Q. Pheevr (q_pheevr) wrote,
Q. Pheevr
q_pheevr

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Slugfest heads stymie parsers

I have come to the conclusion that baseball is an enemy to syntax. The evidence?

  • Geoff Pullum reports the appearance in the San Francisco Chronicle of the headline Bonds Ties Mays.
    ("The first and second words could be plural nouns or singular-inflected verbs. The third can be either a month name and a modal verb, but in neither capacity does it normally have an S on it... And one's parser gags"—unless it has pragmatics to help it out.)
  • Geoff Nunberg retorts with a story about a headline from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Tribe Homer Barrage Salvages Split, which stumped all of Peter Trudgill's students.
    ("Peter said he took the page back with him to England and posted it on the door of his office, challenging the students in the linguistics program to decipher it (or even confidently identify the verb). He told me he had no takers.")
  • Jack Chambers, in a paper in TWPL 9, laments the inability of his own LIN 333 students to identify barehand as a verb in the phrase "charging in to barehand bunts."
  • I complain that I cannot understand Roger Angell.

By the way, I think I can figure out Nunberg's example, although I couldn't have done it without being told the identity of the newspaper. Tribe has to refer to the Cleveland Indians, and so "Tribe Homer Barrage" is a large number of home runs hit by them, which means that Salvages must be the verb (aha!) and Split the direct object. So the headline can be paraphrased as "Large number of home runs hit by the Cleveland Indians rescues Croatian port."

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