6.0669 English Academy (1/35)

Tue, 13 Apr 1993 18:01:55 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0669. Tuesday, 13 Apr 1993.

Date: Fri, 9 Apr 1993 17:03 EDT
From: "Mary Dee Harris, Language Technology" <MDHARRIS@guvax.acc.georgetown.e
Subject: Donkey sentences and the English Academy

Judy Koren mentioned that there was no academy for the English
language such as the French Academy, but there was an attempt to found
an English Academy. John Dryden was one of the founders, along with
several others whom I've forgotten. They had more influence than most
of us realize, based on their misguided decision to base the rules for
the language on the rules of Latin, which is apparently the source of
those pedagogically ubiquitous, but linguistically inappropriate

Never end a sentence with a preposition (unlikely in Latin),
Never split an infinitive (impossible in Latin).

So there was an English Academy for a short time, but it was abandoned
because everyone had to leave London because of the plague. (I
researched this subject when I was writing _Introduction to Natural
Language Processing_ nearly ten years ago, so the details are bit
fuzzy. I could look up the sources if anyone *really* wants to know

Also, in the set of examples using "them" and "their" in the plural,
I noted that a number of the sentences included "each" as in

"She gave each boy a shirt. They were all either red or blue."

Bonnie Webber calls these "donkey sentences" based on some other
examples about farmers and donkeys which I can't remember. The point
to these sentences is that there is no plural antecedent to "they" but
there is clearly a plural quantity implied by use of the word "each."

Mary Dee Harris, Ph.D. 202/387-0626 (voice)
Language Technology, Inc. 202/387-0625 (FAX)
2153 California St. NW mdharris@guvax.georgetown.edu
Washington, DC 20008 mdharris@guvax.bitnet