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Palinian Syntax

This is both hilarious and very, very depressing--and to think, she had access to a better education than most Americans.

So our prof promised us ages ago we'd get to tackle graphing (RK) sentences from both Palin and Obama sometime in the future. Today, we started with Palin. She gave us two sentences, and the first of them was actually quite easy compared to the other. The sentences were not changed or edited in the least; they were both taken verbatim from official sources.

Exhibit A: Where art thou "where"?

"It is very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspade of the United States of America, where--where do they go?"
- Sarah Palin

If that made absolutely no sense to you, take my word for it: it's a grammatical nightmare. The baseline is small and wimpy, yet has enough subordinate clauses/prepositional phrases hanging off of it to drown it. It's a bloody subordinate submarine of DOOM.

I'm pretty sure she intended for "even" to modify "consider" but the placement has it (gramatically) modifying "national" (or "national security" or "national security issues"). I should not have to guess which one of four a modifier is modifying, unless the author's a five-year-old (though their sentences tend to cut right to the point), much less that of someone running for leader of our country.

Consider the baseline, it's probably the simpliest, most straight-forward part of the entire blub: It | is \ important. Subject, verb, subject compliment. Very important, okay. What's very important? Well that's the question, isn't it. I'm still not entirely sure. The most frustrating part of this entire exercise was the mysterious "where" at the end: "...America, where--where do they go?" The bold "where" is being used adverbially (they do go, go where? exactly, okay). What's mystifing is that it's preceded by another "where" of an entirely different clause she never even finished. So we actually have no where to put tgat first "where"! Even our prof, who is a fucking genius at this, threw her hands up in frustration; hence the life-preserver.

: What Palin was not-so-obviously trying to say, it appears, is that when considering national security issues, it is very important to take tabs on Russians invading US airspace on Putin's command, or something of that sort. I think?

Exhibit B: I, families!

The next sentence we'll finish graphing on Thursday (we ran out of class time, it was that much of a monster), but you can see the headache it'll give me just by reading it:

"I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people."

- Sarah Palin

I swear to god, that's verbatim.

This is just the beginning. Also, all of that is guesswork, because really, the entire graph for this one is up for debate because it makes that little sense grammatically. Key things to notice:

  • Like the first example, the baseline of this sentence is extremely weak; having a weak baseline with so many prepositional phrases/subordinate clauses is like trying to squeeze an African elephant into a tiny, wooden canoe. You're going to sink the damn boat.
  • There is no verb to put on the baseline of the second clause ("...and I, as his V. P., families..." ??!?!!!)
  • "families" has absolutely no place on the graph, anywhere; cue another life-preserver
  • random indepent clause seems to have somehow embedded itself in the middle "we are ... Jan. 20"
  • "that will be our top priority is to defend", indeed
That's just off the top of my head after reading it over once. Headache, ow.


I gots a pretty futon! It was only $75, and while we were there, the lady gave us a kitchen table for free! :D Yay! And you're all invited to a mini-house-warming as soon as me and Dan have the TV/futon/food stuffed into the place (hopefully this weekend, or next!) to come eat pie and watch movies (on the squishy futon!) or watch me squash Dan on his Wii with Link and his mighty sword of DOOM.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 26th, 2009 04:47 am (UTC)

Oh, Christ, painfully hysterical :D :D :D
Feb. 26th, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
where wings take dream
Excellent and painful at the same time. This was the first time I've seen sentence graphing since the 8th grade. Good stuff!
Feb. 28th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
Her syntax reads as though someone took her speeches, ran them through a Markov chain generator, printed the results out and handed them to her.

Looking again at that second sentence, I *think* "we are blessed with" and "that vote" are supposed to be relative clauses modifying "families". Families we are blessed with. Families that vote.

Not that I can be sure of such a thing to any degree. And not, mind you, that that would make the sentence word salad make any more sense.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )