ground.

This use seems to be related to sense 1.b. in the OED's entry for that as "demonstrative adjective"

1.a. The simple demonstrative used (as adjective in concord with a n.), to indicate a thing or person either as being actually pointed out or present, or as having just been mentioned and being thus mentally pointed out. (Now distinguished from the definite article THE as being demonstrative, i.e. pointing out, and not merely definitive, i.e. distinguishing or singling out.)

b. Indicating a person or thing assumed to be known, or to be known to be such as is stated. Often (esp. before a person's name …) implying censure, dislike, or scorn; but sometimes commendation or admiration. Freq. standing before a noun or noun-phrase in apposition with another.

Since I don't know an existing term for the OED type II.1.b uses, I'll call them affective demonstratives.

But the OED's citations are somewhat different in character from the cases we're talking about here, e.g.

1563 Homilies II. Gluttony (1859) 301 Holofernes..had his head stricken from his shoulders by that seely woman Judith. 1591 SPENSER Tears of Muses 401 Thy gay Sonne, that winged God of Loue. 1611 SHAKES. Cymb. III. iv. 15 That Drug-damn'd Italy.

There's certainly no apposition involved in any of Gov. Palin's affective demonstratives. And "that straight talk" is something like "that seely [i.e. holy] woman Judith" or "that drug-damn'd Italy"; but in many of her examples (e.g. "that peace" and "that world-view"), there's no explicit evaluative modifier either.

Often, there seems to me to be a tint of "censure, dislike, or scorn" (or "commendation or admiration") in Gov. Palin's use of demonstrative determiners that can also be construed as ordinary references to persons or things "having just been mentioned and thus mentally pointed out". For example:

Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be all, end all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet, so those dangerous regimes, again, cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, period. Our nuclear weaponry here in the U.S. is used as a deterrent. And that's a safe, stable way to use nuclear weaponry. But for those countries — North Korea, also, under Kim Jong Il — we have got to make sure that we're putting the economic sanctions on these countries and that we have friends and allies supporting us in this to make sure that leaders like Kim Jong Il and Ahmadinejad are not allowed to acquire, to proliferate, or to use those nuclear weapons. It is that important. Can we talk about Afghanistan real quick, also, though?

If this is true, it might help explain why she uses most demonstratives more often than might be expected — she intends them to carry an emotional as well as demonstrative load.

Some questions: Is there already a literature on this topic? Is there really a continuum between ordinary and affective demonstratives? What sub-types are worth separating out? What is the difference in affective uses between proximal (this, these) and distal (that, those) demonstratives? Do affective uses of demonstratives develop in other languages as well? Given the long history of affective demonstratives in formal writing, why do Sarah Palin's uses sometimes seem unexpectedly colloquial or informal?

[SIde note #1: Though I've never tried to verify this impression by counting, I believe that there's a rich vein of affective demonstratives in Thomas Pynchon's interior monologues. Thus from Gravity's Rainbow (p. 21 of the 1995 Penguin edition):

This morning in his IN basket were order sending him TDY some hospital out in the East End. No explanation beyond an attached copy of a note to ACHTUNG requesting his reassignment "as part of the P.W.E. Testing Programme." Testing? P.W.E. is Political Warfare Executive, he looked that up. Some more of that Minnesota Multiphasic shit, no doubt. But it will be a change from this rocket-hunting routine, which is beginning to get a little old.

Side note #2: The OED's discussion of that II.1.b has a sort of codicil, omitted above, documenting a sexist use that was new to me: "Also that one, used disparagingly of a woman." Citations:

1848 THACKERAY Van. Fair liv. 486 You don't know how fond I was of that one... Damme, I followed her like a footman.  1922 F. H. BURNETT Head of House of Coombe vii. 75 That one in the drawing-room isn't going to interfere with the Nursery. Not her! 1980 J. DRUMMOND Such a Nice Family v. 22, I tell you, it's her!.. I wouldn't forget that one, not if I lived to be a thousand.

I've certainly seen the phrase "that one", but it never occurred to me that it was specifically feminine in reference. I wonder if this is really true.]

[Update: Lauren Squires has a relevant discussion over at Polyglot Conspiracy: "It's not the accent".]



  1. Sili said,

    October 5, 2008 @ 9:55 am

    Doesn't strike me as all that feminine in reference, but there's certainly something masculine about the use in those examples – I could just as easy see it applied to horses, dogs, boats, cars or game.

    Of course now I'm mostly reminded of Andy's "I wanʔ thaʔ one."

