John M. Lawler
Welcome. I am a
linguist, a general practitioner of linguistics, and I have a rather
expansive definition of what that includes.
Over the last 4 years I've been participating in the
English Language and Usage Stack Exchange,
where I answer questions about English grammar, usage, etymology, and so on. As I say on
my user profile there,
I enjoy answering questions. I was surprised to realize recently that I've accumulated
over a thousand answers on English grammar and usage.
Here are all of them,
sortable by various criteria. In the upper right corner of the page is a search box, with
"user:15299" in it; you can use this to search all my answers for any word or phrase; as you can see,
I repeat myself a lot. I've resumed emitting answers there, and am now working
on linking them together into an online introduction to English syntax. Insha'allah.
-- New as of April Fools' Eve, 2012, at any rate; this is a Beta version,
subject to change in the future, of which this is the first and only notice
-- about doing something to ameliorate the
"anxious cluelessness" about language that
is the end product of modern Anglophone education.
A fairly recent page
created for the 2011 NorWesCon 34 Fantasy/Science Fiction convention. It's got my credentials, the handouts from my talks there,
and some other links to the stuff I talked about.
And a link to my NorWesCon talks from 2010.
Another fairly recent page,
consisting of teaching materials in historical linguistics and etymology, from my UM freshman class
A World of Words, and my
stack (remember HyperCard?) of the same name.
Graphics, lists, exercises, poetry, texts, etc. about Greek, Latin, English, and Proto-Indo-European.
a newly reorganized page showing
all of the files hosted here for my colleague Haj Ross,
including Ross 1967 (the complete
MIT dissertation: 24 Mbytes, 500 pages, downloadable by chapter), his other papers on both syntax and poesy, and
Selected Short Subjects, in electronic form,
newly compiled by recent popularity.
As of June 1, 2009, I am retired from the faculty of the Linguistics
and of the Residential College,
at the University of Michigan (UM)
Arbor, and have "gone to join the Emeritooni", as our Departmental
elders call it. I was on the faculty at Michigan from Fall 1972 thru Spring 2009, for a total of 37 years of professoring.
I'm still alive and healthy, however, living in
Bellingham, WA, and I still teach the odd
visiting course at Western
Washington University there.
This web site and my email address are permanent (or
at least as permanent as I am), so feel free to use them to contact me,
and drop in if you're in the area (here's a link to my
business card, with local
One of the things I did to prepare for
retirement was to
finally get around to scanning all of my publications that weren't
already in electronic form and putting the lot on the Web. There are a
couple more I still have to find copies of, but pretty much everything
I've ever written is now available, free (with a money-back
guarantee, subject to the
here. Enjoy (if possible).
From now on I will be spending most of my time in Bellingham
WA, getting a rain tan, writing sporadically,
travelling when we can (photos of our recent trip to Hawai'i here)
publishing or reading papers on this and that, here or there, now and
then, masha'allah. While I'm on the subject, here are a couple of
of pictures that I've taken of Bellingham and the Northwest, suitable for
I've moved URLs several times, so if
you've gotten here unexpectedly by trying to find the LSA Ebonics Resolution, the Language and Gender
Syllabi, the Chomskybot, my grammar pages, monosyllable
database, Gödel, Escher,
Bach, A World of Words, Grimm's Law,
Haj Ross's papers, or anything
else that's not my home page, then look below and,
insha'allah, you'll probably find what you're looking for. Some of
these pages are linked behind the scenes, in various ways and to varying
degrees. Some navigation aids are provided, but what you make of it is up
to you, as usual (in case you're confused -- or even if you're not --
here's a list of my
most-requested pages over the last ten years).
Things I told you you could find on my Website:
SIL Linguistics fonts
English Grammar and Usage
Coursepacks from Intro Ling
Fillmore's Santa Cruz Deixis Lectures
Questions I get asked
Things I've written recently
Linguistic humor and satire
Valhallacon linguistic resources
Classes I teach
Haj Ross's Papers
- Software and Linguistic Computing:
- From our book: Using Computers in Linguistics,
edited by John Lawler and Helen Aristar Dry
- My text generating programs
- Some handouts from various classes and presentations
- How to figure out a sentence
(i.e, how to unwind English syntax), with ...
- ... an example of figuring out a sentence, featuring "Nobbut"-clefts
- Latin Pronunciation (both Church Latin and Classical Latin)
- The Grammaticalization Cycle, or Whatever happened to all those suffixes?
- Cognates of Grimm's Law (yes, those Grimms) in English
- Saddle points in game theory
- The Prisoners' Dilemma, also
- The Foundations Catastrophe (Foundations of Mathematics, that is), in
- Euler's Formula, or why eiπ + 1 = 0
- ST-initial PIE roots, with English cognates
- Definitions of technical terms in
phonosemantics, like simplex word, assonance, rime, coherence, and orthogonal.
