January 30, 2008

Linguification is alive and well

I hate to break it to Geoff, but linguification ain't dead yet (at least, not as I understand the term). Earlier today on Morning Edition, Robert Smith commented on Rudy Giuliani's likely exit from the run for the Republican presidential nomination. (The following is from the audio of the story; the text is slightly different.)

It didn't take long before the crowd started to notice that Giuliani was speaking about his campaign in the past tense, and with a sense of nostalgia. "The responsiblity of leadership doesn't end with a single campaign. If you believe in a cause, it goes on, and you continue to fight for it, and we will."

For your convenience, I've highlighted the verbs in the Giuliani quotation. Any of them in the past tense?

By my count, there are four verbs in the present tense (The responsibility of leadership does, you believe, it goes, and you continue), one in the future tense (we will [continue to fight]), and two untensed (bare) verbs (to fight, doesn't end). The only reference in the quotation to the campaign being over (that is, in the past -- not the past tense) is the use of the verb end in the first sentence.

[ Update: Thanks to the folks (Arnold Zwicky being the first) who wrote to point out that I had mistakenly -- and in retrospect, quite stupidly -- classified end as a noun in my original post. I honestly don't know what came over me. Thanks also to everyone who noticed this and actively resisted commenting on it publically. I am grateful, but still guilty. ]

Does Smith (or the NPR production team) not know what a past tense is? Was there a longer quotation that they clipped such that it no longer included any verbs in the past tense, but then they forgot to go back and change the quotation's introduction? I doubt that either is true. It's just that linguification is too easy a trap to fall into -- and, probably, one that most folks wouldn't even pause to think about. Its use is metaphorical, clearly, and like some metaphors and unlike others, it's alive and well.

[ Comments? ]

Posted by Eric Bakovic at January 30, 2008 02:02 PM