  2. Heather Rose Jones said,

    October 5, 2008 @ 10:38 am

    Another category that would be interesting to explore (or may have been already), not quite equivalent to the "affective proximal deictic" is the narrative use of "this" as something like a pre-referential demonstrative. I'm thinking of its use at the first mention of an entity in a story to indicate that the entity will be a focal topic of the story. "I was walking down the street and I saw this guy … [story ensues about 'this guy']".

    I have fond memories of a spontaneous hour-long discussion of this use in the UC Berkeley linguistics department office for the benefit of a non-native speaker who was trying to integrate the function into his understanding of demonstratives.

  3. Lukas said,

    October 5, 2008 @ 10:42 am

    This seems to me like the kind of process that could have gotten us (and most other languages that have them) articles way back. I have no idea, but does anyone know if that is how it went down?

  4. vasudeva said,

    October 5, 2008 @ 11:16 am

    I've noticed this type of device in advertising a lot.

    By earning more income through our work-at-home program, you'll be able to afford that new car, to finally take that vacation you've been dreaming of!

    It always strikes me as particularly hokey and manipulative.

    Similar in thrust: when commercials refer to 'Baby', by which they're referencing my (theoretical) baby. It's probably effective enough a buzzword that it's worth sounding stilted and faux-familiar.

  5. Mark Liberman said,

    October 5, 2008 @ 11:56 am

    vasudeva: I've noticed this type of device in advertising a lot.

    That's an excellent point, underlining the way that affective demonstratives invite the audience onto a common ground of shared knowledge (or perhaps I should say, "that common ground of shared knowledge").

  6. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    October 5, 2008 @ 12:05 pm

    @Heather Rose Jones: Yes, I think there's a very strong connection between the "known only to the speaker" sense of "this/these" and the "known already to the audience" sense of "that/those".

  7. Geoff Nunberg said,

    October 5, 2008 @ 12:26 pm

    These uses of demonstratives are discussed, under the label of "emotive demonstratives," in Lynsey Wolter's 2006 UC Santa Cruz dissertation "That's That," which is available at

  8. Barbara Partee said,

    October 5, 2008 @ 9:40 pm

    I didn’t know there were so many kinds of non-demonstrative uses of demonstratives until I ran into a translation problem when writing about Mandarin Chinese possessives, especially ones that would seem to literally translate as “Zhangshang’s those three sweaters”, something you can’t say that way in English. I found some uses of English those that might be imagined in such a context, and Gregory Ward told me about existing studies of them. I report what I learned from Gregory and from Lynsey Wolter in a paper available at , which appeared in a festschrift for Larry Horn.
    Geoff Nunberg mentions ‘emotive demonstratives’ studied in Lynsey Wolter’s thesis. Lyons (1999 p.284), citing his earlier work (Lyons 1995), points to something similar when he says:
    "as Lyons (1995) argues, generics of this kind [bare plurals] are not incompatible with Dets (as the description “bare” implies they should be), since they may contain a demonstrative, interpreted as non-restrictive and expressing emotional distance, and demonstratives only occur in the specifier in English:
    (1) I’m all in favour of people cycling more, but those mountain bikes are a nuisance in the country. "

