Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Weird assertions about Sarah Palin and language in the news

Yes, it's still happening. People won't stop talking about how Sarah Palin talks. And as far as I can see, they can't stop getting it wrong. This one isn't exactly wrong about how she talks but …

A couple of our contributors apparently watch Chris Matthews on Hardball. Doesn't strike me as healthy, but two of them discovered a little oddity last night in a discussion of Sarah Palin's English. In this video, check out the discussion around 5:00 or so to get the context, with the key part beginning at 5:30:

Alex Wagner says that we should be glad that Palin uses subject-verb agreement. Fair enough. But Chris Matthews responds with this: "Predication, you mean, yeah". 'Predication' has a set of different meanings in linguistics, from pretty non-technical (where a 'predicate' is everything but the subject in a clause) to pretty technical (various syntactic and semantic issues connected with the philosophical sense of 'predication'), some of the latter pretty well explored back in the Government and Binding days (where 'government' had nothing to do with politics). But does anybody know of a usage that would make sense here?

Back in 2008 when Palin's speech — mostly her accent but sometimes her syntax — was all the rage, we blogged that stuff to hell and back. One of the big points was that people were getting it mostly wrong about how she talks. Didn't particulary expect to see it come back around like this. God help us all if she actually acts like she'll run next time around.

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