Sunday, August 14, 2011


(I was reminded of the fact that there are people who honestly believe that if a speaker of British English had a moment of extreme emotion such as fear or anger, the affected British manner of speech would drop away and they would cry out in American English.) 

But back to the evolution of language. Caesar makes only one other intelligible spoken utterance in the film. It is a full clause, well enunciated, right at the end. Naturally students of the evolution of syntax will want to know the structure. It is what The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL) calls a complex-intransitive canonical clause, with copular be as its main verb.

Geoffrey Pullum of Language Log on Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the whole thing here.


Mithridates said...

I believe Caesar also says WAIT, or something like it (Waaaaiiiii! without the t) between NOOOO and Caesar is home. It's when they're on the Golden Gate and he's commanding his troops. So he does slip an imperative in between the interjection and the complex-intransitive copular clause with intransitive PP complement. Have to say: this made me think that all movies about ancient warrior-types should be told with apes. It was always strange for me, hearing them speak British or American English. It's funny hearing Lawrence Olivier asking, Do you consider the eating of oysters to be moral and the eating of snails to be immoral? and Tony Curtis sounding exactly like Sidney "Cat's in the Bag, Bag's in the River" Falco saying, No, mastuh. With apes, yeah, their bodies do the talking. I actually liked the movie quite a bit, though this could be due to extremely low expectations and the delirium of being in a movie theater for the first time in almost a year. What with my own little Caesar at home and all.

balaustion said...

He also says: "Up," a vaguely Lakoffian imperative I imagine. And I am so glad that Mithridates quoted Ernst Lehman's / Robert Aldrich's Sweet Smell of Success.

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