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Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

Posted on 20 February 2012 by admin

 

From Wikipedia.com

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.” is a grammatically valid sentence in the English language, sickness used as an example of how homonyms and homophones can be used to create complicated linguistic constructs. It has been discussed in literature since 1972 when the sentence was used by William J. Rapaport, an associate professor at the University at Buffalo.[1] It was posted to Linguist List by Rapaport in 1992.[2] It was also featured in Steven Pinker‘s 1994 book The Language Instinct.[3]

The sentence’s intended meaning becomes clearer when it’s understood that it uses the city of Buffalo, New York and the somewhat-uncommon verb “to buffalo” (meaning “to bully or intimidate”), and when the punctuation and grammar is expanded so that the sentence reads as follows: “Buffalo buffalo that Buffalo buffalo buffalo, buffalo Buffalo buffalo.” The meaning becomes even clearer when synonyms are used: “Buffalo-origin bison that other Buffalo bison intimidate, themselves bully Buffalo bison.” (See below.)

SENTENCE CONSTRUCTION

The sentence is unpunctuated and uses three different readings of the word “buffalo.” In order of their first use, these are

Marking each “buffalo” with its use as shown above gives:

Buffaloa buffalon Buffaloa buffalon buffalov buffalov Buffaloa buffalon.

Thus, the sentence when parsed reads as a claim that bison who are intimidated or bullied by bison are themselves intimidating or bullying to bison (at least in the city of Buffalo – implicitly, Buffalo, NY):

  • [Those] (Buffalo buffalo) [whom] (Buffalo buffalo) buffalo, buffalo (Buffalo buffalo).
  • [Those] buffalo(es) from Buffalo [that are intimidated by] buffalo(es) from Buffalo intimidate buffalo(es) from Buffalo.
  • Bison from Buffalo, New York, who are intimidated by other bison in their community, also happen to intimidate other bison in their community.
  • THE buffalo FROM Buffalo WHO ARE buffaloED BY buffalo FROM Buffalo, buffalo (verb) OTHER buffalo FROM Buffalo.
  • Buffalo buffalo (main clause subject) [which the] Buffalo buffalo (subordinate clause subject) buffalo (subordinate clause verb) buffalo (main clause verb) Buffalo buffalo (main clause direct object).

The sentence can be clarified by substituting the synonym “bison” for the animal “buffalo”, “bully” for the verb “buffalo”, and “New York” to refer to the state of the city Buffalo:

“New York bison New York bison bully bully New York bison”, or:
“New York bison whom other New York bison bully, themselves bully New York bison”.

Removing the classifier noun “Buffalo” (the city) further clarifies the sentence (note that the initial capital is retained as the common noun “buffalo” now starts the sentence):

“Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.”
“Bison [that other] bison bully [also] bully bison.”

Translation (first order logic)

Given domain = the set of all buffalo (animal), FB(x) = ‘x is from Buffalo (place)’ and B(x, y) = ‘x buffalos (verb) y’, the sentence can be translated into first order logic as follows: forall x (exists y (FB(x) wedge FB(y) wedge B(y, x)) 	o exists z (FB(z) wedge B(x, z)))

Usage

There is nothing special about eight “buffaloes”; indeed, a sentence with “buffalo” repeated any number of times is grammatically correct (according to Chomskyan theories of grammar). The shortest is “Buffalo!”, which can be taken as an imperativeinstruction to bully someone (“You, buffalo!”) with the understood prefix “you” removed.[4]

 

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