I don’t think anyone is really missing this blog, (except one person and you know who you are, in Ireland), but in any case sorry for my absence. I’ve been preoccupied. Here is a comic for you all with explanation below.
For complicated reasons, I am taking over my autistic son’s speech therapy. He is mild on the autism spectrum, with deficits in theory of mind (understanding other people’s thoughts and point of view), empathy, emotional regulation (recognizing and moderating emotions), figurative language, metaphoric language, expressive language. To give you an idea, years ago, when we talked about the ship Titanic, he was not concerned in the slightest over the deaths of 1200? passengers but was upset about the broken china. Well, I can’t really make him feel empathy. But I can try to work on his linguistic deficits. So I started. I have a background in linguistics and so does my mother. Helpful, but I still have a lot to learn about pragmatics. I ran some language tests on him to see if he would correctly interpret the following:
You say to your friend, “Would his highness like a cup of coffee?”
Which is true:
a. You are trying to be polite.
b. You think your friend is lazy.
He knew the correct answer. This is actually called in pragmatics “persona deixis” and it includes the tu/vous distinction.
Next was spatial deixis (can relate to distance in time):
Your friend says, “I could be in Hawaii now if I had a lot of money.”
Which is true:
a. Your friend is going to Hawaii.
b. Your friend is not going to Hawaii.
He got this right, too. I was at happy that he passed this part so I don’t have to worry about that. Maybe he understood this one because of the grammatical clues. Next I test him on presuppositions and entailments. If this is all sounding really dry, well, that’s why I didn’t get a PhD in linguistics although I thought about it briefly. You would get trapped in some academic wasteland arguing with other idiots about some esoteric topic like indexicals until you blew your brains out.
This reminds me of people I knew in publishing who would brag about their grammar knowledge. They would insult you if you forgot any metalinguistic labels or minor grammar rules for a particular structure. While I worked in publishing, two people got breast cancer, one died of a fatal heart attack brought on by overwork, one developed colon cancer and died within a year, and one got rectal cancer and died within a year. There are more important things in this world.