2010

Two thousand ten. Why? So that my kids and their friends can make fun of me for using some archaic turn-of-the-century nomenclature while hovercar-ing them to school.

PS, I want someone who is a strong advocate for twenty-X and who is an advocate of syntactic or phonological deletion accounts of right-node raising to say something like two thousand five to/through 11.

Younger than your parents

This week’s issue of the Journal of Neuroscience contains a really cool article titled “Transgenerational Rescue of a Genetic Defect in Long-Term Potentiation and Memory Formation by Juvenile Enrichment.” Clear enough? From the abstract:

Here, we demonstrate that exposure of 15-d-old mice to 2 weeks of an enriched environment (EE), that includes exposure to novel objects, elevated social interactions and voluntary exercise, enhances long-term potentiation (LTP) not only in these enriched mice but also in their future offspring through early adolescence, even if the offspring never experience EE.

The effect lasts about three months in the mice exposed to the EE, but wanes much earlier in their offspring (and is not found in the next generation). At one point the authors note that

[T]he phenotype ends at an younger age in the offspring of enriched mice than in their parents

Then comes the fun part. A few sentences later, they say this:

Defining why the effect ends when the offspring are younger than their parents will require further experimentation

Totally sweet example of the omission of everything in the comparative clause except for the contrastive bit. Actually, it took me a couple reads to make sure of what they were saying, despite the same information having been just presented.

Processing the sentence was made more difficult (in my case) by the fact that the first time through I read “younger” as “older,” yielding a truly incomprehensible proposition (which, it should be noted, is still as grammatical as the actual sentence, just with a different meaning).

So…ever wonder if you’ve done something when you were younger than your parents? Or older than them?

What did she know?

One of the well-known (but slightly lesser-studied) varieties of ellipsis (in English) is called “null complementation.” It’s involved in understanding sentences like these:

  • Do you understand? (what I’ve been saying)
  • I have to refuse. (to do what you asked me to do)
  • Wow, your wristwatch is really similar! (to that other watch we’ve been talking about)

Certain verbs allow this, and others don’t. Famously (is that the right word?), try does but attempt does not: Just try, it won’t hurt! is okay, but *_Just attempt! is out. (Exception: fine print in advertisements that say: do not attempt). Know also allows it. (Yes, yes, I know).

Okay, so here’s the story. I was on the bus the other day and there were two people who seemed to be friends nearby. The driver was turning the corner, but stopped to let people pass. Apparently he was allowing too many people to pass, and one of the friends said, “Come on, go, go!” (softly, as though to the driver but actually for the benefit of her friend; sort of a strange self-directed version of a pseudo-imperative meant for the benefit of a hearer). Then the other friend said,

I know!

The puzzle: what did she know?

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