- Phonetics of Pinyin, with the Pinyin spellings of two
famous Chinese philosophers
- The Spray/Load (09.7) and Fill (09.8) verb classes, from Levin (1993)
- Semantic Properties of Entities
(aka nouns), from Frawley
- Problem on Urdu writing system
- Two remedial tutorials on grammar,
- starting with a (15-page) Logic Guide ,
- containing everything one needs to know about Formal Logic, to be followed by ...
- ... a (15-page) Verb Phrase Guide,
- everything one needs to know about the English Verb Phrase.
- List of all English irregular verbs, with principal parts
- Elements of rhetoric, from Connolly's Rhetoric Casebook
- Phonemic transcription problem
- List of subordinating conjunctions
- Examples of Funny NPs (a technical term in syntax)
- The Cliff's Notes version of Equi vs Raising, two
important syntactic rules
- Syntax problem on Equi and Raising
- "Garden Path" sentences
- 3 Kinds of Word
- Verbs of Cutting
- Problem about "Verbing" nouns
- Problem on Tag Questions
- Other stuff I wrote:
- Encyclopedia articles on
- Papers on English generic verb and noun
usage (including my dissertation)
- Papers on the Acehnese language
(or Achenese, as it used to be called)
We Compute By", a hyperlecture, published in
Thought: For College Writers by Dona Hickey (Mayfield: 1999)
(it's always nice to get memorialized as an exemplar of good writing :-)
- --- and some correspondence
with students assigned to read it by Dona Hickey
- An example of what
passes for humor in Linguistics, on Negative
Polarity in Islands.
- The latest list
of Negative Polarity Items and Negative Triggers,
and a syntax
problem on NPIs.
Asked Questions about Linguistics.
Asked Questions on English Grammar and Usage,
- a collection of informal discussions on Usenet about
English grammar. Hyperlinked.
- The Introduction
to our book (see above)
- And Chapter 5 from the same source.
- Some recent Linguistics papers:
- "Space, Time,
and Polarity", with Karen van Hoek
- A Mental
Spaces account of Negative
- "Embodying Arithmetic: Counting on Your Hands
and Feet", with Eric Breck
- The role of embodied schemata (i.e,
body-part metaphors) in abstract mathematics.
- "Remainders" Paper
- A syntactic account of the Raising-like rule involved in the
- She remains to be convinced that
this is the
answer. (with ancillary tools below)
- The handout for
"Leftovers", a talk I gave in May 2002 at University College in London, based
on my "Remainders" paper (see above), but incorporating more data.
- The Memorial
for Jim McCawley that appears in Language Vol 79, No.3, Sept
- And Jim's famous list of Days in the Month
of May that are of Interest to Linguists, which I didn't write,
- My 1983 Language review of
Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By (Chicago 1980), with
thanks to David Wright for Adobe-ing it.
- "Mimicry in
Natural Language', a paper I published in 1979 in The Elements,
the paravolume to CLS 15; on metaphor, metatheory, and natural
linguistics. It makes a nice bookend with 'Style Stands Still' (though
it's not as funny).
Negatives", a 1974 paper from CLS 10, on various kinds of multiple
negation in English.
- I do a lot of research on what's been variously called
Phonosemantics, Sound Symbolism, Phonesthemes, or Assonance-Rime Analysis.
Here's a batch of stuff on that, including a bibliography, four papers
(with handouts) and the latest list of assonances, spanning a
quarter-century of research.
(All of what's below, and more, is
in the archive
- Bibliography of
Assonance-Rime Phonosemantics, with links to authors and papers.
- Latest list of phonosemantically coherent Assonances
(st-, sk-, str-, fl-, kr-, kl-, etc.)
- A finer-grained example of what the list above represents: a Venn diagram from a
paper I'm currently working on, showing the phonosemantic structure of the
KL- assonance. As it turns out, 62 of 84, or 74%, of the
English simplex words beginning with the cluster /kl-/ are semantically
coherent; in fact, 43, or 51%, of them belong to one very prominent class:
Contiguous, connect, which Rich Rhodes and I simply called
'together' in our 1981 paper (below).
- The Complete
Assonance handout (includes last two items).
- The very first paper on rime-assonance analysis, "Athematic
Metaphors", by Rich Rhodes and me in 1981, from CLS 17. This is
the beginning of the Lawler-Rhodes Simplex
Word Database, and of my interest in sound symbolism.
- My next paper, a very careful analysis of the BR-, PR-,
and BL- assonances:
Men, and Bristly Things: The Phonosemantics of the BR- Assonance in
- in P. Beddor (ed), Michigan Working
Papers in Linguistics I.1:27-43, 1990. Handout
- "Style Stands
Still", a paper about the meaning(s) of style, and of style, of
st-initial roots in both Proto-Indo-European and modern
English, and the ST- assonance (among other topics), that
appears in the literary journal Style, Vol 37, No.2, Summer
- A paper on the "rime" part of rime-assonance analysis, "The
Data Fetishist's Guide to Rime Coherence", from the
Festschrift Poetry, and Candy Colored Syntax: Language Presented to
Haj Ross, 2006.
