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    • CommentRowNumber1.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeJun 29th 2010

    I created the page walking structure. I’m open to better names for it. It also probably needs to be linked from a bunch of different places.

    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthorJohn Baez
    • CommentTimeJun 30th 2010

    I learned this use of the term ’walking’ from James Dolan, who may have invented it… it’s a great name.

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJun 30th 2010

    The Café post describes the origin (as John knows, since he posted it). I changed the link to that comment from the Lab to be more precise.

    • CommentRowNumber4.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeJun 30th 2010

    Thanks! I did mean to link to the entire Cafe post, though, since the notion of “walking structure” came up in the main post, just not that name for it. I do like the name “walking X”, although it often needs to be explained before people get it (hence the need for this page to exist) – what I meant by “I’m open to better names for it” is that I couldn’t think of a good singular noun by which to name the nLab page that’s about “walking Xs for all X.” I thought of just “walking X” but I didn’t like the idea of fixing a name for the metavariable in the page name; “walking structure” was the best I could think of.

    By the way, does anyone use “walking X” for X that lives in something other than a kind of category? For instance, could we refer to the 2-element group as the “walking involution” or to [x]/(x 2)\mathbb{Z}[x]/(x^2) as the “walking nilsquare”?

    • CommentRowNumber5.
    • CommentAuthorJohn Baez
    • CommentTimeJun 30th 2010
    • (edited Jun 30th 2010)

    Mike wrote:

    By the way, does anyone use “walking X” for X that lives in something other than a kind of category? For instance, could we refer to the 2-element group as the “walking involution” or to [x]/(x 2)\mathbb{R}[x]/(x^2) as the “walking nilsquare”?

    I guess Jim Dolan is the only one who has the authority to answer these questions, but judging from my conversations with him the answer is “yes”. He calls the free group on one generator the “walking element” (in the category of groups), I can easily imagine him calling the 2-element group the “walking involution” (in the category of groups, or the category of categories), and he calls [x]/(x 2)\mathbb{Z}[x]/(x^2) the “walking tangent vector” (in the category of affine schemes).

    Basically anything that coclassifies things of a given sort can be called the “walking” thing of that sort.

    • CommentRowNumber6.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJun 30th 2010
    • (edited Jun 30th 2010)

    My experiences with Jim’s usage match John’s.

    So while ‘walking’ is a very nice adjective, is the correct noun simply ‘coclassifier’?

  1. I am curious, do folks who are in the know about where the name “walking model” comes from pronounce it with primary stress on the “wah” and secondary stress on the “mo”? (As in “John is a walking almanac”, as compared to “I saw a walking ibex.”)

    When encountering this usage for the first time, the syntactic cues are to parse it as a compound word rather than an idiom, which results in assigning primary stress on “mo”. This works out a bit like telling a child, “This is a black berry.” when you mean “This is a blackberry.”–They won’t get that you’re teaching them a word in that case.

    If the intent is to preserve the suggestive/idiomatic quality of the terminology, and people are using the more suggestive stress pattern, it strikes me that the entry could use a note on pronunciation.

    • CommentRowNumber8.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeJun 28th 2014

    I suppose I stress “walking”. Imagine substituting “free” or “initial” for “walking”, and you’ll get the idea of where to put the stress.

    Where the name comes from is given in the reference to a Café post. Did you read that post? I think it makes clear that it’s more like “walking almanac” or “walking encyclopedia” than “walking ibex”. In view of the reference, I don’t think we need an additional note that explains pronunciation.

  2. Hmm–If you say it like I say “free” and “initial”, then you aren’t using the suggestive/idiomatic stress pattern I’m talking about, so the point is moot anyway.

    The way the term is used syntactically (also resulting in that stress pattern) meant that its suggestive quality was lost on me until I read the clarifying note linked by the article, but there is no point agitating against existing usage. I agree that the reference provides sufficient clarification.

    • CommentRowNumber10.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJun 28th 2014

    It's supposed to be exactly like ‘walking almanac’; at least, so Jim Dolan explained it to me, and I think that he invented it. We can put in a note that says this explicitly.

    • CommentRowNumber11.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeJun 28th 2014

    I agree that the reference provides sufficient clarification.