    I don’t think I agree that this use of those expresses emotional distance; I am more inclined to suppose that it belongs together with what Robin Lakoff (Lakoff 1974) called “emotional deixis” used to express “emotional solidarity” between speaker and addressee, which also involves a presupposition of shared familiarity with the referent. That is presumably what we have in the annoying use of presumptuous fake familiarity in advertisements that invite you to buy their product for “that certain someone” (noted by commenter vasudeva; and NPR hosts sometimes use a milder form of it during their fund drives and exhort the hearer, “Don’t put it off any longer — make that phone call right now.” These certainly do not express emotional distance, but something more like intimacy, which may be inappropriate. The pseudo-intimacy in the “annoying use” seems to come from approximate paraphrasability by something like “the person you and I know you’re thinking of”, or “the phone call you and I know you’ve been thinking of making”. But of course it’s not intrinsic to that use of the demonstrative to be annoying, since it can be perfectly appropriate in other contexts. My dentist can perfectly well greet me in his examining room with “Well, how’s that tooth been doing?”, and as far as my teeth go, my dentist probably has a more intimate relation with them than even I do. As Wolter (2004) notes, the presumably-shared emotional affect can be either positive or negative, but mutual familiarity is definitely presupposed. That is probably the source of the annoyance when an impersonal advertiser uses it.
    And there’s another kind – at least I thought it was a different kind when I wrote the paper linked above, though now they strike me more as variants of the same thing. This use is known in the literature as the “private shared knowledge” use, a term that Bowdle and Ward (1995) credit to Joshi (1982). Ward (p.c.) explains it as follows: The idea is that the distal demonstrative in English (that, those) can mark a referent as something that is familiar to speaker and hearer as conversational partners, as opposed to something that is generally known or inferable. So, compare:
    A: Why so sleepy? — B: The neighbors had a loud party.
    A: Why so sleepy? — B: Those neighbors had a loud party.
    In the first case, the neighbors could be the inferable neighbors than any urban denizen can be presumed to have, while the latter requires that A & B have discussed those particular neighbors on a previous occasion. See Gundel, Hedberg, and Zacharski (1993). [That’s all from Gregory Ward.]
    These ‘private shared knowledge’ demonstratives are particularly suited to contexts in which they are ‘harking back’ to some earlier discussion, but the entities referred to have not been mentioned in the immediately preceding context, nor are they being pointed to.
    (2) a. Those three books of yours are still in my office.
    b. I really didn’t like that one argument of his, and I told him so.
    These uses could be paraphrased by adding a metalinguistic phrase such as “that I told you about”, “that we were talking about earlier”. The style is somewhat colloquial, and there is some presumption of familiarity – the speaker conveys confidence that the hearer will recognize the intended referent, although it hasn’t been mentioned in the immediate context.
    @ Heather Rose Jones: These “familiar” uses of that/those (including emotive that/those) are different from the indefinite this/these studied by Ellen Prince in her 1981 paper listed below in at least two ways: (i) NPs built with “familiar that/those” pattern as definites rather than indefinites; and (ii) whereas NPs built with indefinite this are understood as ‘speaker-known, hearer-unknown or hearer-irrelevant’, those built with “familiar that/those”, as the chosen name suggests, are understood as familiar to both hearer and speaker.
    Bowdle, Brian, and Ward, Gregory. 1995. Generic demonstratives. In Proceedings of the Twenty-First Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, 32-43.
    Gundel, Jeanette, Hedberg, N., and Zacharaski, R. 1993. Cognitive Status and the Form of Referring Expressions in Discourse. Language 69:274-307.
    Joshi, Aravind K. 1982. Role of mutual beliefs in question-answer systems. In Mutual Knowledge, ed. N. Smith. New York: Academic Press.
    Lakoff, Robin. 1974. Remarks on this and that. In CLS 10, 345-356. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.
    Lyons, Christopher. 1995. Proper nouns, generics, and the count-mass distinction. Ms., Paper presented at the ESRI Research Seminar, University of Salford.
    Lyons, Christopher. 1999. Definiteness: Cambridge textbooks in linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Prince, Ellen F. 1981. On the inferencing of indefinite 'this' NPs. In Elements of Discourse Understanding, ed. Bonnie Lynn Webber and Ivan Sag Aravind K. Joshi, 231-250. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Wolter, Lynsey Kay. 2004. Demonstratives, definiteness and determined reference. In Proceedings of NELS 34, eds. Keir Moulton and Matthew Wolf. Amherst, MA: GLSA.

  9. Skullturf Q. Beavispants said,

    October 5, 2008 @ 11:56 pm

    The Onion quite commonly uses the construction "this one", in expressions like "this one guy said", for humorous effect — generally, the chattiness or the informality of that construction makes for an amusing contrast with the quasi-journalistic style or context.

  10. bulanjdjan said,

    October 6, 2008 @ 3:12 am

    Robin Lakoff calls this emotional deixis (Lakoff, Robin. 1974. Remarks on This and That. Papers from the Tenth Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society 10:345-356.), which is where I assume Lynsey Wolter gets the label from for her thesis. (Geoff: I haven't been able to get the link to work, any tips?)

    The same phenomenon is found in Dalabon, an Australian language I'm studying for my PhD. The proximal demonstrative is used to signify the speaker has an affinity or positive attitude towards the referent; the 'unfamiliar' demonstrative ('that one you might not know what I'm talking about yet') is used to signify the speaker does not have an affinity with the referent, or does not like it; the 'recognitional' demonstrative ('that one you know what I'm talking about') is used to signal solidarity between the speaker and the addessee (Lakoff calls this 'comraderie).

    Himmelmann (1996) is also a good reference for non-spatial uses of demonstratives, e.g. 'new-this', which Heather Rose Jones mentioned. (Himmelmann, Nikolaus P. 1996. Demonstratives in Narrative Discourse: A Taxonomy of Universal Uses. In Studies in Anaphora, edited by Barbara Fox. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.)

