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It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

It's Been Said Before "examines why certain phrases become clichés and why they should be avoided -- or why they still have life left in them."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Sounds Fascinating

By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Academic Paper

Title: The whole is sometimes less than the sum of its parts: toward a theory of document acts
Author: Todd Oakley
Institution: Case Western Reserve University
Author: Vera Tobin
Institution: Case Western Reserve University
Linguistic Field: Cognitive Science; Discourse Analysis
Abstract: We present in broad outline a theory of document acts, using the influential Supreme Court opinion in Marbury v. Madison (1803) as our principal test case. Marbury has a superabundance of rhetorical questions. They make up a significant and stylistically prominent portion of the total linguistic material of the text, yet they all but disappear from Marbury’s citation history and thus its content as an enduring jurisprudential entity. To account for these facts, we examine Marbury as a whole text addressing a particular situation, as a pastiche of constructions, and as a tool of jurisprudential decision-making. The intersection and independence of these ‘modes of being’ call for an overarching theoretical framework capable of accounting for facets of documents’ existence at three distinct but interpenetrating strata: System, Artifact, and Construction. We base our theory on primordial cognitive capacities for joint attention and joint commitments, with the strata as consequences of embodied human minds born into and embedded in intersubjective environments filled with and shaped by documents and their circulation. The closed system of United States Supreme Court opinions makes an excellent case for a theory of document acts that will eventually be used to understand and explain more open-ended systems.


This article appears IN Language and Cognition Vol. 6, Issue 1.

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