Monday, December 17, 2007

Causative Productivity

Andrew Sullivan used the phrase “has decided me” and I thought it was odd to use decided as a causative (it sounded like a child’s error) but I found numerous examples by Googling “decided me”, including some by highly respected authors:

Some examples

Andrew Sullivan:
I was undecided up to now, but forty seconds of YouTube has decided me:

Booker T. Washington (1903)
The course of events has decided me. I have determined to go South to take one of the numerous positions awaiting my acceptance.

John Austin Lectures on Jurisprudence, Or, the Philosophy of Positive Law
'It will be a great and difficult labour; but if you do not do it, it will never be done.' This decided me.

It’s been a while since I studied the syntax of causation. There must be a name for this phenomenon, right? I mean, other than causative productivity which I invented as a title for this post.

11 comments:

Jason M. Adams said...

Pinker in The Language Instinct (pp 279-80) calls it the causative rule and actually uses an example with "decided me". This is the second time Google books has actually produced worthwhile results for me.

Chris said...

Good ol' Pinker. I'll have to look at his discussion. I wonder what the adult use of the rule is?

btw, I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to "look this up". Since I'm at work, I don't have any linguistics references on hand, but I assumed a few minutes of searching would turn up an answer, but I had no success. How did you find the Pinker reference?

Jason M. Adams said...

Pinker does go into the adult versus child issue a little bit, but from the two pages I read it was mainly to say that adults are more careful which words they do it to.

I should have posted the link to the book, sorry about that.

Charlotte Corday said...

It's supposed to be a "haw-haw-haw!" display of SUCH ignorance to reply in 2009 to internet posts from 2007, so that's why I'm eager to do it. Being haw-hawed by the half-literate halfwits who crawl the internet for lack of a life is deliciously reassuring.

So I'm here to say that as of November, 2009, GOOGLING no longer works the way it did for us back in early 2009 and good old 2008 on back. You Google anything now to check its popularity of usage, you get nothing. For instance, the words "decide" and "me" will be scattered far apart, in no way connected, with nothing as filler except advertizing of web sites, hotels, people and products, interspersed with uninteresting heaps (and heaps) of pop culture.

Bing Dot Com is no better, whether or not it provided an alternative in the first fragile day or two of its existence.

It's all "Moms who wear jeans to match their teens' jeans" out there now. Oh, and where you can buy the jeans. Page after page of that.

Internet...I loved you so much, and I miss you so bad now...

Chris said...

Charlotte, you make a good point. Major search engines have goals far distant from helping linguists do good research and the engines are designed in peculiar ways because of it. Phil Resnik at UMD was working on a Linguist's Search Engine , but it's dead now I believe.

I just now found the WebCorp search engine, but I haven't tried it yet. Let me know what you think of it.

Chris said...

And is it a haw haw moment to reply to a reply to a 2007 comment, hehe. Cheers.

Charlotte Corday said...

Hey! I don't know if this thing works all the time, for everything, or what is going to happen hereafter, but the first thing I tried it on -- after cussing my head off at google for throwing me diagrams of spring mechanisms -- worked!! :D

My sentence was, "Women of her status were the soil from which good midwives sprung." I needed to know whether it should be "sprang" (logical) or "sprung" (special case of some sort, and just sounds better). So I typed into the space at http://www.webcorp.org.uk/ "from which sprung" and it gave me EVERYTHING I wanted, nothing i do not want, no diagrams for springs that sprung in a rifle bolt or wherever, just the STUFF I need!!

I'm still sorting it out, this JUST happened, but what a wonderful thing, thank you! I highly recommend this critter. It's looking very VERY good.

Need to really look at it now, without excitement, see if I've got it right as to spring-or-sprung, but whatever the right answer is, it is right there to see.

Charlotte Corday said...

The WebCorp search engine gives examples in literature (I guess you knew that), and that is all I look for in the work I have to do, that regular search engines withhold maddeningly these days. Spring and sprung both work, both are used exactly the same way, commonly, and literately. This is all I have been wanting. Again, thank you Chris, did not actually expect an answer, let alone a great answer.

Chris said...

Charlotte, I'm a professional. When I do a job, the job gets done. I'm a pro.

Cheers.

Charlotte Corday said...

Last report from me on WebCorp, still works, works better every time I use it, in fact. "Standing at the prow" and "signing with the crew" and oh, a million head-scratchers, all findable here, so you can look at the results and decide what you want to do. It's like having a smart fella right by you all the time to discuss every nit-picker with! A smart fella who never gets tired of it, and nearly always knows. Thanks again, Chris, going away [happy!] now. I'll drop back around to read more things at this website.

Chris said...

Fo Shizzle!

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