Thursday, 24 January 2013

Buffalo soldier/Buffalo Bill

Cruel to that Snow White:

"Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" makes sense in English in spite of the repetition of the word buffalo over and over again.  It can be expressed as "American bisons from the city of Buffalo in New York state which are bullied by other bisons from the same place retaliate against those same animals".  A similar statement is "Police police police police police", which expresses the idea that the police whose job it is to ensure that other law enforcement agents obey the law themselves and are brought to justice when they break it also ensure that they themselves do so.

The fact that this sentence makes sense illustrates that English is a near-isolating language which expresses meaning through word order (syntax) rather than changing the forms of words (inflection) and also demonstrates the importance of intonation.  Like several other nouns, the English word "buffalo", meaning the American bison, needn't change in the plural - it's called a "zero plural" in that it is exactly the same as the singular.

In fact, the sentence "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" can be of any length and still make sense, so it's claimed.  "Buffalo!" can be understood as an imperative, telling someone to buffalo.  "Buffalo, buffalo!" is telling a buffalo to buffalo.  "Buffalo Buffalo buffalo" can either mean that one should buffalo Buffalo buffalo or be seen as addressing a Buffalo buffalo, telling it to buffalo.  Sentences repeating the word more than eight times are allegedly also possible, although i haven't thought of any so far.

Still images in this video are licenced under the Creative Commons, with the exception of the postcard of Buffalo, New York, which is in the public domain because the copyright has expired.

Sadly, sentences like this are rare in the wild and have generally only been developed in language labs.


The end of this video is a mess.  My excuse is that i'm tired.  The other things about this are that it reminds me of this:

and also of this guy.

In other news, i've done this too:

in response to this:

which has an interesting title.  I'm thinking of providing an online punctuation resolution service.