May 15, 2004

A new verb: to thaler

Anoop Sarkar at Special Circumstances answers Geoff Pullum's question about how a part-of-speech tagger would deal with verbless English. The result: pretty good performance, and at least one amusing error:

  a   word of gratitude to Thaler -- otherwise an unimportant screwball
  DT   NN  IN    NN     TO   VB   --     RB    DT     JJ         NN

POS tags are documented at the end of Anoop's post, but these are DT=determiner, NN=common noun, IN=preposition, TO="to", VB=bare verb, JJ=adjective.

Ignoring punctuation, this sequence is analogous to a string like "a plan of action to arrange carefully a lovely bouquet". As if.

[Update: Michael Leuchtenburg emails:

When I saw the title of your post on Language Log, I at first thought that you were suggesting naming the practice of writing without verbs - or perhaps without any one part of speech - "thalering". It seems a fitting tribute to an author who writes without verbs to turn his name into a verb.

Indeed. Though Thaler already has a distinguished etymological history in English, via the (literal, silver) coinage of St. Joachim's Valley; the OED cites:
1864 CARLYLE Fredk. Gt. XVII. v. IV. 571 'Let my ducat be a Joachimsthal one, then!'.. 'a Joachimsthal-er'; or for brevity, a Thal-er; whence Thaler, and at last Dollar.

Posted by Mark Liberman at May 15, 2004 07:59 PM