"parse" without direct object

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jan 29 20:22:02 UTC 2009

At 8:48 AM -0500 1/29/09, Herb Stahlke wrote:
>The following appears in an article on today's WashingtonPost.com in
>an article titled "For GOP, a case of misshapen identity":
>Even the Purple guys want to parse as they unveil their new thing.
>The expression "parse words," in the pejorative sense of making overly
>fine distinction popular among right wing talk show hosts during the
>Clinton impeachment investigations.  Ironically, Bill Clinton used
>"parse" in the same sense during the recent campaign
>"You can put it off a few days the problem is it's hard to reschedule
>those things," Clinton said, "I presume he did that in good faith
>since I know he wanted -- I remember he asked for more debates to go
>all around the country and so I don't think we ought to overly parse
>that." ( http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2008/09/bill-clinton-do.html)
>This is the first time I  recall seeing "parse" used intransitively in
>this sense.
In the context I tend to agree with Herb that this is probably an
intransitive or unspecified-object-deletion use of "parse", but in
principle there's another possible reading, one that would involve a
construction akin to that formerly (and still?) known as Right-Node
Raising, the factoring operation you get in "The Congress passed and
the President vetoed the tax cuts".  So here, the new purplish Repubs
are described as trying to [parse as they unveil] their new thing,
with that new thing being parsed as it's unveiled.  Granted, RNR
usually applies across "and" and "or" rather than "as", but I can
imagine, for example, saying "The Senator claimed we should pay for
as we spend resources on the new programs", where "pay for" clearly
isn't intransitive.  And what could be more apt in the specified
context than Right Node Raising?


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