Coach Paterno and the syntactic blind alley

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Nov 10 17:17:21 UTC 2011

On Nov 10, 2011, at 12:04 PM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:

> On Nov 10, 2011, at 7:45 AM, Larry Horn wrote:
>> On Nov 10, 2011, at 10:24 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>> Not what you're asking, but I'd say, "perhaps the most legendary..."
>>> That covers both options.
>> True, but the problem with blind alleys is that while you can always wish you'd taken a different route, you do have to get out of the alley once you get stuck in one.  And if you google "one of the most if not the most" you'll see how often this stuck-getting occurs.
> "syntactic gap" is a term for a phenomenon of the language; "syntactic blind alley" is a term for a phenomenon of language use, and so is a useful term on its own.
> blind alleys are an issue primarily in spoken language, where you commit yourself to a beginning that can't be continued in a fully satisfactory way; when you realize (at some level of consciousness) there's no way out, you have to either forge ahead with some continuation, or backtrack and restart the whole business, using an alternative that allows you to avoid the issue -- but such substantial restarts are highly disfavored, for obvious reasons.
> the same problem happens when you're writing something by hand.  otherwise, when you see the problem, you can rewrite (though if you're in a hurry, you might not be willing to take the time and trouble to do that).
Exactly.  Of course computers (and for a brief period before them, erasable typewriters) have eased the written version of the dilemma, but only time travel helps with the oral version, as Rick Perry can now testify.


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