  11. Vinaigrette Girl said,

    October 6, 2008 @ 9:33 am

    Here in Blighty, there is a locution used on the Berks/Oxon border and north to mid-Oxfordshire (may be used elsewhere, though I've not heard it), where the distal demonstrative is almost always used negatively: "Oh, she's one of those who are always on the other side of the fence no matter what you say"; but the demonstrative "these" as a type is assumed also to be known to the audience: "She's one of these who's always mouthin' off, you know the kind I mean."

    For the group of people who use the demonstratives, neither can be construed as positive… [winks]

  12. Randy said,

    October 6, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

    I don't know it is part of the same usage pattern, but I have recently noticed newsreaders on the National news in Canada using demonstatives where I once would have expected the definite article. So, the hurricane that swept the Gulf Coast two days go becomes "that hurricane that swept the Gulf Coast two days ago". So far, at least, I can see a referent, because the newreader is referring to something that was in the news before. However, the usage seems to assume a continuity of watching. If you didn't see the previous news item, you won't know what we're talking about. There seems to be an attempt to make or maintain a connection with the audience. Whether this is an attempt to be familiar, or just to emphasize some temporal continuity is not clear.

  13. Lynsey Wolter said,

    October 6, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

    @bulanjdjan: Yes, everything I said about emotive/expressive deixis is built on Robin Lakoff's great paper. But if you're still interested, try this link:

  14. Keira Ballantyne said,

    October 7, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

    Susan Strauss has worked on this; her 2002 paper looks at the distinction between this & that in terms of "ownership" of the referent. The hypothesis is that "this" iconically indexes "ownership" of the referent by the speaker, whereas the distal "that" gets used for shared ownership. Which works very nicely for "this straight talk"–as though we the listeners all wanted very much a candidate who employs "straight talk" and McCain picked up on that common ground of ours.

    Strauss' paper is: This, that and it in spoken American English: a demonstrative system of gradient focus. Language Sciences. 24: 131-52.

    @bulanjdjan: Neat. Do those demonstratives have a spatial semantics as well? In Yapese, there's a tripartite system of demonstratives: speaker proximal, hearer proximal & distal. The hearer proximal gets used for the "shared ownership" task.

    @skullturf: That's a different "this"; where this gets used for a brand new referent, usually at the start of a narrative, and the "this" signals that the referent will be a central character in the story (the "this guy walks into a bar" this, if you will). (Gundel, Hedberg & Zacharski also discuss this one in their papers on reference.)

  15. Wednesday Round Up #32 « Neuroanthropology said,

    October 8, 2008 @ 8:53 am

    [...] Log has featured a series of posts on the Governor from Alaska Also Outside Affective Demonstratives Palin’s [...]

  16. Scott Young said,

    October 8, 2008 @ 10:21 am

    the following is an excerpt from the New Yorkers recent piece on Sarah Palin:

    “I see us as the most unique state in the union,” Palin replied. “I sure wish that we could be recognized as the head and not the tail of the U.S., because we should be the head—literally and figuratively.” She continued, “Alaska could lead with the energy policy, we should be the head. So I don’t see us as a colony but just extremely unique, and I say Alaskans, too, we have such a love, a respect for our environment, for our lands, for our wildlife, for our clean water and our clean air. We know what we’ve got up here and we want to protect that, so we’re gonna make sure that our developments up here do not adversely affect that environment at all. I don’t want development if there’s going to be that threat to harming our environment.

    What I find relevent here particularly is her use of "the" as a weak demonstrative in "Alaska could lead with the energy policy," and of course her now-classic use of "that" as a stronger deictic demonstrative in the final sentence, "I don’t want development if there’s going to be that threat to harming our environment."

    This is similar in fact to the way in which Brian Williams uses "that" on NBC Nightly News: when introducing stories, he often will say things such as, "and now we turn to that story of the California wildfires," or even more clearly, "you'll recall that Oregan bank robber who…" Brian Williams and, I believe, Sarah Palin, employ "that" in a way that gently pulls out of the public consciousness prior-known items, as if to say "the" energy policy and "that" threat, you know, those very energy policies and threats that we all already are aware of.

  17. mollymooly said,

    October 8, 2008 @ 12:08 pm

    In Irish English, it is common to refer to an unnamed but specific man as "your man" (often written "yer man" to reflect the pronunciation) e.g.
    -"look at yer man [=that man] over there! who does he think he is!"
    -"he reminds me of yer man [=what's-his-name] off the television"
    -"…so I says to yer man [the aforementioned], 'you must be joking!'"