    I still don’t understand what these syntactic cues are or why you thought it wasn’t an idiom, but anyway I’m glad you understand now.

    • CommentRowNumber12.
    • CommentAuthorColin Zwanziger
    • CommentTimeJun 28th 2014
    • (edited Jun 28th 2014)

    Sorry if that was unclear…I just meant that people use it unrestrictedly as an adjective-noun pair/compound syntactically (i.e. there are no syntactic cues telling you anything unusual is happening.), which falsely suggests the it should mean “a model having to do with walking (in some presumably figurative sense)”. In my dialect at least, the idiom “walking dictionary” has a different stress pattern than “walking ibex” and is not prototypically used in subject position, definite descriptions,…. So the question was whether people use pronunciation as a cue that they are invoking the “walking dictionary” idiom, and if so whether we should note that, but from what you said it seems they don’t.

    • CommentRowNumber13.
    • CommentAuthorTim_Porter
    • CommentTimeJun 28th 2014
    • (edited Jun 28th 2014)

    Perhaps there should be a hyphen. I have always disliked the term as I find it is obscure and a bit of an ’in-joke’. Somewhere perhaps the fact that its meaning is more or less that of ‘archetypal model’ needs stating explicitly.

    • CommentRowNumber14.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeJun 28th 2014

    Re #12: oh, I see. Well, maybe I see. It never occurred to me that pronunciation would be used or needed as a pointed marker in the clearly idiomatic cases, since almanacs and dictionaries don’t in fact walk, nor are there dictionaries or almanacs dedicated to walking, AFAIK. Then again, I don’t think I’d ever utter the phrase ’walking ibex’. ’Walking cane’, yes. (If I had to guess from all this, English is not your native language; is that right?)

    In any case, go with what Toby said in #10, with which I agree entirely, and ignore what I said earlier if it still confuses you.

    Re #13: no, no hyphen please. It’s about as much of an in-joke as ’evil’ in my view – and a lot of people dislike that too, sometimes very strongly.

    • CommentRowNumber15.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeJun 28th 2014

    Okay, I added an idea section and one more example to walking structure. Hopefully all of it taken together makes the expression clear.

    • CommentRowNumber16.
    • CommentAuthorColin Zwanziger
    • CommentTimeJun 28th 2014
    • (edited Jun 28th 2014)

    Yes, very clear indeed. And thanks for explaining the relativization to doctrines.

    ~~~

    Re #14: If people assign different stresses to ’walking dictionary’ and ’walking cane’ (better example!), they would not be doing so consciously, since it would follow from an implicit rule of their dialect [Note that ’walking dictionary’ is syntactically 2 words, whereas ’walking(-)cane’ is syntactically one word. We can say “John is a walking talking dictionary,” but not “This is a walking talking cane,” or “This is a walking ivory cane,” if we intend to invoke the word “walking cane”. So a stress assignment rule sensitive to syntax may act differently on these examples.]

    As a byproduct, this pronunciation serves as a redundant cue, one whose misalignment with syntactic or semantic cues might lead to some low-level confusion on the part of the listener. It struck me that the presence of the pronunciation would be a rather strong cue that one is using the idiom in dialects where that pronunciation exists, and thus should be promulgated if it is in use, hence my original question. (The point on pronunciation you added is pretty much what I had in mind.)

    Also I am a native English speaker, just one with a bad case of being a linguistics grad student!

    • CommentRowNumber17.
    • CommentAuthorRodMcGuire
    • CommentTimeJun 28th 2014

    in #5 John Baez said

    Basically anything that coclassifies things of a given sort can be called the “walking” thing of that sort.

    If John is using “coclassify” in a technical sense could someone add that to the article?

    • CommentRowNumber18.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeJun 28th 2014
    • (edited Jun 28th 2014)

    Colin #16: thanks for your remarks, which were educational for me! (Thanks also for not acting offended by the suggestion that English is not your native language; it’s often the case that foreign speakers become acutely sensitive to such matters.)

    Rod #17: okay, let me see about that. (Edit: done.)

  3. @Todd: No problem. Enjoyed the discussion!

