Jim Wood

Month: August, 2012

Mér hefur ávallt leiðst þú.

From Höskuldur Thráinsson’s (2007:237) book, The Syntax of Icelandic:

Here, Höski is observing that the well-known effect of syncretism with 3rd person ameliorating 1st and 2nd person nominative objects extends to syncretism with auxiliary constructions. I found several examples of this online, and they all conform to this generalization:

  1. Fínt að enda þetta á honum elskulega Samúel sem skrifaði eftirfarandi í 4.bekkjarbókina mína.“Sævar þú ert ruglaður og mér hefur ávallt leiðst þú. Ég ber engar hlýjar tilfinningar til þín og ég vona að þú munir eignast aðra vini í framtíðinni. Þinn óvinur Sammi sæti” (source)
  2. Mér sjálfri mundi leiðast ég sjálf svo svakalega og það gengur ekki vegna þess að ég sit uppi með mig og ég nenni ekki að láta mér leiðast ! (source)
  3. “Ég er barn. Fákunnandi, fátæk og ófróð stúlka, sem ættfólkið þitt liti á með lítilsvirðing og þér mundi leiðast ég til lengdar.” (source)

Note that (2) and (3) have a 1st person object, so there is nothing special in particular about 1st person in Höskuldur’s (4.190a); in (2) and (3), it’s just that the auxiliary mundi is syncretic for 1st/3rd, whereas in (1) the auxiliary hefur is syncretic for 2nd/3rd. I haven’t seen any counter-examples yet. However, it is interesting to note that I also haven’t found any cases of auxiliary syncretism saving a nominative object of the other verb that is always discussed in this connection, namely líka/líkað ‘like’.

Næturvatkin figure reflexive

Það ruddist      einhver brjálæðingur  hingað inn
expl cleared-st some      lunatic.nom    here.to in

og    æddi    inn á   klósett.
and rushed in   to bathroom

‘Some lunatic just burst in here and barged into the lavatory.’


Non-adjacent agreement attraction

I must have seen this ad at least a dozen times before I even noticed the agreement attraction:

Studying micro-climates like this have helped me to understand if it’s gonna be a minor event, or a catastrophic one.

Partly, I didn’t notice it because it wasn’t exactly an ad that I was paying a whole lot of attention to. But partly, it was probably because the sentence is very natural to me, especially for spoken language. What is interesting about the example, beyond just its grammaticality, is the fact that the trigger for plural agreement (micro-climates) is not linearly adjacent to the verb.

In Marcel Den Dikken’s (2001) paper on pluringulars, he cites Richard Kayne for the observation that agreement attraction does not require adjacency of the trigger to the verb. Kayne’s example involved a possessor, The participants’ identity are to remain a secret. 


I was talking with Einar Freyr Sigurðsson yesterday about the English suffixal use of -happy, as in trigger-happy, in the context of translating an Icelandic word we came across, skotgleði, which is a root compound made up of skot ‘shot’ and gleði ‘joy’. (I realize this might be analyzed as a compound, but I will continue to refer to it as suffixal.) The uses are very similar; someone who is trigger-happy is not necessarily happy, they are just quick to pull the trigger. Icelandic has a similar use of the adjective glaður ‘happy/glad’, so someone can be skotglaður (which seems very close to ‘trigger-happy’) without being glaður ‘happy’.

For me, this use of -happy in English is very productive, in that I can form probably an unlimited number of words like X-happy, generally with X being a noun or nominal root (gun-happy, power-happy, rug-happy, car-happy, book-happy, etc.). That is not to say it is unconstrained; it is actually quite odd, at best, for me to say shot-happy to refer to the property of being eager to shoot. (It is perfect for someone who loves to take shots of alcohol, however.) But it seems quite productive. Urban dictionary has examples of suffixal –happy which suggest its productivity as well, such as delete-happy and click-happy:

1. delete-happy 5 up2 down
adj. Refers to a forum moderator (mod) or someone in a similar position that deletes posts excessively. Often, the posts in question were perfectly valid, and so “delete-happy” reflects an abuse in power, a want to censor a particular viewpoint, or both.
Etymology: From the phrase “trigger-happy” that means “to pull the trigger of a gun excessively” or any metaphorical derivations of thus.
The delete-happy mod completely removed the valid topic about abortion.
2. click-happy 22 up7 down
Going crazy with the mouse cause your PC doesn’t respond fast enough to your liking causing:
  1. the PC to be even slower
  2. opening a thousand applications
  3. moving folders and files to god knows where
(a common mistake amongst not-so-PC-literate users)
derived from the word trigger-happy
Getting click-happy aint gonna make your PC speed up.

There are many others (some of them quite amusing).

But my initial impression was that in English, it is not so easy to form nouns. I can talk about someone who is too gun-happy, meaning that they are too obsessed with guns, but it is very odd for me talk about their “gun-happiness”. On further reflection, though, I started to think that some cases of this, maybe, aren’t so bad. “Trigger-happiness” seems possible, for example, and this is confirmed by some examples from the web:

  1. This kind of trigger-happiness, I suggested last month, appears to be rooted in the fact that many guides in Alaska have not focused intently on the challenge of following up wounded dangerous game. (source)
  2. To members of the cartel, he was known as “Mr. Bullet” for his gun collection and his trigger happiness. (source)
  3. Parsons attempted to justify his trigger happiness as humanitarian in nature. (source)