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Category Archives for "Elemental Linguistics"

Introducing the Elements

A: Why should we not trust atoms? B: I don’t know… because we can’t see them. A: No, because they make up everything.  Atoms form the basis of everything. They are the basic building blocks of the universe. In that sense, they make up everything becuase everything is made of atoms. But in the joke […]

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Element 1 – Design Features

“The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar. It was tense.” Are human beings unique? Is there something special about us that makes us different from animals? Of course, every species of animal has special or unique features. Humans make music, and birds sing. Humans create art, and spiders spin webs. Humans […]

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Element 5 – The Wonder of Syntax

“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.” – Groucho Marx In this joke, the first sentence has two meanings. It is “structurally ambiguous.” The ambiguity comes in the phrase “in my pajamas.” Does “in my pajamas” refer to “an elephant” or “I shot?” If […]

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Element 6 – Meaning and Semantics

Question: Why don’t cannibals eat clowns? Answer: Because they taste funny.  Jokes often use semantic ambiguity where one word has two meanings. Cannibals eat people. Clowns are supposed to be funny. But Cannibals don’t eat clowns because they “taste funny.” Here we see wordplay in the different meanings of “funny.” We don’t like to eat […]

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