Start your review of Far from the Madding Gerund: And Other Dispatches from Language Log Write a review Sep 09, Nat rated it really liked it This is a collection of posts from the language log blog, run by a bunch of linguists who are advocates of the value of linguistics in general education, unrelenting critics of those who make up or misrepresent linguistic "facts", and opponents of linguistic prescriptivists like David Foster Wallace. The authors display frightening erudition and their care for accurate representations of the way things are is inspiring. Feb 21, Ivan Komarov rated it liked it This is a dead-tree version of the best posts from Language Log I think its called a blook , in which Mark Liberman and Geoff Pullum do a great job explaining linguistic intricacies to the unwashed masses. The subjects they write on range from computational linguistics and theoretical grammar to eggcorns and usage patterns of the notorius word like in young Americans speech. Since LL is an informal blog written in an informal tone, the posts are not only enlightening, but amusing and entertaining as well.
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The origin must be the construction "to be far from fulfulling [something]", which is syntactically normal. The whole thing is structurally just an adjective with a PP complement, like "full of promise", "equal to the challenge", "hot to the touch", "ready for use", and plenty of others.
It seems intended to function more or less like an adverb, as in "scarcely fulfils" or "never fulfils". I suppose that the writer got there by transforming "is far from fulfilling the promise" to "far from fulfils the promise", on the model of "is scarcely fulfilling the promise" transformed to "scarcely fulfils the promise".
Skidelsky is obviously a good writer, and he missed it. I imagine that the New Statesman, where the review appeared, has editors and even copy editors, and they missed it. I myself read right past it, and got halfway through the next paragraph before an obscure sense of oddness brought me back.
This is a good example of two processes, one a general fact about language change and the other a specific fact about the recent history of the English language or more properly the culture of those who write formal English. This usually just creates a new lexical item, in this case an adverb "far from", like the vernacular pseudo-adverb sort of in "he sort of fulfils the promise", or the regionalism near to in "I near to died" google finds 8 instances of "near to died".
This kind of change is common and inevitable. I conjecture that explicit instruction in grammatical analysis tends to damp in formal writing the effect of these "forces of disorder", limiting them to gradual leakage from patterns that have become well established in the vernacular where formal instruction is irrelevant.
Now that grammatical instruction has been abandoned for several generations, at least in the American educational system, we are likely to see a new era of change within the culture of formal writing. Please explain how to diagram a sentence. First spread the sentence out on a clean, flat surface, such as an ironing board. Then, using a sharp pencil or X-Acto knife, locate the "predicate," which indicates where the action has taken place and is usually located directly behind the gills. For example, in the sentence: "LaMont never would of bit a forest ranger," the action probably took place in a forest.
Thus your diagram would be shaped like a little tree with branches sticking out of it to indicate the locations of the various particles of speech, such as your gerunds, proverbs, adjutants, etc. It is also pretty clear that this lexicalization is not stigmatized or marked as vernacular by those who exhibit it. The judgments in the table below should not be taken too seriously, as they represent only my memory of the answers given by perhaps half a dozen informants, all of whom were American students or faculty.
Far from the Madding Gerund: And Other Dispatches from Language Log
Mark says this is syntactically odd, since the highlighted part has "no plausible syntactic analysis. Except the reanalysis has already happened. The role of this type far from fulfils the required role of such a division. While they far from guarantee a successful and stress free implementation, they at least put the developer on the right path.
FAR FROM THE MADDING GERUND.