Extension(?) of tough-movement

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 11 16:05:11 UTC 2008

Well, it could be merely a tip of the slung.

Historical note: "Afram"[sic] is one one of the many names for
Americans of known, admitted, or claimed African ancestry that have
been proposed over the years.


On Thu, Apr 10, 2008 at 9:58 AM, Damien Hall
<halldj at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>  Poster:       Damien Hall <halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
>  Subject:      Extension(?) of tough-movement
>  -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>  Last night, on hearing the news of my engagement, a friend (Afr-Am, male, early
>  50s, hardware-store owner) of mine said
>  (1) "That's happy to hear."
>  The construction caught my attention and, sure enough, _CGEL_ (p1246, list
>  [6]i.a) doesn't have _happy_ in its sample of adjectives that license
>  tough-movement.  The _CGEL_ sample is just that, of course, a sample, and not
>  an exhaustive list, but it still seems to me that the use of _happy_ in this
>  construction extends the construction into a semantic area where it is at least
>  less usual (and which isn't discussed by _CGEL_).
>  _CGEL_ notes (p1246):  'The adjectives and nouns in [6i] have to do mainly with
>  the ease or difficulty of the situation described in the infinitival clause or
>  with one's emotional attitude to it'.  So, among the adjectives and nouns that
>  _are_ listed by _CGEL_, my friend could have said:
>  (2) "That's good to hear."
>       ( ~ "It's good to hear that.")
>       implies:  "That situation is good."
>  (3) "That's a joy to hear."
>       ( ~ "It's a joy to hear that.")
>       implies:  "That situation is a joy."
>  [where ~ is 'alternates with']
>  But _happy_ doesn't fit that frame:
>  (1') "That's happy to hear."  *~ "It's happy to hear that".
>        rather                  ~ "I'm happy to hear that."
>  Similarly, the two examples I give above don't fit the _happy_ frame:
>  "That's good to hear."   *~ "I'm good to hear that."
>   rather                  ~ "It's good to hear that."
>  "That's a joy to hear."  *~ "I'm a joy to hear that."
>   rather                  ~ "It's a joy to hear that."
>  So it seems to me that there's something more to it than "one's emotional
>  attitude to [the situation]".  (Not that _CGEL_ ought to have provided a full
>  discussion and analysis;  that's what articles and conferences are for, not
>  grammars.)  Speaking of the class of adjectives and nouns that _CGEL_ lists,
>  not only does the A or N have to describe "the ease or difficulty of the
>  situation [...] or [...] one's emotional attitude towards it", but the A or N
>  also has to be one that can be used _in the same sense_ to describe the
>  situation directly.
>  What I mean is this.  Whereas I have a sense that _good_ in
>  (2) "That's good to hear."
>  is the 'same' _good_ as the one in
>  (2') "That situation is good."
>  I don't have the sense that _happy_ in
>  (1'') "That situation is happy."
>  is the 'same' _happy_ as the one in
>  (1) "That's happy to hear."
>  It seems to me that _good_, as in (2), and more generally the other As and Ns in
>  the class discussed by _CGEL_, aren't actually as intimately connected with the
>  attitude of the speaker as are _happy_ and other members of that class.  That
>  is, the _good_ / _CGEL_ class is a more objective description of the situation,
>  which doesn't have an obligatory connection to what the speaker personally feels
>  about it, though that situation can/maybe most often does exist.  On the other
>  hand, the _happy_ class is _only_ a personal description of the speaker's
>  attitude, which is maybe why, for me, it doesn't fit in the more objective
>  * "It's happy to hear that."
>  frame.
>  Here, my semantics fail me.  So my questions and observations are:
>  - What do others think of these generalisations?  Independently of the formal
>  semantics of it, am I making generalisations (about the _good_ class versus the
>  _happy_ class) that others recognise from their intuitions?
>  - Has this sort of extension, if extension it is, been noted before?
>  - What about the analysis?  How's that to be done?
>  I'd be happy to hear anything you have to say about it.  This was new to me, but
>  of course may be completely usual to others!
>  Damien Hall
>  University of Pennsylvania
>  wishing that this kind of linguistic observation and putting-out-there could be
>  counted as part of the thesis work that he ought to be doing
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
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All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
 -Sam'l Clemens

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