The barred gate

A gate in the wall is worth none in the bush.

A couple of weeks ago, the trees…

Actually, although these resemble trees, it’d be more accurate to describe them as over­sized, outdoor pot plants. Or perhaps giant bonsai trees because the roots, like the branches, have been severely trimmed.

…along the driveway into the flats which had all died over the winter were replaced with more of the same.

Then, last week, some workers knocked down a section of the wall and put a gate in, but the trees and shrubs have remained. I guess that the gate is probably intended to be an emergency exit or back gate, but whoever owns the trees and shrubs has either refused permission for them to be removed or hasn’t been asked. (See picture below.)

Hell  hath no fury…

Mr Lamian was in a bad mood again tonight. As usual, I have no idea what he was on about, but there was a lot of yelling at some guy I’d never seen before.

What provoked this outburst?

While I was poking around the Net a couple of days ago, I found a document called The ALT Grammar Watch. (ALT = Association for Ling­uistic Typology.) It’s basically a bibliography of recently published gram­mars. The first entry for The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language is followed by an extraordinary outburst which seems to belong to The Big Book of Fantasy Facts about the English Language.

It starts by saying that the language is probably a creole. I’ve heard some­thing like this about Middle English, but a creole is a pidgin which has gained a body of native speakers. As languages go, creoles are linguistically impoverished, and the speakers have to find ways of expressing various concepts that go beyond the pidgin from which it came. At no time in its history can I think of English ever resembling a creole.

Next, it says that the language was “once believed to be VSO (Semitic-Celtic substratum!) but now generally categorized, not very excitingly, as SVO”. Huh? I’ve never heard anyone claim that English was at any time a VSO language. We also have an ample lack of evidence for any Semitic-Celtic substratum. Besides, the Anglo-Saxons borrowed barely any words from the British when they conquered Britain. It’s also rather subjective to say that SVO languages aren’t very exciting.

Prepositions are called transitive adverbs. I search for the term via Google and get the sum total of 115 hits. All right, I can imagine a preposition being described as a transitive adverb, but the terminology is clearly not widespread. Several of the hits refer to Thai, a language I know nothing about. Transitive adverb sounds like a term that by any other name (namely, preposition) would smell as sweet.

[07.08.14. In more recent books I’ve acquired, prepositions have been analysed as having transitivity because some prepositions (e.g. at) take obligatory complements, while others such as below do not have to (e.g. “The cat was sitting below the tree” ~ “There was a cat sitting below”.]

Next we’re informed that the language is “not seriously ergative”. Well, English is a nom-acc language, so you’re getting what you paid for.

If we skip over some of the nonsense that follows, we read that “all nouns are verbs, sometimes”. Of the class of lexical items called nouns, some belong to the class of verbs through zero derivation. This is painful.

A little more skipping and we find “stress a mess”. No, not really. English stress is complicated by morphological considerations, but it isn’t that messy.

There are “no clicks” and “no labial flap either”. How are either of these statements at all relevant? And who could top the classic, “no vowel harmony, but that is only to be expected when you’re monosyllabic”. Now don’t stop me, but “monosyllabic” has five syllables.

The ALT seems to be a serious organisation. This isn’t some bunch of under/post-graduates with somewhat inflated ideas of their own know­ledge and understanding of linguistics, but it is seriously embarrassing. The initials at the end of the entry are FP which would appear to be Frans Plank, the editor of the journal Linguistic Typology.

I find the comments utterly baffling.

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