For those of you who have been wondering where Language Log went, it’s back at a new URL — http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/ — and with new content management software (WordPress 2.5). Adjust your blogrolls and bookmarks accordingly (and prepare yourself to get used to the New Look).
Heidi Harley was “the first to post using the swanky new system,” and she came up with a doozy: Keep related words, as a rule, together. That’s a summary of a self-negating quote from the bible of those who want to sneer at other people’s use of language without bothering to actually learn something about it themselves, Strunknwhite: “The subject of a sentence and the principal verb should not, as a rule, be separated by a phrase or clause that can be transferred to the beginning.” As Heidi says:
I was afraid someone was playing a joke on me. But no, that’s really it!
I was so amazed, of course, because the statement of the rule violates itself. In the sentence, the verb be is the ‘principal verb’. The parenthetical as a rule could be transferred to the beginning. The subject of the sentence is the NP The subject of the sentence and the principal verb. So the rule breaks itself; to be true of itself, it should say, As a rule, the subject of a sentence and the principal verb should not be separated by a phrase or clause that can be transferred to the beginning.
She goes on to analyze the rest of the section, and concludes: “So out of eleven sentences about keeping related words together, in which one key tip is to keep any parentheticals which can be sentence-initial in sentence-initial position, five of them counterexemplify the point.” Delightful!