[Ads-l] Meaningless "so" at start of reply sentence

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Nov 15 11:08:49 EST 2017


> On Nov 15, 2017, at 10:44 AM, Tom Zurinskas <truespel at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> So I've noticed from MSNBC commentators.  Other needless sentence leaders besides "so" are "listen" and "look”.I 
> 

I believe President Obama bequeathed his legacy of sentence-initial “look" to NBC’s Chuck Todd.  But it’s not quite interchangeable with “so”.  

LH



> 
> Tom Zurinskas,
> Originally SWConn 20 yrs,  college Tenn 3,  work NJ  33,  now FL 14.
> truespel phonetics free converter and  tutorials - http://truespel.com
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 2:50 PM
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> Subject: Re: Meaningless "so" at start of reply sentence
> 
> One more link on sentence-initial "so" -- Ben Yagoda's 2011 piece for the
> Chronicle's Lingua Franca blog.
> 
> http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2011/12/02/so-it-turns-out-that-everyones-starting-sentences-with-so/
> [http://www.chronicle.com/theme/che/img/logo-che-mobile.png]<http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2011/12/02/so-it-turns-out-that-everyones-starting-sentences-with-so/>
> 
> So It Turns Out That Everyone’s Starting Sentences With ...<http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2011/12/02/so-it-turns-out-that-everyones-starting-sentences-with-so/>
> www.chronicle.com
> So my favorite recent language article is a piece by Anand Giridharadas that appeared in The New York Times last year. It’s about the use of the word so in speech ...
> 
> 
> 
> 
> On Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 2:59 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
>> Heaney's use of "So" came up in the comments on the Language Log post I
>> linked to.
>> 
>> ---
>> http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2570#comment-81190
> Language Log » So new?<http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2570#comment-81190>
> languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu
> 62 Comments Noni Mausa said, August 22, 2010 @ 9:54 am. Being rather slow on the uptake, I first noticed the initial "so" a few years ago in CBC radio interviews with ...
> 
> 
> 
>> [Dan Lufkin:] Seamus Heany begins his translation of Beowulf with "So. The
>> Spear-Danes in days gone by…." The "so" renders OE "Hwæt." Heany comments
>> on his choice (Introduction, p. xxvii):
>> "In Hiberno-English Scullionspeak, the particle 'so' came naturally to the
>> rescue, because in that idiom 'so' operates as an expression which
>> obliterates all previous discourse and narrative, and at the same time
>> functions as an exclamation calling for immediate attention. So, 'so' it
>> was."
>> ---
>> 
>> Also discussed in comments on these posts:
>> 
>> http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1872
> Language Log » Also, check the back seat<http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1872>
> languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu
> 32 Comments T. A. Smith said, November 7, 2009 @ 10:44 am. To prove your point: For about seventy years, I was painfully uneasy about writing a sentence that began ...
> 
> 
> 
>> http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4021
> Language Log » Hwæt, the parking-spaces<http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4021>
> languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu
> 52 Comments Thor said, June 14, 2012 @ 8:55 am. Are you sure they aren't just quoting the rapper Li'l John? mikemorr said, June 14, 2012 @ 8:58 am
> 
> 
> 
>> 
>> 
>> On Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 2:33 PM, Kate Svoboda-Spanbock <
>> katesvobodaspanbock at gmail.com> wrote:
>> 
>>> Not sure whether any of the references below mention it, but, Seamus
>>> Heaney used it, followed by a period, to start his translation of Beowulf.
>>> --
>>> Kate Svoboda-Spanbock
>>> katesvobodaspanbock at gmail.com
>>> 310-880-3091
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> On Nov 14, 2017, at 11:10 AM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
>>> 
>>>> Back when, I somehow got into the habit of introducing a topic with the
>>>> words, "As I've said," even though I'd not mentioned that topic before,
>>>> ever. I became consciously aware of it after my girlfriend eventually
>>>> freaked out.
>>>> 
>>>> On Sun, Nov 12, 2017 at 9:02 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> 
