usage of the week

after a recent episode of sleep walking around the dorm, there's been a lot of cause for people to use the past participle of 'to sleep walk.' The past participle is apparently NOT 'sleep walked,' but 'slept walked,' or 'slep walked.' this phenomena is VERY wide-spread around here. I'd estimate at least a dozen people have understood and used these forms in the last few days.

no observed forms so far have dropped the 'ed' from 'walked' and marked only the vowel change and 't' ending on 'sleep,' leading me to wonder why the construction ends up with this double-marking. if it's treated as a single lexical item, then the vowel change makes a lot of sense (witness the two changes from 'sleep' to 'slept'). This is the best explanation i've thought of so far...

a google search for 'slept walked' returned almost 10,000 hits, some hyphenated, mostly from xangas. and a search for 'slep walked' asked 'did you mean 'slept walked'? this leads me to believe that the difference between the two is just the result of a phonological change, and that writers believe 'slept walked' is the proper form. 'sleepwalked,' however, still seems to be the dictionary-sanctioned form, returning 54,000 hits. 'sleep walked' had 23,000 hits, and a suggestion for the one-word variant.

comparison to other verbs hasn't helped much yet. the most similar construction i can think of is 'to speed walk,' and i'm fairly certain most speakers would find '*he sped walked' incorrect. it yields only 233 google hits. send in your examples, if you've got 'em!


a crisis of conscience

what if i don't hate model theoretic semantics as much as i once thought?

categorial grammar, as i shakily understand it, goes a little something like this: sentences can be broken down into sytactic constituents, and those pieces can be broken down (into words, say). Each constituent, though, say 'to the store' has meaning that is constant over most of that constituent's appearances in other sentences. Thus, meaning (semantics) and structure (syntax) should go together. if 'the store' has a meaning, it should be some kind of unified structure. ditto 'to the store,' and 'ran to the store.'

already we've made a lot of assumptions i'm not comfortable with: that sentences are the largest semantic unit (and that they express truth conditions), that meanings of constituents are consistent over multiple sentences/discourses, that meaning is compositional (built up from smaller units in a systematic way). yuck.

but, on the other hand, it's a pretty elegant solution once you accept all that.

categorial grammar treats each constituent as a function that operates on sets: input a noun into a verb, and you get a truth value (true if the noun is a member of the set of things that does the verb, false if it isn't). and these functions are identical to the structural categories that build the sentence up syntactically.

i'd love it if i were a math person, but i feel obligated to hate it, since it's a lifeless, bloodsucking way to look at language. i think.


i hate model theoretic semantics

there are a lot of things syntax can't account for without reference to semantics. so in syntax class, we're learning that each 'linguistic expression' is an ordered triple consisting of a pronunciation, a syntactic structure, and a semantic meaning. simple! then we just add them together in some certain way, and we can explain how larger linguistic expressions are formed.

some notes on semantics from class today:
This is pretty uncontroversial in the field today, Model Theoretic Semantics. Well, i shouldn't say that; everything is controversial. It's uncontroversial in all reasonable linguistics. [laughter]

we will treat meaning as if it is an object in the world that we talk ABOUT.

meaning is the semantic grammar that maps an expression to a model theoretic object. [little picture of a dotted line between the two.]

sentences are assigned a value of 1 or 0; true or false. there are some who argue that there are actually an infinite range of values, but whether that actually gets you anywhere...

knowing the meaning of a sentences is knowing what conditions it would take to make it true.

meaning is a function that inputs all possible worlds and returns a value of 1 in worlds where the sentence is true.

how poetic.

my rage is limitless.