the vital importance of grammar in everyday life

Robert S. Wachal robert-wachal at UIOWA.EDU
Wed Jun 7 13:46:46 UTC 2000

Are there gender differences, I wonder?


At 05:35 PM 6/6/00 EDT, RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
>In a message dated 6/6/2000 3:58:06 PM, gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM writes:
><< Good point. I would ignore the person in the next stall. My
>would be that he was asking for a newspaper. If it were the dorm, I would
>hand over the sports section.
>I would probably assume that the person in the stall next to me *heard* me
>turning the paper. >>
>Well, this just goes to demonstrate the vital importance of grammar in
>everyday life! Here we see a case where a grammatical error could lead to not
>getting toilet paper when it is really needed!
>Good point yourself, gogaku. I should have made it clear that I was assuming
>that I didn't actually HAVE a newspaper (I assume further that the majority
>of people in toilet stalls do not have newspapers). Even so, since the use of
>toilet paper in a toilet is pretty fundamental (no pun intended), I find it
>difficult to believe that the interpretation of THE PAPER to mean 'the toilet
>paper' would not occur to most people (despite the non-native use of the
>determiner). Such an interpretation is made even more likely by the form of
>the question--"Do you have the X?"--which entails that the questioner does
>not know whether or not the hearer actually has X. Absent a rustling
>newspaper, it is hard for me to see why 'newspaper' is a greatly better
>interpretation than 'cigarette paper' or 'term paper'.

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