Monday, October 13, 2008

First poll in a while

I'm curious. Please answer this simple question.

How do the following sentences sound to you?

  • We transferred the money to Kim.
  • We transferred Kim the money.

Good? Bad? Not sure?

Arnold Zwicky just used them in a post and gave a grammaticality judgment that I don't completely agree with. [Update: Maybe I should ask that you not read the LL post until after you cast a vote. This is serious stuff here you know.] Such differences occur often, so every careful linguist remembers to qualify grammaticality judgments appropriately. And Zwicky does just that. He makes it clear that he's talking about how most speakers would judge the sentences.

Please answer the poll question on the left sidebar and leave any comments below if you have them. My thanks.

[Update2: please ignore the poorly worded sentence in the poll! …the following sentences above… Ha! I can't edit it because people have answered the poll. *sigh*]


  1. I like the first one better, despite the fact that it doesn't have a period...

    But I wouldn't consider either of them wildly ungrammatical, if I were a teacher grading papers.


    Anyway, am I right? :)

  2. fixed. again my thanks.

    i won't give running commentary on the poll but feel free to offer it yourself.

  3. They both sound good to me; the first one is what I'm more likely to use though.

    I think there's a subtle difference. The first sentence uses an ordinary verb in an ordinary structure, while the second one sounds more "jargon" like. If you were working in a place where you transferred money all the time, you might start using sentences built like the second one in order to save time. Also, the second sentence demands the accent fall on the first syllable of 'transferred' whereas in the first sentence it can go either way.

  4. "Change your vote"!? Is this really an experiment in crowd conformity? :-)

    If you'd used gave instead of transferred, I would "of" probably liked them about the same. But transferred threw me, as in, I can't imagine saying sentence (2). (Of course, I also know of no Kim to whom I might transfer money, but I suppose that shouldn't affect whether I think the sentences are fine.)

  5. Um yeah, even after finishing a MA in Spanish Linguistics...I went to the other blog you mentioned and gave up because I would never understand what the guy was getting at! I think I'll just stick to teaching High Schoolers the little amount of Spanish I can...which isn't much it seems :(

    Tell Buffy I say hi!

  6. Speaking as Jo FivePack here--just your average sentence-slinger, not a linguist--I'd say the problem with #2 is that it leads the reader (or, even more, the listener) to expect information about Kim's transfer. So while it may not be ungrammatical, it's somewhat ambiguous.

  7. Jeff "just a biologist"13 October, 2008 23:26

    I find it amusing that your post on "grammaticality" starts out with "Arnold Zwicky just used them in a post and gave a grammaticality judgment that I don't completely agree with. "

    Shouldn't that be "Arnold Zwicky just used them in a post and fave a grammaticality judgment with which I don't completely agree"?

  8. @ Jeff "just a biologist" -- Zounds! You have picked up a virulent infection of peevologist-itis. This is characterized by delusional notions about English grammar and a reflexive need to correct people. Quick, you must seek treatment by a competent Descriptive Linguist. I suggest visiting the Language Log as soon as possible. Note: Treating peevologist-itis is covered by most (mental) health plans.

  9. So... in his grammaticality judgment, Jeff should've written,

    "(For me) that should be 'Arnold Zwicky just used them in a post and gave a grammaticality judgment with which I don't completely agree.' " (?)

    To borrow and amend a sentence from Herman Melville: Who ain't a peevologist?

  10. There is a special ring of hell for people who persist in spreading the notion that an English sentence can't end in a preposition.

  11. I'm inventing a new term for mxrk and wordzguy: meta-peevologists. Those are people go around picking on language that who picks on language.

    And you wanna talk about a deep level of hell...

  12. I had already read the post, but it didn't affect my judgement. (And yes, I know the -e- isn't normally there, but I like it and it's a permitted variant.)

    This is actually an example I use in class (along with donate) and I've only had one student ever say that 2 sounds okay. None have ever said 1 sounded bad.

  13. hah. It just occurred to me that insisting on 'with which...' means you must approve of relative restrictive which.


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