The Floating University

Review Questions

1. For each of these sentences, draw two phrase-structure tree diagrams that correspond respectively to the intended and unintended meanings: 

  • Ingres liked to paint his models in the nude.
  • British left waffles on Falkland Islands.
  • Teacher strikes idle kids.
  • Lung cancer in women mushrooms.
  • Bush wins on budget, but more lies ahead.
  • Killer sentenced to die for second time.

2. A man says to a woman, “Would you like to come up and see my etchings?” She interprets it as a sexual come-on. Point to aspects of the sentence that exemplify each of the following: syntax, morphology, phonology, pragmatics.

3. What’s the difference between descriptive and prescriptive grammar? Why are they are not the same thing?

4. What is misleading about these assertions?

A. “I speak three languages but I think in English.”

B. “Children learn to speak by imitating their parents.”

C. “It’s important for schools to teach African American children to speak grammatically.”

D. “Noam Chomsky proposed that children are born with an innate Universal Grammar after he examined thousands of languages all over the world and found that they are fundamentally alike.”

5. Why are automated telephone systems still so bad at understanding speech and language?

6. What features of language make each of these examples of wordplay possible?

A. A shop called “A Nice Cream Store.”

B. The t-shirt from a seafood restaurant that reads “I got scrod at Legal Seafood.”

C. The notice in a school bulletin, “Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles, and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to help cripple children.”

D. A medical report which said, “The patient states there is a burning pain in his penis which goes to his feet.”

F. A wife in couples counseling complains she is neglected. The therapist embraces her passionately, then says to her husband, “This is what your wife needs at least three times a week, Can you do this?” the husband replies, “We’ll, I can drop her off here on Mondays and Wednesdays, but on Fridays I go fishing.”