    • CommentRowNumber20.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJun 29th 2014

    Speaking of pronunciations, I can't tell a difference between ‘walking dictionary’ and ‘walking ibex’ in mine, nor would I expect one; the former is a figurative analogue of the latter (a thing of a sort that is not always walking around but which in this case is walking around). OTOH, a dictionary about walking would be pronounced more like ‘walking cane’, which is different (noticeably more stress on the first word than on the second).

    • CommentRowNumber21.
    • CommentAuthorTim_Porter
    • CommentTimeJun 29th 2014

    … but none of these structures walk or do anything that remotely looks like walking!!

    • CommentRowNumber22.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeJun 29th 2014

    @Toby 20: same here.

    • CommentRowNumber23.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJun 29th 2014

    @Tim #21:

    That depends on how you view the mathematical universe. Are mathematical structures just sitting there, or are the walking around doing things?

    It's true, though, that the difference between the walking monoid and some random other monoid is not that the first is walking while the second is sitting still. It's metaphorically the difference between a person who knows many words (and so called a ‘walking dictionary’) and a book on a shelf. In the dictionary case, this difference is identified (but understated) by calling the person ‘walking’; while in the mathematical case, walking has nothing to do with it. Still, that (the dictionary case) is what we are metaphorically referring to.

    • CommentRowNumber24.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJun 29th 2014
    • (edited Jun 29th 2014)

    If we want to split more hairs …

    Jim Dolan always explained this term to me with the example of a person with large, bushy eyebrows, whom one might call a walking pair of eyebrows. The idea is that this person consists of essentially nothing but a pair of eyebrows; the remainder of the person is merely what is necessary to support the existence of the eyebrows. (Similarly, the walking monoid consists of essentially nothing but a monoid; the remaining structure is only whatever is necessary background to a monoid in the relevant doctrine.)

    This is not exactly the same metaphor as a walking dictionary, (even though my pronunciation is the same). Discuss.

    • CommentRowNumber25.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeJun 29th 2014
    • (edited Jun 29th 2014)

    Well, for one thing, I think Jim’s explanation is just a comical exaggeration (or reading-into) of what we ordinarily mean when we refer to someone as a walking pair of eyebrows. The less exaggerated meaning is simply that the eyebrows are the most salient feature of the person (Eugene Levy, perhaps?), not to the degree that the body is merely there as a support system. So only if you accept the comically totally over-the-top explanation do you get anything approaching the categorical meaning, as far as I can tell.

    When we say “walking dictionary” or “walking encyclopedia”, we might not have in mind that the characteristic is the most salient feature, but merely that the person is renowned for his or her word knowledge, etc. So I agree that it’s a different metaphor from the case of walking pair of eyebrows (exaggerated or not) – but it’s not hugely different from the unexaggerated version. My pronunciation or stress pattern is also the same.

    • CommentRowNumber26.
    • CommentAuthorColin Zwanziger
    • CommentTimeJun 30th 2014
    • (edited Jun 30th 2014)

    This specialized use of the “walking x” metaphor is a great example of semantic change in action! The metaphor could be merely “X is something with many of the properties befitting a dictionary, but is also a person and therefore walks,” or have added connotations of how dominant these properties are in X’s identity, as in “walking eyebrows” or “walking model”. What a person actually stores as the meaning of “walking x” could I suppose be any of these since most contexts of “walking x” are ambiguous enough between those interpretations. As long as a person’s hypothesis about what “walking x” means is not contradicted (too often) they will go along merrily thinking it means whatever they think it means. Then, at some point, someone uses the construction in a situation “walking eyebrows”/”walking model” where it can’t be interpreted in one of its heretofore possible meanings. If those kind of examples are more often seen, pretty soon people never acquire the prior meaning! This is one of the main mechanisms of semantic change.

