Friday, December 09, 2005

The Trent Reznor prize for tricky embedding

The always funny and educational Language Log, a linguistics blog, recently proposed the Trent Reznor (lead singer of Nine Inch Nails) prize for tricky embedding. Embedding is just when you build long complicated sentences by sticking phrases inside other phrases. Like this: [[[][[]]]]. It's to be distinguished from simpler ways of building long complicated sentences that look like this: [][][][][].

Trent Reznor, in an interview, said the following, which is grammatically completely correct:

"When I look at people that I would like to feel have been a mentor or an inspiring kind of archetype of what I'd love to see my career eventually be mentioned as a footnote for in the same paragraph, it would be, like, Bowie."

Hm, let me see ifI can bracket that... Keeping in mind I'm not a card-carrying linguist...

[[When [I look at people [that I would like to feel [t have been a mentor or an inspiring kind of archetype [of what I'd love to see my career eventually be]] mentioned as [a footnote for (me) in the same paragraph]], it would be, like, Bowie.]

...with alternating red and black brackets to make parsing it a bit easier, with a blue trace of "people" in an embedded clause, and with an omitted object of the preposition "for" that I think should be "me" but am willing to hear counter-arguments. And a number of uninteresting phrase boundaries omitted. And it's probably not quite right... But it's definitely amusing, at least to me!

1 Comments:

At 11:37 AM, Blogger subpixel said...

I think you completely misunderstand - Trent would like his career to be mentioned in a footnote about, and uttered in the same breath as, David Bowie, not the other way around. Saying "for me" suggests the reverses that relationship.

 

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