Swinging Predicates and the Mobile Model of Linguistic Typology—Śiva Kalyāṇ SpecGram Vol CLIV, No 3 Contents <i>An Interpreter’s Dictionary of Linguistic Argumentation</i>—Psammeticus Press

On Slurping

Alan Daudin

In a little-known squib, Ross (1969) observed that the application of Slurping1 is restricted in somewhat mysterious ways, Cf. (1b).

(1)   a.  Serious consideration indicates that previous debates about the formalizing of Slurping were misguided.
b.  * Serious consideration Slurping of formalizing the is likely previous debates about to be misguided.

Although some English speakers marginally accept (1b),2 most speakers react to it with a severe fit of vomiting. The purpose of this squib is threefold: (i) clean up the mess; (ii) prove that Slurping is computationally intractable, and (iii) suggest more hygienic avenues for future research.

The structure of this squib is as follows. First, there is a beginning. Second, unexpectedly, there is an ending. Finally, there is a continuation. In the conclusion I explore the evolutionary and cosmological roots of this peculiar organization.

As a first step, note that Slurping is clearly distinct from Burping3 (2), as Postal (2005) astutely observes, even though both operations seem to be subject to similarly absurd constraints.

(2)  *Beckett condescended to descend to con to c.

Williams (1992), however, questions the relevance of this observation, and I fully concur, though one may wonder, rightly, how an observation can be questioned 13 years before it has been made.

The central puzzle about Slurping is this: Although interpretable features are never slurped, all slurped structures are uninterpretable. Kayne (2003) proposed, in a different context (and universe), a unified operation of “slurping off”, subsuming both feature-checking and soup-consuming. This proposal may account for (1), but clearly fails to account for infinitely many other sentences, all of which, unfortunately, consist entirely of null morphemes and empty categories.

In series of groundbreaking papers, Boeckx (2002 August 16 8:00 PM, 2002 August 16 8:01 PM, 2002 August 16 8:02 PM and 2002 August 16 8:03 PM) develops an alternative approach to Slurping. Boeckx’s claim is that the ungrammaticality of (3) provides incontrovertible evidence for the existence of CHOMSKY.

(3)  *Chomsky is.

Yet clearly, whether or not CHOMSKY exists is a conceptual issue, not to be decided on factual grounds ((fore)see Chomsky 2052).

In an effort to ground the current research in data from the actual speech of actual native speakers, we conducted some fieldwork. We have presented speakers with four types of Slurping: Nasal, drippy, gulpy and splashy. Each type consisted of two tokens – grammatical and ungrammatical. The order of stimuli and subjects, as well as the results and our entire hard disks, were randomized, to prevent any meaningful conclusion.

The responses we obtained were quite puzzling. Some illustrative examples are given below.

(4)   Arkadaşlarla genç yaşta evlenmeği artıştık.
(Ahmet Burak, Istanbul)
(5)   Gwnaeth Elen gytuno i ddarllen y llyfr.
(Gwynedd Knethell, Bangor)
(6)   Cyclicslurpingmustleaveanintermediatecopyineveryphase, naturally!
(Želiko Bošković, Storrs)

Obviously, the man on the street is not of much help.4

Can the solution lie in the semantics? Obviously not. For one, it is well-known that formal semantics uses Greek letters; crucially, though, Greek has no Slurping construction (Anagnostopoulous 2001). Second, a compositional semantics presupposes a meaning to be composed, yet it is doubtful that slurped sentences have any meaning (see Baker 1989 for the claim that slurped sentences crash at LF and splash at PF). Finally, given that Slurping normally feeds Burping (Cf. (2)), the semantics of the former can be, at most, gaseous (Landau 2006).

In sum, we have shown that (i) sentences like (1b) have little bearing on current bacteriology; (ii) one can easily use “we have shown that” to mean “I have not shown that”; (iii) man is doomed to endless, lonesome misery; and (iv) syntax can be deduced from the interfaces no more than oranges can be dejuiced from lemonade. This still does not explain what Cinque (2004) is doing in the references, but we hope that future research will shed more tears on such matters.


1 Slurping: Sideward left-branch unidirectional raising pied-piping inverted nominal gerunds.

2 Judy Mulligan (Baltimore, MD) reported to us that “I wouldn’t really say such things, but my Aunt – she lives in Manhattan, the bitch married a rich lawyer, what he’s found in her is beyond me, when we were young she used to dress up like a cheap... – I’m sorry, what was the question?”.

3 Burping: Backward unmotivated retroactive pruning involving no gap.

4 A disturbing, if often overlooked, aspect of spontaneous speech of native speakers is that it is systematically unglossed. A rare exception is the Kelungululu tribe of the Sahara, whose members meticulously gloss every utterance they make (by using overtones). Unfortunately, they gloss it into an extinct dialect of Basque, which is unintelligible to everyone, including them.

Swinging Predicates and the Mobile Model of Linguistic Typology—Śiva Kalyāṇ
An Interpreter’s Dictionary of Linguistic Argumentation—Psammeticus Press
SpecGram Vol CLIV, No 3 Contents