    • CommentRowNumber27.
    • CommentAuthorColin Zwanziger
    • CommentTimeJun 30th 2014
    • (edited Jun 30th 2014)

    So we have (at least) 4 constructions:

    1. “walking biped” (with the pure compositional meaning of something that is currently walking). When I said “walking ibex” I was thinking of it with the compositional meaning and had selected it b/c it had 2 syllables, not thinking about the fact that it being a quadruped might lead to the interpretation:
    2. “walking ibex” (with the meaning of something with the capability, perhaps unexpected, to walk)
    3. “walking dictionary”
    4. “walking cane”

    (1.) is syntactically and semantically 2 words. In contrast to 2, “walking” is used as a present participle. (2.) is syntactically and semantically 2 words. (3.) is syntactically 2 and semantically 1 word(s). (4.) is syntactically and semantically 1 word.

    So these are all distinguished by syntactic or semantic data which feed into stress assignment rules, so we might reasonably expect the possibility of different pronunciations.

  4. In my dialect, 2 and 3 are pronounced the same and (2/3), 1, and 4 are pairwise distinct. My original question concerned the difference between 3 and 1, but I hadn’t thought of 2 at the time.

    Also it goes without saying, this is just an attempt in passing. I’m not a phonologist, and there are some subtle issues here.

    • CommentRowNumber29.
    • CommentAuthorColin Zwanziger
    • CommentTimeJun 30th 2014
    • (edited Jun 30th 2014)
    To illustrate the sense in which idioms act as semantic units (and that 2 and 3 are thus distinct constructions, although related):

    Consider:
    1. The cat is out of the bag.
    2. The cat is likely to be out of the bag.
    3. The cat wants to be out of the bag.

    1. and 2. are ambiguous between the literal and idiomatic readings (substitute outside for out to get the literal reading if out is too archaic for you), whereas 3. has only the literal reading. So syntactically alike idioms and non-idioms can behave differently.
    Similarly, one can paraphrase "walking ibex" as "ibex that can walk" but paraphrasing "walking dictionary" as "dictionary that can walk" pretty much breaks the idiom. (Perhaps all this shouldn't convince you but it should convince you something's afoot)
    • CommentRowNumber30.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeJul 1st 2014

    This is getting a bit digressive, but I can imagine someone saying “The cat wants to be out of the bag” with an idiomatic reading, though it would necessarily be a bit more fanciful. In fact, that particular idiom is so entrenched in our language, and we so rarely find cats literally in bags these days, that it’s hard for me to imagine someone talking about a cat being outside of a bag in any way, shape, or form without intentionally making some reference to the idiom.

  5. I think the claim of someone advancing the idiom test is that you're "habituating" to the example--extracting a meaning and gradually feeling ok with a figurative interpretation which is supposed to be different than when one processes a figurative sentence which is straightforwardly grammatical.

    Perhaps some further examples:

    1. We persuaded the cat to be out of the bag.
    2. The cat wants to have been out of the bag.
    3. I persuaded advantage to be taken of David.
    4. They persuaded the fur to fly.
    5. They persuaded the chickens to come home to roost.


    Unfortunately, it's kind of a persistent flaw in the kind of linguistics which uses this kind of thing to try and make judgements about which sentences are grammatical and in what ways that many of these examples come down to dicey judgement calls. You can test a population of people in some cases, but in others the claimed distinction is too subtle to really get a whole experimental population to grasp. You can't really base something off the individual claims of armchair linguists, but it seems that issues of grammaticality do hinge on such issues.
    • CommentRowNumber32.
    • CommentAuthorUrs
    • CommentTimeJul 1st 2014

    The thought had occured to me at times there is a way to communicate scientific insights while at the same time endlessly distracting anyone who hears about them: by sprinkling the genuine content with trapdoor red herrings, with superficial content on which everyone would easily produce an opinion, without these mattering for anything.

    One implementation of this strategy would be to start adding rules for removing letters from technical terms, either half-jokingly (as in suggesting that “co-continuous” is “ntinuous”) or seriously (as in “rig”), to use heavily laden terminology (such as “evil” or “morally right”) or very colorful terms such as “walking” structures along with planting vivid but irrelevant pictures into people’s brains (such as of men with heavy eyebrows).

    I understand that all this is done in the best of intentions and for the holy purpose of making scientific communication less scientific. But at times I am wondering that this backfires on the researchers themselves.

