Fun_People Archive
5 Oct
Good to Know

Date: Wed,  5 Oct 94 22:39:48 PDT
To: Fun_People
Subject: Good to Know

Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: Joe Keane <>
Forwarded-by: Wed Oct  5 10:24:24 1994
From: (Paul Neubauer)
Newsgroups: sci.lang
Subject: Re: Quang's research (was: Terminology question)
Date: 3 Oct 94 12:35:43 -0500

In article <36i4u1$>, (Rod McGuire) writes:
> This note will clear up a lame response to my first posting, after
> including the relevant portions:
> Mark Rosenfelder <> wrote:
>>Rod McGuire <> wrote:
>>>I think that this construction was named "fucking-insertion" in a paper by
>>>the famed Vietnamese Porno-Linguist, Quang Phuc Dong, or one of his buddies.
>>>The examples in that paper were something like:
>>>	"un-fucking-believable" and "in-fucking-credible"
>>>and the theory was that the pre-inserted words had structures like:
>>>	[un [believe able]]  and [in [credit able]]
>>>(but I don't remember if these were supposed to be morphological or
>>> syllabic-stress structures)
>>>The argument was that if "fucking" was inserted too deep within
>>>such structures it produced unacceptable words, i.e.:
>>>  *"unbelieve-fucking-able"  and *"incred-fucking-able"
>>Steven Pinker in _The Language Instinct_ mentions (without citing a source,
>>unfortunately) a simpler rule that accounts for why these examples are
>>unacceptable without bringing in structure or deepness of insertion at
>>all: the expletive must appear before the stressed syllable.  
> Mark, did you read what I wrote before you posted? I said that
> insertion position depended on morphological and/or syllabic-stress
> structure. You countered by appealing to Pinker to say it depends ONLY
> on stress, and unstructured stress at that. But in including part of what
> I wrote in your posting, you included the
>    "un-fucking-believable"
> example where insertion is before an unstressed syllable. A
> stress-only rule would predict that
>    "unbe-fucking-lievable"
> is the only/preferred way to emphasize this example. I hope Pinker's
> theory is not as lame as your application of it.

I am not familiar with Pinker's theory on this subject, but in fact,
"unbe-fucking-lievable" IS the (very strongly) preferred form in my
dialect, with "un-fucking-believable" trailing far behind in

> If you want an "insertion before main stress" rule, then insertion
> has to occur in a abstract stress structure derived from a
> morphological structure. For example, in the theory developed by Mark
> Liberman & Alan Prince, "unbelievable" would have a structure
> something like:
>                s 
>               / \
>              /    s
>             /    / \
>            /    /   \
>           /    /     \
>          /   s         w
>         /   / \       / \
>       w    w   s     s   w
>     [un [[be lieve] [a ble]]]
> where "s" and "w" mark constituents with strong and weak stress. One
> could then formulate the rule to insert the expletive before the
> topmost "s" constituent.
> Is this version of fucking-insertion correct? This mainly depends upon
> how valid the Liberman & Prince theory (which I only vaguely remember)
> is. I wouldn't be surprised if someone has written about this within
> their framework.

I can unequivocably (*un-fucking-equivocably *une-fucking-quivocably)
say that the Liberman & Prince theory (as you describe it) is NOT
correct (for my dialect).  Forms like "unbe-fucking-lievable" or
"abso-fucking-lutely" clearly contradict your predictions.

OTOH, it is also clear that a purely phonlogical analysis fails. 
First, insertion of "fucking" (or the like, as in "abso-goddam-lutely")
is only possible into adjectives or adverbs:

    That is unbe-fucking-lievably stupid.
    That is unbe-fucking-lievable stupidity.
but not
   *That is unbelievable stu-fucking-pidity.

There is also something to the hypothesis that the "depth" of the
insertion plays a role:

    That is abso-fucking-lutely stupid.
   *That is abso-fucking-lute stupidity.

Where in the latter case, less of the word "absolute" follows the
insertion.  What generalizations can be drawn from this, I don't know. 
No generalizations I have seen correctly predict the badness of both
*un-fucking-equivocably and *une-fucking-quivocably for example.

Paul Neubauer

[=] © 1994 Peter Langston []