    The feminine equivalent of "your man" is "your one" (sometimes written "yer wan", though that doesn't match my pronunciation).

    So "one" does seem to have specifically feminine uses. In the Irish context I had suspected it was a corruption of "woman".

  18. vergueishon said,

    October 8, 2008 @ 4:02 pm

    How does a construction like "them + [NP]" fit in here? There's clearly some affective deixis going on here. Some examples that come to mind:

    1. "Them kids are always up ta sumthin', I tell ya!"
    2. "Oh, he's sore ‘cause them Yankees are cowards and won't come and fight."
    3. "How 'bout them Yankees [the baseball team]."

    One analogous construction that comes to mind might be "You + [NP]". So, e.g.,

    1. "You brilliant genius, you!"
    2. "You people are always complaining about some thing or another."

    Then again, I suppose the second usage here could be substituted by "You'all", syntactically, and may just be another example of attempts to unambiguously mark the English second person pronoun with plurality. As well, the phrase "you people" is clearly a loaded term with very narrow, negative connotations. As concerns the first example, could it be rephrased as "You (are) a brilliant genius, you (are)!" Different effect, sure, but perhaps the verbs are implied.

    Still, I feel like there's some similar semantic processes at work here, in all of these examples. Anyone care to comment/correct me?

  19. Josh Millard said,

    October 8, 2008 @ 7:30 pm

    I have nothing substantial to add at this point; I'm just glad to see my vague perception of her high-count use of "that"s and "those"s wasn't pure nuttiness.

  20. Caroline B said,

    October 8, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

    The use recorded in 1.b of the OED seems to have an equivalent in Latin "illus, -a, -um", which all good elementary textbooks tell students to render "that (famous) one" when it modifies a noun.

  21. Jay Livingston said,

    October 9, 2008 @ 10:17 pm

    @Vasudeva, Mark Liberman, and Ran Ari-Gur: It's not just that "that" makes the object known to both speaker and audience. In the examples from Palin ("craving that straight talk") and the ad ("afford that car"), the demonstrative "that" implies that the thing is well known to the speaker and audience (who are thus united), but using "that" rather than "this" also implies that the thing is not quite in their grasp. (Would another example be those football cheers to "hold that line" or "block that kick"?)

  22. Nijma said,

    October 13, 2008 @ 6:00 pm

    "that one"

    It is a political truism not to use the name of your opponent. Every time you say their name instead of "my opponent" is supposed to give them more name-recognition mojo. At the time I thought McCain was just searching for a substitute for using his opponent's name.

    Sure there was Marlo Thomas in the sitcom "That Girl" but I don't see the phrase as being particularly feminine. But it IS a phrase that implies disapproval. No problem wtih that: if you're running for office against someone, disapproval goes with the territory.

  23. bbbbarry said,

    October 13, 2008 @ 6:20 pm

    I'm not sure if anyone has noticed Barack Obama's promise, in his convention speech: "And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom."

    That affective demonstrative! Showin' up everywhere!

  24. bbbbarry said,

    October 13, 2008 @ 6:24 pm

    From the same speech: "That makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend."

  25. TB said,

    November 29, 2008 @ 9:08 pm

    Whoops, this is way old, but there were so many "that"s of this kind in Gravity's Rainbow, usually in the dialogue or thoughts of Slothrop, that I thought it must be some sort of period detail, like period slang ("you're the tops, baby!")

  26. bulanjdjan said,

    December 9, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

    @Lynsey Wolter: thanks!

    @Keira Ballantyne: the Dalabon demonstrative paradigm divides into spatially-specific and non-spatially-specific forms. The spatially-specific forms index the referent as 'this in the here-space' (~proximal), or, as 'that in the there-space' (~distal). The non-spatially-specific forms index the referent as 'identifiable' (~recogntional), or, as 'unfamiliar' ('that one you might not know what I'm talking about yet'). There is also a contrastive form, as in 'that other one, alternative one'. It doesn't appear to have spatial semantics.

    @Barbara Partee: really interesting, thanks!

  27. maidhc said,

    April 20, 2010 @ 4:00 am

    mollymooly: The Irish construction "yer man" is equivalent to "do dhuine" in Irish, but "duine" means "person" with no implication of gender. Hence difficulties arise when trying to put it into English, where "here's yer person now" is not very idiomatic.

  28. Who is the Sarah Palin of the Canterbury Tales? « Corpus linguistics said,

    November 17, 2011 @ 6:06 pm

    [...] Liberman's various posts on the Language Log: here and here (and maybe here; Chris Potts also has a follow-up on the LL [...]

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