Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know
(because they aren’t actually true)
gathered at great personal risk of
psycholinguistic harm from actual student tests
by Madalena Cruz-Ferreira
This seventh collection of students’ pearls of wisdom, laboriously digitised from hand-written test answers, demonstrates once again how students new to the study of language speculate about grammar after having imperfectly absorbed what their teachers think they have taught them.
Suppose you are in a food market and you overhear a conversation between a customer and a stall-holder behind you. The customer says:
I’ll take these chillies and that bunch of carrots right there.
Given that your back is turned to the speaker, explain why the bolded words make it difficult for you to understand exactly which vegetables the customer chose. (You may want to discuss several of the underlined words together.)
- This is because ‘these’ often refers to vegetables that are nearer to the speaker. It contradicts that and there, which are far away.
- The words are diectic, which depends on the interlocutor.
- The words are deicpic.
- The words are deixes.
- The words are dietic. I am not facing the same direction or not as the speaker’s position.
- The words are deixis in nature. The determiners are such that they are in relation to the position of the nouns.
- This is an instance of a deixis, thus the words depend on the uses of these words.
- I am unable to know if carrots can be sounded as [carrots] in phonetic writing, as a word instead of a different word. So it is difficult to know.
- The referent of ‘there’ is carrots.
- ‘There’ describes the direction of the carrots.
- ‘These chillies and that’ may be a single constituent.
- We can’t tell the identity of the vegetable.
- Referents depend on who is using the words to what and where.
- The stall-holder is confused: this, or there, or these?
- The stall-holder needed to mark the position of the vegetables.
- The words are ambiguous because the customer didn’t mention anything about antecedent.
- The verbs describing the vegetables are absent, hence causing confusion without the aid of sight.
- If the customer and you have different language origins, words correspond to a few different meanings in another language. For example, ‘there’ in Portuguese can be ‘aí, ali, lá’, which is quite confusing if you are Portuguese.
- Since these and that are determiners, they determine the position of the vegetables.
- Determiners cannot tell me which vegetables were chosen.
- ‘There’ is a pronoun that has replaced exactly where she is referring to.
- ‘these’ and ‘that’ are determiners to indicate location, hence are adverbs here. ‘there’ is an adverb used as a noun here. So there may be misunderstandings.
- These words place a lot of emphasis on the location of the vegetables.
- There is no linguist context for the words.
- The words do not have direction attached to them.
- Such words are not a specific referent.
- The vegetables have been referred to as in anaphora, so if I don’t turn around I can’t see them.
- The words involve the grammatical category of the types of vegetables.
- Unlike lexical words, grammatical word classes have meanings that are not arbitrary. ‘There’ modifies the location of the carrots, but not the carrots themselves.
- The underlined words are grammatic words.
- ‘these’ and ‘this’ are homophemes and without proper punctuation ‘that’ can be heard as a noun. It could be: I’ll take this, chillies and that. Bunch of carrots right there.
- These and that are different distances, so it is not clear if the customer chose the chillies.
- ‘These’ describes the chillies and the carrots together, so carrots are part of chillies. But ‘there’ and ‘that’ serves to break up into parts.
- ‘These’ refers to something near. However, the speaker ended his sentence with ‘there’, which is far.
- Only the customer and the stall-holder know exactly the vegetables.
- The words are not concise to me.
- The words are confusing. There is lack of distribution. And there lacks visuality.
- The words are all ambiguous. They do not refer to anything that can’t be seen.
- The words are anaphoric. They generalise their antecedent such as ‘there’ for ‘besides the lettuce’. I cannot understand the generalisation because my back is turned.
- The position of the carrots or the onions is ambiguous.
- I must exist in that situation to know which vegetables she chose.
- I wouldn’t understand, assuming no prior knowledge of vegetables at all.
- There is structural ambiguity if my back is turned.
More to come...