    On the other hand, having written this, who am I to decry procrastination! :-)

    • CommentRowNumber33.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeJul 1st 2014

    for the holy purpose of making scientific communication less scientific

    I don’t really get that. Ignoring that one bit of snark, I do think you’re making a good general point.

    Jim Dolan routinely churns out such vivid or piquant terminology (“evil” is probably due to him or to him and John), and IMO it’s fine in private conversation once you understand it (and IMO not at all “unscientific”). It’s only after it goes public that people get embroiled in these debates and discussions. I don’t blame Jim particularly when these things go viral.

    • CommentRowNumber34.
    • CommentAuthorUrs
    • CommentTimeJul 1st 2014
    • (edited Jul 1st 2014)

    My impression is that this kind of terminology was being amplified variously for the sake of enlivening the discussion in the context of public exposition. And it certainly does achieve that, but at some cost.

    • CommentRowNumber35.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeJul 1st 2014

    There’s some truth to that; for example, John has sometimes amplified the terminology through the Café, no doubt mostly with a sense of fun and not predicting so many firestorms.

    The cost of the discussion about “walking structures” seems pretty minimal to me. If your intent is to cease that discussion (which was partly just in fun) and get back to work, then speaking purely for myself: no problem! :-)

    • CommentRowNumber36.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 2nd 2014

    If it's OK to continue seriously discussing linguistics in this thread …

    I didn't realize (until you, Colin, pointed it out) the difference between (1) and (2). I don't think that I make any distinction in my pronunciation of those (nor with (3)); can you comment on how they are different to you?

    I also put Eugene Levy in the article, because I felt that it was important to have the ur-example of the walking pair of eyebrows. (But only in the remark on pronunciation.) Although as this picture shows, Levy is actually a walking pair of eyebrows and eyeglasses; without the latter, he is unrecognizable to me!

    • CommentRowNumber37.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 2nd 2014
    • (edited Jul 2nd 2014)

    I can imagine someone saying “The cat wants to be out of the bag” with an idiomatic reading

    This makes me think of ‘Information wants to be free.’.

    But speaking of semantic shifts: Apparently, the original meaning of ‘free’ in this proverb was as in ‘free beer’, even though it is now understood to be as in ‘free speech’. So the meaning of the entire idiomatic sentence has shifted.

    • CommentRowNumber38.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeJul 2nd 2014
    • (edited Jul 2nd 2014)

    the ur-example of the walking pair of eyebrows

    Andy Rooney and Leonid Brezhnev also occurred to me.

    Re “cat out of the bag”: I suppose some of you are aware of one suggested etymology, where the ’cat’ in question is a cat-o’-nine-tails, kept in a red baize bag before use. On occasion this etymology is cited with a semblance of authority (did I first read this from William Safire?), but snopes.com seems to cast doubt upon it.

    • CommentRowNumber39.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 2nd 2014

    Andy Rooney was the walking curmudgeon. His eyebrows were merely the necessary eyebrows to support his curmudgeonliness.

  6. @Toby 36: In "walking biped" I put 'primary stress' on "bi" and 'secondary' on "wa". By contrast, in "walking dictionary" I put primary on "wa" and secondary on "dic". The distinction is subtle (more subtle than I thought when I first asked the question!). A couple of days ago I asked 4 other speakers of Massachusetts English to produce examples of these constructions, and I could hear the distinction for all of them. Two of them noticed the distinction themselves, one noticed it after I explained the idea, and one I couldn't convince.
    • CommentRowNumber41.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 2nd 2014

    Then how is (4) yet different for you? Because what you've described is exactly the difference between my (1–3) (secondary stress on ‘wa-’) and my (4) (primary stress on ‘wa-’).

    • CommentRowNumber42.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeJul 2nd 2014

    FWIW, (1)–(3) all sound identical to me.

  7. @Toby: For me, "walking cane" just has stress on "wa", no secondary stress
    • CommentRowNumber44.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeJul 3rd 2014

    Colin: is that what you meant by saying (4) is “syntactically one word”? I couldn’t make heads or tails of that comment, since there is manifestly still a space in between…

  8. I meant according to some implicit rules which we know. Sentences seem to have a tree structure: for instance the ambiguity in the sentence "Flying planes can be dangerous," is claimed to come from the fact that we can construct 2 tree structures for that string which generate different interpretations. Also we can't say "Stunning John Mary kissed" for "John kissed Mary, who is stunning," (although there are languages with different rules where you can say that). Furthermore if we attempt to write down what these rules are, we find that we can't alter "walking cane" in ways we expect if it has a tree structure. We can't say "walking talking cane" (with the intended meaning).

