open letter to Andrea Lunsford 1

Fri Jun 13 00:14:37 UTC 2003

        Arnold, I really like the open letter, and I appreciate your posting it here.  Am I missing something with your initial examples, though?  Both of them are at least potentially ambiguous, which only provides fodder for the defenders of the PAP.  Detention centers as well as detainees can be difficult to locate, and while I believe that Carnegie Hall did not move or change its name in 1962, it could in principle have happened.  I note also that the Carnegie Hall example does not violate the PAP, since the antecedent of "it" is not "Philharmonic" but "home."  Actually, I think these examples just support my point that the New York Times is not a particularly good example of elite writing.

        With respect to your more substantive points:  How would your argument apply to, say, the double negative?  Once part of standard English, it has been driven out of the language by a false application of mathematical logic.  "I don't need no stinking badge" is a stronger statement than its alternatives.  Still, there is no question in my mind that the double negative is verboten in formal written English.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: Arnold Zwicky [mailto:zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU]
Sent: Thursday, June 12, 2003 12:38 PM
Subject: open letter to Andrea Lunsford 1

[the original was too long for this list, so i've split it
into three parts.]

a (distressingly long) open letter to you about possessive
antecedents for personal pronouns, with special reference to
Lunsford & Connors:


>>From the editorial page of the 6/3/03 New York Times...
  In the first (of two) editorials, "The Abusive Detentions of
    Sept. 11":
        Detention centers routinely blocked efforts by detainees'
        families and lawyers to locate them.
  In the second, "A New Twist at Lincoln Center":
        After all, Carnegie Hall was the Philharmonic's home from
        1891 to 1962, when it moved to what was then called
        Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center.

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