Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
I once had a student in a Ling 101 class who said she was having trouble with Wh-movement. No surprise here, students always have trouble with the syntax part of the course (we use GB). Her question was something like this: is it called Wh-movement even if there is only one CP? I didn’t understand why she would think that it’s called Wh-movement if there is more than one CP, but not with only one. Then I looked at her notes. She had an example of successive cyclic movement (when a Wh-word moves from an embedded clause to the top of the matrix clause it has to “stop” first in the embedded CP). Next to it she wrote “doublage movement”. It turns out that she thought that she thought it was called “doublage” movement because it had to move two times: first to to the embedded specifier of CP, then to the higher one. Hence her confusion about calling it “doublage” movement even if it moves only once.
My question then is: is “doublage movement” an eggcorn?
It is indeed. A perfect eggcorn. Not one the person in the street is likely to make, of course. Think I would call that “high-hanging fruit.”
and it comes w/ written documentation!
Sorry that I don’t speak the jargon, but I’ll try to formulate a comment…
From the description, I presume that “Doublage” is some neologism that has been given the meaning “to move two times.” I think I’m with you on that point.
What perplexes me is that “Doublage” sounds like it could be an eggcorn of “Double aitch” or “HH”. But, the original concept—which is “WH” ...presumably pronounced “Double-u aitch”—has an extra syllable in its pronunciation. Are we suggesting that the listener missed the middle syllable every time and went straight to “Doublage”?
I guess that’s conceivable because people will hear what they want to hear, but is that what’s really going on here? Just seeking clarification.
Last edited by jorkel (2008-02-06 12:45:13)
In my (fairly common US) dialect WH is pronounced “dubya-aych.” And “doublage” is pronounced “dub-laydj.” So the center-word substitution is really just a “Y” sound for an “L” sound, an easy transposition. “CH/DJ” is also an easy conversion.
I’m intrigued by this, but you might as well be speaking Greek. (As Bones from Star Trek might say, “Dammit, Jim, I’m an editor, not a linguist!”) What is GB? What is CP? Can you give an example of a word that uses a Wh-movement (or does that question even make sense)? I think there are many word lovers on this forum who are not formally trained in linguistics who would enjoy this eggcorn much more if we understood it better.
Feeling quite combobulated.
Hi, sorry about the jargon. Us in the Northeast, you know…
First of all: What is Wh-movement?
Because question words in English start with “wh” (where, when, what…), many people just call them “wh-words”. In English, these words tend to be in the beginning of the sentence, even though they are interpreted somewhere else. For example, I know that John bought something. I can say “John bought something”. If I want to know what that something is, I will use the word “what” instead of the word “something”. But for some reason, when we use “what” instead of “something” when we ask a question, we move it to the beginning and say “What did you buy?”. Another way to see this is to ask a surprise question, as in”I’m shocked! John bought WHAT?” In surprise questions we usually keep the Wh-word in its original direct-object place.
Now to what “doublage movement” would be:
Some sentences have another sentence inside them, like “Mary said that John bought something”. In these cases, when we use a wh-word that moves to the beginning, there is reason to believe that they go through two steps: 1) Mary said what that John bought; 2) What did Mary say that John bought. Some linguists call that “successive cyclic wh-movement”. But because there are two steps, my student ended hearing “doublage-movement” instead of “wh-movement”.
Now for those wondering how that happened, I have a guess. The professor who was teaching the lectures (I was a teaching assistant and just taught discussion sections) is not a native speaker of English and has a strong slavic accent. Besides, he speaks very fast. Sometimes the word “movement” itself sounds like “mooment”. In general his post-tonic syllables (after the stressed syllable) are all jumbled, so it’s not that unreasonable that someone would be confused!
Hope things are clearer now! :)
Absolutely! Thanks, cynthax. I have a greater appreciation for this intriguing eggcorn now. And I can easily see how the speaker’s accent could come into play in your student’s hearing (and misunderstanding of) this term.
Feeling quite combobulated.
The scenario raises an interesting question…
If a foreign speaker of English distorts his words—unintentionally, of course—would the misinterpretation of those words qualify as eggcorns?
I’m not sure whether I know the answer to that question. The genesis of the verbal alteration lies with the speaker—which is not the case for most eggcorns. But, the imagery alteration is generated by the listener … which is consistent with eggcorns.