    These are not orthographic rules--an illiterate person generates the same data. So in general writing conventions are believed to be of little significance in linguistics. They are generally learned far after the kind of rules I am talking about, require conscious learning, and have surprisingly little impact on data that is deemed "linguistic". Also, if you look at a language such as Chinese, all morphemes (meaningful subwords) are separated by spaces so basing off of the orthographic spaces is completely untenable (The word "size" in Chinese is literally "big small" but it "behaves as a word").

    So walking cane is syntactically one word according to the implicit rules of English. The fact that it has no secondary stress in my dialect is a consequence of this.
  9. I think if one is used to thinking of strings generated by explicit rules as syntax, calling what I am talking about syntax may seem infelicitous. But if we consider the communication of illiterate people, they makes some noises which they must assign some structure to. The job of linguistics is essentially an unsupervised learning problem in the sense of machine learning where we must figure out from all those noises where the structure lies. The solution we have come up with is to have a kind of noise we call "sentence" which is made up of "words" organized into "trees" which project to recover the strings of noises we started with. Syntax is the "trees" of "words", so it is quite separate from spelling!
    • CommentRowNumber47.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeJul 3rd 2014

    That makes some sense, but I don’t think “word” is the right word for such a multi-word unit.

    • CommentRowNumber48.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 4th 2014

    If we had only oral language and no written (or even if our written language were like Chinese), then I don't think that we would have any compunction calling ‘walking cane’ a word. The way we use it is indistinguishable from how would use it if it were written ‘walking-cane’ (which sometimes it is) or even ‘walkingcane’.

    • CommentRowNumber49.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 4th 2014

    @Colin

    So walking cane is syntactically one word according to the implicit rules of English. The fact that it has no secondary stress in my dialect is a consequence of this.

    That may be how it works in your idiolect, but in mine that would be a non sequitur. Single words often have secondary stress. As far as the stress pattern goes, I can't even tell a difference between a multi-word phrase with primary and secondary stress and a single word with primary and secondary stress. For example (and I will use examples where word boundaries match written spaces to avoid any confusion), ‘macaroni’ and ‘Joseph eats it’ have the same stress pattern (four syllables, secondary stress on the first, primary stress on the next to last).

    Now I think that I would like to hear some recordings of you saying ‘walking dictionary’ and ‘walking cane’ (or maybe better ‘John is a walking dictionary.’ and ‘John has a walking cane.’) so I can hear how the first phrase has a secondary stress but the second does not.

  10. @Toby 48: exactly!
  11. Yes, that is absolutely correct that "secondary stress" (in quotes because I don't think things are actually as simple in English as a primary/secondary distinction, nor am I aware of how linguists actually think about this currently) is a phenomenon of both words and phrases. I didn't mean "x is a word implies x has a single stressed syllable", rather that I thought the boundary of the word was influencing the stress assignment, in this case resulting in the lack of secondary stress. C.f. the difference in stress between "blackberry" and "black berry".
    • CommentRowNumber52.
    • CommentAuthorColin Zwanziger
    • CommentTimeJul 4th 2014
    • (edited Jul 4th 2014)

    speaking of: as an illustration of how subtle this stuff gets here is something google spat out:

    The compound bláckberry as a single three-syllable word has a primary word stress on black and secondary stress on berry. The broad-focus noun phrase bláck bérry consists of two accented constituents: a phrasal stress (or default accent assignment) on ber-, the first syllable of berry with a pre-nuclear accent on black ( Farnetani & Cosi, 1988; Hardcastle, 1968). In the narrow-focus noun phrase bláck berry the syllable black receives an emphatic or contrastive stress.

