05 October 2005

My readings this week

My readings this week have been on cohesion in texts and how we acheive it through any number of rather complicated means that we take for granted as native speakers (most of us). You start thinking about the circus of assumptions and connections and inferences you make just by reading a simple sentence and before you know it, you're really impressed with the human race in general. Well, the parts of the humans race that have written languages. The rest of those illiterate losers can go screw themselves as far as I'm concerned.

In my classes this week, I've been really amazed at how difficult (and ambigious) pronouns are. Observe:

"I pulled out a lavender handkerchief and handed it to her. 'Did Grandma ever tell you the story behind this one?' I asked. 'It was one of her favorites.'"

We had a good discussion about the meaning of "it" in the last line. Does "it" refer to the story or the handkerchief? The Japanese teacher said "it" referred to the story. I argued that is referred to the handkerchief. But what made me think that?

I think the phrase "this one" helps us understand that the "it" is clearly referring to the handkerchief. We generally try to avoid two ambigious pronouns because of the confusion it causes. In this case, it seems to me that if "this one" referred to the hnadkerchief while "it" referred to the story, it would be a mistake on the part of the author because it is natural to assume that "it" is the handkerchief.

It's sort of like this sentence, "Bill had the ball and Jim was on the other side of the room. He threw the ball to him," where even though their is a double pronoun usage, we are able to deduce their meaning from the situation. Of course, if we said, "Bill and Jim were playing catch. He threw the ball to him" we would have all sorts of problems in figuring out what was happening.

::Stephen steps off linguistics turtle::

You know, GW had it right on with John Roberts. That dude was sexy. The sexiest Supreme Court Justice in a long time. But this new what's-her-face? Not doing it for me, George. Couldn't we just send John Roberts through the whole thing again and just give him two votes? That seems like the easiest and sexiest solution.

Also, for some reason, my ability to speak Japanese in the last three weeks has just bottomed out. I'm like an idiot all over again. It's particularly frustrating as now I have a really, really good reason to have to speak Japanese everyday (yeah, she's great, isn't she?), but for some reason I can't understand anything. Please, someone, get me a hormone shot.