As you leave, I was wondering

Play-by-play sports commentators are, I believe, [sometimes noted]( for their novel uses of language. Now, the only sports I watch on TV is baseball, but there are some interesting things to say about the langauge of even the most mundane of sportscasters. Take, for instance, predicate inversion, which I have the impression is used more often in play-by-play discourse than elsewhere (don’t know about baseball vs other sports, though).

> Coming in safe at second is Giambi
> Out at third is Ichiro
> In from center field to catch the ball is Davis

One particular construction that I’ve noticed, which I previously thought was impossible, is using temporal _as_ on the speech act level. Like this:

> When you’re a catcher it’s important to make sure you’re always on the same page as the rest of the infield, __as Ichiro takes Hudson the other way for a base hit__.

What the _as_ is doing is not saying that “it’s important to…” and “Ichiro takes Hudson the other way…” are happening at the same time. Rather, the base hit is happening as the commentator is _saying_ “it’s important to…” This happens all the time with other temporal subordinators like _before_ and _while_:

> Before you leave, when are you coming back next?
> While you’re here, I was wondering if you could help me out.

What happens “before you leave” is that I’m going to ask you a question (namely, when are you coming back). Similarly for “while you’re here”: it’s (crucially) during the time that you’re here that I’m making (or able to make) a request.

But I always though that _as_ didn’t have this sort of use. It sounded (and still sounds) ridiculous to say, _As you get ready to leave, when should I meet you tomorrow?_. But I thought about it some more, and maybe _as you get ready, I have a question for you_ isn’t that bad. Then, taking a cue from the sports-_as_, I put it at the end, sort of as an afterthought: _I still have one question for you, (uh), as you get ready to head out_. Not bad. But that’s getting uncomfortably close to a strict temporal use: my having a question and you getting ready are taking place at the same time. Saying “I have a question” isn’t the same as “let me ask you a question,” and certainly not the same as “when should we meet up?” So there’s still some strange limitations on _as_. Except in spontaneous play-by-play talk, where it seems be a sort of way to transition between commentary and reporting the action: you can never plan very far in advance to use _as_ in this way.

(There is of course a “causal” use of _as_, which allows “speech-act” modification _as you’re staying another week, would you like to use our guest bedroom instead of the sofa?_ But you can do that with _because_ and (causal) _since_, so it’s not that surprising to me.)

2 Comments so far

  1. As you leave, I was wondering on July 29th, 2008

    […] ripten Tags: Baseball, Discourse, Ichiro, Interesting Things, Inversion, Langauge, Novel, Other Sports, […]

  2. As you leave, I was wondering on July 29th, 2008

    […] Boi From Troy Tags: Baseball, Boi, Discourse, Ichiro, Interesting Things, Inversion, Langauge, Novel, Other […]