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Monday, April 7, 2014

La ley de la lista

La ley de la lista: en una lista de dos elementos o más, habrá una preferencia fuerte para proceder en orden ascendente (según el número de sílabas). Se relaciona con la figura retórica de “clímax” o “gradación.” En las frases hechas y en los títulos se encuentra frecuentemente esta estructura.

“… many conjunctive and similar constructions tend to be arranged so that their elements appear in order of increasing length” [Carlos Piera, “Spanish Verse and the Theory of Meter,” 159]

¿Una relación posible entre la prosodia y la fraseología?


damas y caballeros / hombres y mujeres
sal y pimienta
aceite y vinagre
vinos y cervezas / vinos y licores
radio y televisión
“el viento mueve, esparce y desordena” [Garcilaso]
“sin oficio ni beneficio”
“capa y espada” [“cloak and sword”: a genre of Golden Age play]
“sol y sombra” [section of bull-fighting arena; drink with anís and cognac]
“sintió un miedo grande, enorme, terrible, sobrecogedor”


ladies and gentlemen / men and women
oil and vinegar
principles and parameters
salt and pepper
care and feeding
rules and regulations
parks and recreation / rest and recreation / rest and relaxation
every Tom, Dick, and Harry
meat and potatoes
trials and tribulations
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen”
“It was a dark and stormy night.”
Abbott and Costello / Penn & Teller / Wells Fargo
dazed and confused
“no rhyme or reason”

But: “bacon and eggs” !! / “eggs and bacon” / “enroll and pay”

It is not a grammatical rule: if we say "I bought potatoes and meat at the store" the phrase is still grammatical. It does not affect the semantics of the phrase either. But to say "he's a meat and potatoes man" you need the elements in that order. "Capa y espada" is genre; you can't call it "espada y capa." So the word order is lexicalized.


Jonathan said...

I forgot Austen's novel "Prejudice and Pride."

Jonathan said...

And there's always "Sensibility and Sense"

Vance Maverick said...

They taught us the term "syntagma" back in the day.

I'm a bit doubtful of the fuerte-ness of this particular preferencia. How would you ask your linguistics students to measure it?

Jonathan said...

First would be formulating a rule by which "Prejudice and Pride" would be malformed as a title. As I said, it is a preference, one that Jakobson noticed too in "Closing Statement: Linguistics and poetics." The null hypothesis would be random order. I don't think anyone has argued for the opposite preference, though, so intuition is on my side. There's "The Naked and the Dead" and "The Beautiful and Damned" so maybe regular iambic structure overrides the gradation rule. If it is a weak preference, then I would accept that, but I haven't found a way to measure it yet.

Vance Maverick said...

Presumably you'd want a corpus approach. Assuming you can identify lists, and test whether they follow this "ley" or weak preference, automatically, you can then formulate questions about all list instances, all list syntagmas (collapsing repetition), whether rare or common lists are likelier to fit, etc. But I don't know the corpus tools.