April 20, 2004


It's a tribute to the power of the global lunchroom. When I say that entangledbank's 23/5 exquisite corpse is the most amusing one I've seen, many of you will know exactly what I'm talking about. For those who don't, here's the start of the thread on Christopher Bahn's Incoming Signals weblog (scroll about half-way down the page), and here are some of the later links as catalogued by technorati.

Actually, I should have said "entangledbank's 23/5 exquisite corpses", because N.V. Trochum decides to provide two, depending on which organized stack of books gets picked:

"I don't usually participate in the blogmemes that buffet us, mainly because I'm boring and I know the results will be boring. In the case of the 23/5 one, the real problem is that my books are arranged in order. All the interesting kids have scattered piles of Henderson Crossthwaite's Intermediate Tensor Algebra for Anabaptists, J. Peasmold de Launcey's Mancunian Philatelists and Transvestism, Josepovic and Andric's Marginalia to Fourteenth-Century Bosnian Traffic Edicts, and Singhiz Bannerjee's The Pavilion of the Enchanted Civets within easy reach."

Aside from refuting N.V.'s self-deprecation, the results are quietly hilarious. I was particularly struck by the beautiful example of random Chomskian praeteritio in the third sentence of the corpse of N.V.'s linguistics stack:

We chose the latter option, preserving the widely accepted view (and the minimalist view) that there is a strong continuity between what is going on in the language learner and what ends up in the mind of the adult speaker. One such language is Russian, exemplified in (11). However, I will not pursue the matter here, my purpose being merely to indicate some of the lines of inquiry that have been pursued in recent years. PF seems to be the natural locus of conditions on lexicalization and overtness, whereas it is implausible that the syntax contains conditions sensitive to such notions. Hence there is not necessarily a one-to-one match between syntactic arguments and conceptual structures arguments. As for himself/him, Pavarotti said that he enjoyed the performance. [emphasis added]

I always thought that it was a flaw in John Sowa's amusing automated Chomsky parody generator (here reproduced and explained by John Lawler) that it omitted Noam's characteristic and masterful uses of the larger-scale gestures of classical rhetoric, in favor of a focus on mechanisms of local transition, such as "it must be emphasized, once again" or "let us continue to suppose".

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 20, 2004 07:30 AM