"select for"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Nov 25 15:24:07 UTC 2011

It's also a term of art in linguistics:  a verb selects for its complements (or lack of same).  So a transitive verb like "hit" selects for a direct object, "eat" selects for an optional direct object, "give" selects for a direct and indirect object, and so on.  Not as universal as its use in Darwinian contexts perhaps, but that's just an issue of different scientists selecting for different evolutionary niches...


On Nov 25, 2011, at 9:48 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> Dig it: OED has no def. for this universally used Darwinian phrase.
> I've always found it to be rather opaque: why are biological
> characteristics selected "for" instead of "selected" or "selected for
> preservation"?  Whenever I read it, I feel I'm missing something
> crucial and subtle.
> A cursory GB search for ["select for" + evolution] seems to turn up no
> 19th C. exx.
> JL
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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