    The three stress patterns of interest in this study (illustrated in examples (a)–(c) below) exemplify three types of prominence:

    (a) blackberry=bláckberry (compound, meaning: a kind of fruit)
    (b) black berry=bláck bérry (broad-focus noun phrase, meaning: a berry that is black)
    (c) black berry=bláck berry (narrow-focus noun phrase, with an emphatic contrastive accent on black, as contrastive to green berry)
    

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0095447007000320

  12. So anyways this is similar to the contrast of “walking cane” and “walking dictionary” in that whether it is a syntactic unit exerts influence. Looking into emailing you some sound files.

    • CommentRowNumber54.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 4th 2014

    In the meantime, are you suggesting that you pronounce ‘walking dictionary’ like (c) ‘black berry’, with emphatic contrastive stress on ‘walking’?

    I have that sort of emphatic contrastive stress, but it seems to me that this should never be a standard part of any idiomatic phrase; I would only use it (I think) in cases of special emphasis. (No, it's not a green berry, it's a black berry. No, I didn't say that John is a talking dictionary; he's a walking dictionary.)

    • CommentRowNumber55.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeJul 4th 2014
    • (edited Jul 4th 2014)

    This song popped into my head at some point soon after reading the latest in this thread, and you’ll understand why after hearing the first line. (A little bonus is the spirited construction of some rational tangles a little later in the performance.)

    Okay, fun’s over – back to work.

    • CommentRowNumber56.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeJul 4th 2014

    Re: 48, that might be true, but it seems to me that when calling something a “word” we ought to use the currently prevalent definition of “word” in the English-speaking world, not its definition 500 years ago or its presumed definition in a hypothetical society of 21st century illiterates. E.g. wikipedia says

    In English orthography, compound expressions may contain spaces. For example, ice cream, air raid shelter and get up each are generally considered to consist of more than one word (as each of the components are free forms, with the possible exception of get).

    But as Todd points out, it’s probably time to get back to work. (-:O

    • CommentRowNumber57.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 4th 2014

    As in mathematics, so in linguistics, one often has to use terminology in a technical way that doesn't perfectly match the colloquial fashion.

    I suppose that this is a good time to mention that my favourite French word is ‘qu'est-ce que’ /'kϵskə/, meaning ‘what’ (in some interrogative senses). It appears in the delightful phrase ‘Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça?’, meaning ‘What is that?’.

    • CommentRowNumber58.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 5th 2014

    Colin, I got your recordings, thanks! I can definitely hear the difference between (3) and (4). It almost seems like in (3), the two stresses are at the same level, rather than distinguishing primary from secondary.

    In fact, while I agree that ‘walking almanac’ has secondary stress (however subtly secondary) on ‘walking’, it seems to me that ‘walking dictionary’ has the primary stress (however subtly primary) on ‘walking’! Since they shouldn't really differ (and what difference I hear is small), this also suggests analysing them as equal.

    • CommentRowNumber59.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeJul 5th 2014

    A propos of nothing, I’m very amused that we’re having this long discussion the same week that my son Arthur has started walking (in the literal sense).

  13. Hm, maybe. I didn’t notice that about the dictionary example I sent. But I don’t think it should be the same as what they call broad focus above. I’m fixing to ask the first phonologist I come across to set me straight on what’s happening here.

    • CommentRowNumber61.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 5th 2014

    @Mike: Ah, but how would you pronounce ‘walking Arthur’?

    • CommentRowNumber62.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeJul 6th 2014

    @Toby: Very excitedly! (-:

    • CommentRowNumber63.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeJul 6th 2014

    Then congratulations to walking Arthur!

    • CommentRowNumber64.
    • CommentAuthorTim_Porter
    • CommentTimeJul 7th 2014

    Yes, Mike, and now you will need to be twice as vigilant as he will get places much faster than before. :-)

    • CommentRowNumber65.
    • CommentAuthorJohn Baez
    • CommentTimeJul 8th 2014

    Todd wrote:

    There’s some truth to that; for example, John has sometimes amplified the terminology through the Café, no doubt mostly with a sense of fun and not predicting so many firestorms.

    Yeah, I’m amazed that you guys are still talking about this.

    • CommentRowNumber66.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeJul 8th 2014

    John, seems to me people are just having a conversation (and not of the firestorm type; mostly for the fun of it).

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