July 29, 2007


Yesterday's Zits:

I imagine that Eleanore would understand Jeremy's message just fine -- the problem for Hector is that he doesn't know the context, and mistakenly assumes that just because he's Jeremy's best friend, he should understand what Jeremy means rather than just transmitting the message verbatim. Of course, that kind of message is really hard to remember well enough to transmit accurately if you don't understand it.

Homework assignment: rewrite paratactically (i.e. by stringing phrases together without embedding, using explicit or implicit anaphora to keep track of the connections) what Jeremy expressed syntactically (here, using complement clauses): "Tell her that Brittany said that Zuma said that Sara said that it's okay with her if that's what D'ijon said." Extra credit: evaluate your experience in the light of Robin Dunbar's theory about the role of gossip in the evolution of language.

Today's Zits focuses on medium rather than on message:

In Mountain View on Friday, I overhead a conversation among several of the younger academics at the Google Faculty Summit -- 30- to 40-year-olds -- complaining that their students think that email is for old people (a category that this group is not yet used to being part of). Does this reliance on IMing and SMS predict future trouble for the iPhone, whose texting capabilities seem to be poor? Virtual keyboards on small screens seem to be hard for many people to use -- it's not obvious that it'll be harder to adapt to this than to multitap or T9, but maybe it will be. Certainly the fact that the iPhone entry system (systems?) is not adaptive, and that an IM client is not even among the initial set of applications, suggests that its designers were not focusing on this feature the way they would have if they thought it was really important. Maybe they, like Steve Jobs, are on the wrong side of this generation gap?

Posted by Mark Liberman at July 29, 2007 08:52 AM