Fronter and Backer

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Sat Jun 22 14:51:10 UTC 2002

In a message dated 06/22/2002 12:25:49 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU writes:

>  Larry will probably tell us that "front" and "back" are not gradable per
se. It
>  is interesting that one dimension would be gradadable and another not.

Yes, the dimension is gradable: "further forward" and "further back".  You
can also say "more forward" and "more backward" but "backward" has all sorts
of other meanings, e.g. retarded, backwoods, behind-the-times, underdeveloped
(referring to countries,the long-standing PC term is "developing").  Or you
could use the nautical terms "forward" and "aft" (with superlatives
"forwardmost" and "aftermost"), but I'm sure even a freshman linguistics
class would find that strange.  Hmm, It would make a great skit at the MLA
convention to talk about "bower vowels" and "sterner vowels".

If you think the front-back dimension is clumsy when it comes to gradation,
consider the left-right dimension.  Someone who speaks out of the side of his
mouth has "liberal" and "conservative" phonemes?  Or "starboarder" and
"porter" phoenemes and can be said to have a bad case of the yaws?

      Jim Landau

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