Steve Long Salinas17 at AOL.COM
Thu Mar 8 04:39:43 UTC 2001

In a message dated 3/7/2001 11:53:26 AM, Brian MacWhinney wrote:

<< Consider this example from the news yesterday. Dick Cheney's doctor was
discussing his case and asserted that "Patients who narrow their arteries end
up with repeated chest pains."  Now I am forced to imagine Dick Cheney
sitting in bed focusing on trying to narrow his arteries.  Perhaps he does
this through some form of Tai Chi meditation.  This misinterpretation of
volition is induced by the grammatical requirement to package sentences with
Agent roles. >>

Respectfully, is this a "misinterpretation of volition is induced by the
grammatical requirement to package sentences with Agent roles?"  Or was it
the intention of the doctor to make the statement one of "volition?"  The
fact is that a fair number of the audience would recognize how the agent is
involved with the object here.  And of course it is not Tai Chi.

"Narrow arteries" here refers to something other than narrow arteries in the
usual sense.  In fact, the reference here is to "acting in ways that narrow
arteries." To assume otherwise is to assume that the doctor's statement made
no sense to his audience.  It seems a good bet that a fair percentage of the
audience (especially those who have been warned by doctors before about such
things) would recognize and report back that the doctor was referring to a
lifestyle matter by simply referring to the physical consequences.

Once the meaning as it was meant to be understood is inserted -- i.e., act in
ways that narrow arteries -- the marking of intention becomes easily
understandable, even to those not familiar with doctor jargon.  The patients
who willfully act in ways that will "narrow arteries" will suffer adverse

Whether this is considered metaphorical or not, I don't know.  But I do know
that truncating the description of the action by going straight to the
relevant consequence
is terribly common.  The other day a friend of mine "blew the engine" in her
car.  The full description that she over-revved it spinning her wheels in the
snow to the point that the compression blew a hole in the gaskets on the
engine was not necessary to my recognition of what had happened.

Steve Long

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