Friday April 2, 2004

Rhetorical Flourishes

Having been reminded by the recent temporary take-over at Semantic Compositions, I'd like to take this opportunity to post a list I've compiled of rhetorical flourishes from The Minimalist Program. They're examples of the sort of writing that I suspect a lesser-known author wouldn't have gotten past an editor. In many cases, they could have been deleted without affecting the surrounding argument. In other cases, they do point that an assumption is being made, which is generally a good thing for an author to point out—but there sure are a lot of assumptions. I've unfairly taken them all completely out of context, but for purely humorological purposes, I assure you. I chose these examples in particular because they're phrased generally enough that they could be used just about anywhere. I'm thinking of sneaking a few into my thesis (especially the one that begins "We leave the matter...") to see if they sound as persuasive coming from a lowly graduate student.

[Note that Chapter 1 was co-written with Lasnik.]

Though not obviously correct, this assumption seems reasonably well-established, and I will continue to take it for granted here... (Intro., p. 2)

I will assume that something of the sort is correct, but without trying to be very clear about the matter, since too little is understood to venture any strong hypotheses, as far as I can see. (Intro., p. 6)

We leave the matter with these informal indications of a direction to explore, merely noting here that certain concepts that serve as foundations for much current work were originally defined on the basis of assumptions that have been widely abandoned and therefore must be reconstructed in some different way. With these qualifications, we will continue to use the notions with their intuitive content, as is standard in current technical work. (Ch. 1, p. 64)

We will proceed on the assumption that it is required, noting the problematic aspect of this assumption. (Ch. 1, p. 90)

Nothing further need be said. (Ch. 1, p. 100)

Let us begin with a range of assumptions concerning language design, generally familiar though often controversial, which I will adopt without specific argument. (Ch. 2, p. 130)

I will adopt this interpretation for expository purposes; it is rather generally adopted in practice, with results then sometimes reconstructed in terms of the alternative conception, a suggestive and possibly meaningful fact. (Ch. 2, p. 133)

I will assume this to be the case, putting a precise formulation aside. (Ch. 2, p. 135)

Little is at stake in the present connection; for concreteness, let us adopt the former alternative. (Ch. 2, p. 143)

There may be an issue, but as noted, it is at best a rather subtle one. (Ch. 2, p. 163)

I will omit further comment on these matters, which do not seem to raise any serious problems. (Ch. 2, p. 165)

I will have to put aside a careful development here, but it is intuitively clear how certain basic aspects will enter. (Ch. 3, p. 181)

For our limited purposes, we may leave the matter open. (Ch. 3, p. 196)

This approach seems relatively unproblematic. Let us assume so, and proceed. (Ch. 3, p. 196)

There are various ways in which these options can be interpreted. For concreteness, let us select a particularly simple one. (Ch. 3, p. 202)

An effort to address this problem in any general way would seem premature. (Ch. 3, p. 212)

If that turns out to be correct, then the abstraction I am now pursuing may require qualification. I will continue to pursue it nonetheless, merely noting here, once again, that tacit assumptions underlying much of the most productive recent work are far from innocent. (Ch. 4, p. 220)

Suppose so. (Ch. 4, p. 236) [This is an imperative sentence.]

The picture is very simple and straightforward, and the arguments follow on assumptions that seem conceptually natural and in accord with the Minimalist Program. If it is close to accurate, then human language is surprisingly close to "perfect," in the sense described. Whether the conclusions are empirically correct is another question, hardly a trivial one. (Ch. 4, p. 271)

Let us tentatively assume this to be the case, though a principled explanation is lacking, and the empirical facts plainly require much closer scrutiny over a far broader range. (Ch. 4, p. 277)

Consequences ramify, and merit further thought. (Ch. 4, p. 311)

I leave such questions without any useful comment. (Ch. 4, p. 332)

The problems of computational complexity are considerably reduced, though more remains to be done, no doubt. The assumptions throughout are straightforward, but rather delicate. It remains to investigate further cases and consequences. (Ch. 4, p. 348)

[Now playing: "Dead Disco" by Metric]

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Ouch. Unfair that you've evoked such harsh memories before coffee.

"Suppose so." Whee!

Posted by: Rosanne at Apr 2, 2004 6:49:05 AM

I love it! This is exactly the sort of thing that drives me up a wall when I read things like the original MP book. I only wish I could get away with this sort of writing in my professional work.

Posted by: Semantic Compositions at Apr 2, 2004 8:45:25 AM

I love the smell of burning Ch*msky in the morning.

Posted by: language hat at Apr 2, 2004 1:45:35 PM