Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo

Status: Linguistic puzzle
Check out these parsing challenges over at linguistlist.org. It took me a good 15 or 20 minutes to figure out why they make sense. (Though I'm sure some people will figure them out immediately.) The first one is this sentence:

Dogs dogs dog dog dogs.

It's a legitimate english sentence. To figure out how this is so, it helps to compare it to the sentence: Cats dogs chase catch mice. (They both share the same structure.)

The linguist list folks then point out that the word 'buffalo' can also serve as the basis for a similar sentence:

Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.

And if you consider the possibility of Buffalo in the city of Buffalo being 'Buffalo buffalo', you can get this sentence:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Linguist list actually strings 10 'buffalo' together as one sentence, but I think only 8 can be used, since to 'Buffalo buffalo' can't be used as a verb. (via Reddit)


Posted on Sat Jul 22, 2006


Tom K: The first one is:

Both plums (sumomo) and peaches (momo) are varieties of the peach family (momo no uchi desu). "Both" being indicated by the markers "mo" after the nouns.

The second one I heard but never really understood word for word. The gist of it is that there are two birds in the garden. The first "niwa" is the garden and the second the preposition, I believe.
Posted by Pixie  in  Germany  on  Sat Jul 29, 2006  at  01:09 PM
Fish fishy fished fish fish fish fished fishy fish fish.
Posted by Shockie  in  California  on  Sat Jul 29, 2006  at  09:27 PM
As for Bulldogs bulldogs bulldogs fight fight fight, a CogSci professor at Yale discussed that one in his class when I took it about 4 years ago and it just took me 25 minutes to remember how it works. Try it out with different nouns and verbs:
"The dogs cats mice like hate fight" =
"The dogs [which dogs?] that cats [which cats?] that mice like [what do the cats do (towards the bulldogs)?] hate [what do the dogs do?] fight." OR maybe a better explanation:
"The dogs [that cats [that mice like] hate] fight."
"The dogs fight" = main clause
Which dogs? - "The ones that cats hate."
Which cats? - "The ones that mice like."

For bulldogs it would be:
"The bulldogs [that bulldogs [that those bulldogs fight] fight] fight."

It still doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it makes more sense to me when I say it like: "The bulldogs [pause] that bulldogs that bulldogs fight fight [pause] fight."

And if that actually helped anyone besides myself, I will be shocked! Go Bulldogs!!!
Posted by Jeff Friedman  on  Tue Apr 27, 2010  at  08:04 PM
Comments: Page 2 of 2 pages  < 1 2
Commenting is no longer available in this channel entry.