Pronouns are cool

I was teaching this morning — a small course in grammar — when I was struck with how cool pronouns are because of how much they tell us about the mind. This is one of those things, like the double-slit experiment where the phenomenon can be easily observed, but the underlying mechanisms are actually pretty complex.

So let’s start off with a question, and some observations.

Basic question: why do we we use pronouns in general?
Follow-up question: what happens when we don’t?

Let’s take a small invented passage, where, instead of using pronouns, we use the full form of the nouns. (Not actually a quote, but I’m going to set this off in a block-quote.)

Zoe went to the store. And then Zoe tried on some shirts. But Zoe thought Zoe didn’t look that great in the shirts. Zoe thought the shirts were not Zoe’s color. So Zoe got Zoe a cupcake, which was Zoe’s favorite color. Then Zoe sat down and fed Zoe’s self the cupcake. Zoe thought the cupcake was delicious, but Zoe was sad Zoe ate the cupcake in just two bites.

Wow, annoying, isn’t it?

So what’s going on? Why are we so annoyed by this?

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New job!

I’m writing this post from the airport!

I’m flying across the world to Micronesia to start my new job as a professor of linguistics at the University of Guam!  I am beyond excited!  Exclamation point!

(Changes to the About and CV pages coming soon.)

Brain Timer

Brain TimerIt seems like every exam I’ve given I scramble to find a clear and easy-to-use clock and countdown timer. (I like to project these in the lecture hall so students can pace themselves (or panic, as appropriate, when time is running short).) So I whipped up one of my own. Displays current time on the left, and the remaining time in a “1h 2m” remaining format. Also sweeps out a decreasing arc of brain as the time decreases.

Feel free to use, adapt, steal as you please.

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