October 05, 2008

yay for tree diagrams

Say what you will about Sarah Palin, but I can't think of anyone who has done as much for putting syntax (and phonology) into the limelight of political commentary. Here's Maureen Dowd on the subject of tree diagrams:
When she [= Sarah Palin] was asked by Couric if she’d ever negotiated with the Russians, the governor replied that when Putin “rears his head” he is headed for Alaska. Then she uttered yet another sentence that defies diagramming: “It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there.... She dangles gerunds, mangles prepositions, randomly exiles nouns and verbs and also“also” is her favorite vamping word — uses verbs better left as nouns, as in, “If Americans so bless us and privilege us with the opportunity of serving them,” or how she tried to “progress the agenda.”
Update: Mark Liberman at Language Log points out that the sentence that Maureen Dowd chose to illustrate her point does not, in fact, defy diagramming:

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