Root haughtiness

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A root haughtiness constraint in English derivational morphology? The latest PartiallyClips strip:

There's a lot we don't know about lexical word formation.

[Comments are closed, for several not entirely dumb-ass reasons. First, all the real word-formation experts would write in to point out that it looks like it would probably be the haughtiness of the stem, not of the root on which that stem is built. And they'd be right, I think. Oval-ass seems OK, and *semi-ovoidal-ass doesn't. But heck, people could argue about this for a month, and pretty soon fists would fly. Second, someone who hadn't even looked at PartiallyClips would soon write in to point out the utterly irrelevant xkcd strip on the -ass suffix, not having noticed either its irrelevance or the fact that the notes below PartiallyClips strip cited it anyway. And third, since there is very little about language that the nine thousand posts on Language Log have not had something to say about somewhere, people would probably point out that way back in 2005 a post by Mark Liberman quoted an anonymous correspondent who quoted a friend pseudonymously designated X as follows:

the productive -ASS as used in cool-ass, trivial-ass, stupid-ass, dumb-ass cliticises with most adjectives, except where prohibited by the ass filter (see also X, 1998). Thus we fail to see,

  • existentially-quantified-ass
  • dependent-on-the-meaning-of-the-word-"is"-ass
  • automatically-garbage-collected-ass

Analyses by X et al. (1998b) posit a +ASS feature on adjectives that specifies whether or not they can take part in these constructions. +ASS is strongly correlated with the semantic features +HUMAN and -BRAIN_IN_VAT."

This is actually relevant, though it does not agree on the formulation of the constraint, defending instead a kind of human-relevance semantic property as crucial. But you have to admit that if this is the direction the discussion is going to take, we don't want to read 92 smutty-ass comments on the topic with clever-ass invented examples, now do we? Of course not.]

Comments are closed.