Pronoun [was Finally!]

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Sep 27 17:36:07 UTC 2007

> On 9/26/07, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
>> At 6:04 PM -0700 9/26/07, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>> Am disappointed to see that the authors of that article did not find
>>> the historical perspective in HDAS of any use or interest.
>> ...and a very rich entry, or set of entries, it is...

several things in defense of the authors:

1.  the article is a *squib*, and squibs have to be short.  so john
and andrew were obliged to make a few clear points, and weren't free
to write about everything they knew on the subject or everything
having to do with it.

2.  the squib is in a journal of theoretical linguistics, which has
its own fcuses and interests.  it was, of course, their choice to
submit it there (where a longer piece on this subject would probably
have been unacceptable, as would a discussion of the historical
background for its own sake) rather than to, say, American Speech,
which might have welcomed a longer piece and more detail on history
and variation.

3.  in any case, authors pick their topics, and they're entitled to
stick, if they wish, to one time span or to one variety (or
collection of varieties).  nobody should be expected to write about
everything that might be said in connection with some topic.  i'd
imagine that john and andrew didn't cite HDAS simply because they
were looking at the synchronic situation.

every topic in descriptive linguistics has a historical perspective,
and a variation perspective, and a social perspective, and a
theoretical perspective, and a psychological perspective, and a
typological perspective, and a computational perspective, and more.
it's not reasonable to criticize authors because they don't take all
these perspectives into account.

in the case of "your ass", there are all sorts of interesting
questions you could ask (as people are asking here) about its origin
and previous history, the range of varieties, the people who use it
and in what circumstances, parallels in other languages, related
usages in english, and so on, but answering these questions doesn't
necessarily improve a synchronic description of one variety of
english, and not answering these questions doesn't mean you find them
pointless or uninteresting.


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