Friday June 8, 2007

The Superiority of Generation X

Sign that you might be a big ol' nerd:

You're attending an invited talk by a big-name linguist, and while he's showing an example of a superiority violation found in the wild on the Web, you're thinking, "Hey...I'll bet that's from a piece of Generation X fanfic!"

For the record, the example was:

Paige was silent on the phone for a moment.  "Wait a minute...he asked you?  He really asked you?  You said yes?  Oh my God!"  Paige exclaimed.
That got Jubilee’s attention.  She turned around and looked at Paige.  "What?!  What did who ask her?  What did she say yes to?"

...and it comes from this chapter of this story.

Please note that I didn't recognize it because I'd read that piece of fanfic (please!), but only because I figured (rightly) that the probability of the uncommon name Paige and the very uncommon name Jubilee occurring in the same sentence had to be pretty low for non-Generation X-fanfic sentences.

Do I win a no-prize?  (Oh, wait, my finger has slipped off the pulse of the internets—I'm supposed to write "CAN I HAS NO-PRIZE?" now, right?)

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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I don't think that lolcat exhibits fronting (or any kind of movement, possibly), so that really should be I CAN HAS NO-PRIZE?

Posted by: JS Bangs at Jun 8, 2007 4:52:34 PM

(Oh, wait, my finger has slipped off the pulse of the internets—I'm supposed to write "CAN I HAS NO-PRIZE?" now, right?)


Posted by: polyglot conspiracy at Jun 8, 2007 5:08:21 PM

I clicked into my feed reader in order to leave a comment, but see that JS Bangs already corrected your lolcat syntax. Cheers!

Posted by: Chris Waigl at Jun 9, 2007 4:46:05 AM

At one point, when I was Googling around for examples for some effect or another in my dissertation--possibly examples of the use of "inquire" when the subject already knows the answer to the question, many of the results were fanfic. Mostly Xena, I think, which would have stood out even more than the Generation-X in terms of proper names. (I did end up using "Did you hear that?" [Threepio] inquired rhetorically of his patient companion, referring to the throbbing sound., from the official Star Wars novelization.)

It might not have been that, since the phrase "inquired, though she already knew the answer" turns up one story of unknown content, one SG-1 slash fic, and one chicklit-appearing book, none of which were in the results when I last Googled, and no Xena turns up this time. But that probably wasn't quite the exact phrase I used. I'm never sure what to make of examples from fanfic; I harbor a deep suspicion that we find unusual constructions there for the simple reason that some of the writers simply aren't very good.

Posted by: Lance at Jun 10, 2007 1:28:22 AM

Bwahaha. That's really . .
Um. What's a superiority violation? (since Google isn't being particularly helpful on the definition)

Posted by: at Jul 3, 2007 7:11:09 AM

Judging by what I can make of the ppt presentation at this link ( ), a superiority violation occurs when you have two (pronouns? specifically, I think, interrogative pronouns) in a sentence, and the one that's the subject follows the one that's not instead of preceding it.

So instead of saying "who brought what?" you say "what did who bring?" and that's a superiority violation.

I *think.*

Posted by: Gramina at Jul 6, 2007 7:17:41 AM

In re lolcats grammar: I've often been curious about its formal rules. I can always tell when a macro-maker is careless and 'gets it wrong,' but am almost entirely unable to explain *why* it feels incorrect.

A hint in the right direction might be found in this specimen of lolcats-like (but not a macro) longform humor text. Or at least it could be added to the corpus.

(Half of me is fascinated and the other half can't believe I'm getting linguistically serious about lolcats-speak!)

Posted by: Almeda at Jul 9, 2007 2:01:35 PM