>>>>> Googling for "sentence-initial 'so'" yields some familiar faces.
>>>>> 
>>>>> Geoff Nunberg on Fresh Air:
>>>>> https://www.npr.org/2015/09/03/432732859/so-whats-the-big-
> [https://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/08/18/gettyimages-475158605edit_wide-9ae801ac64861edfb7bf9e2df45e05068e5f885a.jpg?s=1400]<https://www.npr.org/2015/09/03/432732859/so-whats-the-big->
> 
> So, What's The Big Deal With Starting A Sentence With 'So'?<https://www.npr.org/2015/09/03/432732859/so-whats-the-big->
> www.npr.org
> It has been called the new "um" or "like," but linguist Geoff Nunberg says starting sentences with "so" isn't a new trend. People have been doing it for years. We're just noticing it more now.
> 
> 
> 
>>>>> deal-with-starting-a-sentence-with-so
>>>>> 
>>>>> Arnold Zwicky on his blog:
>>>>> https://arnoldzwicky.org/2015/08/11/so/
> [http://arnoldzwicky.s3.amazonaws.com/ZippyToadSo.jpg]<https://arnoldzwicky.org/2015/08/11/so/>
> 
> So…? | Arnold Zwicky's Blog<https://arnoldzwicky.org/2015/08/11/so/>
> arnoldzwicky.org
> Today's Zippy features Mr. the Toad, moving during the day to his default personality: seized by rage and a sense of entitlement and issuing sweeping pronouncements ...
> 
> 
> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> Grant Barrett on A Way With Words:
>>>>> https://www.waywordradio.org/sentence-initial-so/
> Sentence-Initial So - A Way with Words<https://www.waywordradio.org/sentence-initial-so/>
> www.waywordradio.org
> So, can a sentence begin with the word so? Which ones? So is oftentimes used in place of therefore to conclude an explanation, but more people are using it as a
> 
> 
> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> Mark Liberman on Language Log:
>>>>> http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2570
> Language Log » So new?<http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2570>
> languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu
> 62 Comments Noni Mausa said, August 22, 2010 @ 9:54 am. Being rather slow on the uptake, I first noticed the initial "so" a few years ago in CBC radio interviews with ...
> 
> 
> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> On Sun, Nov 12, 2017 at 5:22 PM, Margaret Winters <mewinters at wayne.edu
>>>> 
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>> 
>>>>>> I've been noticing it for a couple of years at the LSA and other
>>>>>> conferences - younger speakers particularly tend to start their talks
>>>>> with
>>>>>> 'so' or 'ok'.  I've been understanding it as a semantic inchoative -
>>>>> 'This
>>>>>> is an announcement that I am getting going on my talk'.  I once
>>> started
>>>>>> trying to gather data at a conference (approximate age of speaker,
>>>>> gender,
>>>>>> and first word), but got distracted too many times and gave it up.  I
>>>>> don't
>>>>>> know of anything has been written on it, but would be interested.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> Margaret
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> ----------------------------
>>>>>> MARGARET E WINTERS
>>>>>> Former Provost
>>>>>> Professor Emerita - French and Linguistics
>>>>>> Wayne State University
>>>>>> Detroit, MI  48202
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> mewinters at wayne.edu
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> ________________________________
>>>>>> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of
>>>>>> Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at MST.EDU>
>>>>>> Sent: Sunday, November 12, 2017 5:12 PM
>>>>>> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
>>>>>> Subject: Meaningless "so" at start of reply sentence
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> Yesterday a friend asked me about something I've noticed for at least
>>> a
>>>>>> year: On TV and radio I often hear a response to a question begin with
>>>>> the
>>>>>> meaningless word so.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> E.g.:
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> Question: Did the Democrats have a good turnout?
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> Answer begins: So let's look at the figures.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> Has this feature been treated yet in any linguistic discussions?  And
>>> is
>>>>>> my impression correct that it is a relatively recent development (the
>>>>> past
>>>>>> year or two)?
>>>>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
> 
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