Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bush on the cutting edge ... of grammaticalization?

Just heard sound bites from Bush talking yesterday and he produced "and/or" as what sounded to my ear distinctly like a single foot: án.dor, where the period marks a syllable boundary. For me, this has to be two separate feet, distinct words: ánd ór. Bush's pronunciation was kind of jarring, in fact.

Is this a minor case of grammaticalization? (The wikipedia page on this topic, here, unfortunately doesn't do a very good job on some points of explaining this topic, like the nature of language change. Wikiality isn't perfect yet.) That is, is Bush reinterpreting the two words as a single unit, indicating either conjunction or disjunction? It's not unreasonable to have a single word meaning {[AND|OR] …}, surely.

It's been a long time since I hung out with people who work with this stuff for a living, but I don't recall hearing that pronunciation even among people who use "and/or" as core technical vocab. Or maybe my memory's just failing.

3 comments:

polyglot conspiracy said...

I'm surprised that any of Bush's pronunciations seem surprising to anyone, at this point! I have heard people say this with actually the opposite stress pattern: an.DOR. But I think this is mostly when they are putting some kind of emphasis on the following word, or using the "and/or" as a way of shifting focus to the latter half. E.g. "We could meet up tomorrow and eat some salad an.DOR some ice cream." I think maybe the second syllable is also followed by a brief pause for effect. This is how I'm hearing it in my head, anyway.

Out of curiosity - who uses "and/or" as "core technical vocab"?

Also, w/r/t the wiki pages - my friend recently had the great idea of having undergrads in intro linguistics classes "fix up" some of the cruddy Wikipedia linguistics pages as final projects, or at least do the research required to fix one up. I think this could be a mutually beneficial assignment.

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks, P.C. Sorry about the failed joke on being surprised .... Yeah, the opposite stress pattern sounds familiar too. I guess I'd probably interpret that as two words -- an unstressed 'and' with a contrastive 'or'.

'And/or' gets used by people doing anything Boolean, like computer people or some logicians. Maybe it's a stretch to call it 'core technical vocabulary' but at least some of them talk about that a lot.

And on wikipedia, LINGUIST is doing something along those lines, with grad students doing the heavy lifting I think. Part of the story is here

jangari said...

I think it's somewhat a necessary piece of terminology for some uses. 'Or' in the logical sense should cover 'and' as well (either A or B or both), but in usage is more like exclusive 'or' (either A or B, but not both). Thus there is a logical gap, which 'and/or' fills.
I have the tendency to demarcate them by a full glottal closure between them so that I get a clear and#or. But I wouldn't be surprised if they grammaticalised into a single unit. No one says or/and, so it's at least half way there.