Data zipfile (individual analyses of each rime, suitable for student
- My latest (2009) presentation (a poster presented at the annual
LSA meeting), "The Data
Fetishist's Guide to Assonance Coherence", with statistics on 36
English assonances (median coherence is around 70%, which is way
more than what the standard principle of l'arbitraire du signe
would suggest). The URL above points to a zipfile containing the
Illustrator CS3 file that generates a 3' x 4' poster, plus the various pdf
illusrations that are located on it. Unless you're interested in very
bizarre decoration schemes, the pdf files may be the useful part.
The data files
from which the pdf illustrations were derived are located here.
- Things I didn't write (but put
on the Web anyway).
The first few* are more examples of what passes for humor among linguists:
to Construct a Linguistic Theory,* a satirical piece by Metalleus.
- A Contribution
to the Repertory of Examples,* by the late Charles Fillmore,
- of the FrameNet Project
- The Ultimate Disclaimer*
- Days in the Month
of May that are of Interest to Linguists, by Jim McCawley *
Word of Warning about theories, by John von Neumann.
- A version of Good Night Moon
(with no graphics, just the words) transliterated into English phonemic notation.
- Suitable for kindergarten reading fun. (Of course those in first or even higher grades could learn from it, too.)
- The list of hedges from the handout from
George Lakoff's 1972 CLS paper "Hedges".
- I went to look on the
web for this list to give my lexical semantics class and couldn't find
- so I found my old handout and typed it in.
- Alexei Panshin on Jumping to Premises,
and on Nominalists vs
Poema de los Dones, a poem by Jorge Luis Borges, lightly hyperlinked,
and some other
poems, en Español
Earwitness", one of the 50 character studies in Elias Canetti's
stunning book Earwitness (Der Ohrenzeuge).
- "Notes on
Punctuation", by Lewis Thomas.
- Selected Papers by Haj Ross, on poetics, syntax, and educational matters.
- The newly revised definitive bibliography of the late Dwight Bolinger now
resides at http://www.cinestatic.com/bolinger.htm
- The COSWL collection of Language
and Gender Syllabi, circa 1993 (newer collection here)
- Another of my favorite poems, a selection from David
Antin's book tuning.
- The Verb Index
from Beth Levin's
English Verb Classes And Alternations: A Preliminary
- University of Chicago Press 1993. (142
- ...and a reverse-engineered list of Levin
Categories from it.
- The English language paper
which was set as part of the London Matriculation examination for senior pupils in June 1899.
David Crystal's Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language)
is what you used to have to know about English to get into college. In 1899.
- 99% of modern
English BAs would flunk it grievously, because English grammar is not taught in Anglophone schools.
Sometimes they teach mythology under that name, but luckily it's usually ignored, except by the credulous.
- Home Pages for classes that I
teach (... er, that is, taught)
- Other pages of mine
- Answers to Questions I get
As of July
I've completed a whole year at the present address, and can once again
compile statistics on site usage. There were about 100,000 hits (file
requests) during the last Fiscal Year (7/1/98-6/30/99) total on all the
files on my site. This has grown and stabilized to around 10,000 hits per
month. Here's a list
of the public files on my site with their individual counts, and an Excel chart of the
year's information delivery stats.
I was flabbergasted to find out that,
since this site is largely a text site (it sports one JPEG and one GIF, but
that's it), the sum total of all these hits is about one and a half
GIGAbytes of words, many of them of my manufacture, off the
shelf, down the tube, out the door, sopping up bandwidth while hanging ten
over the surf, depending on your metaphor choice. As Brooks says Ovid
says, "Adde parvum parvo, magnus acervus erit" ('Add little to little and
there will be a big heap'). This could serve as well as anything to show
that Ovid anticipated the World Wide Web.
Interestingly, the most frequently requested file last year was something
I only helped write (along with several hundred other linguists in the
room), the Linguistic Society of
Resolution on the
Ebonics flap, with an appended Bibliography of authoritative
Here are the stats for Website
www.umich.edu/~jlawler/ as of January 1, 2003:
Hits (Individual File Requests)
Total 7/99-12/02 1,050,278 Latest year 1-12/02 445,923
Mean monthly 21,600 Mean monthly latest year 37,160
Latest month 12/02 35,504
Total 7/99-12/02 40.8075 Latest year 1-12/02 14.06483
Mean monthly 0.7557 Mean monthly latest year 1.17200
Latest month 12/02 1.211
And, here's a report of my
most-requested pages in the ten years between 1998 and 2008.
The rate is accelerating, and we're now receiving around a half-million
hits a year.
Here's an Excel graph of the history, for
Last change 11/09/15