[Source:] p 13 of 20, Style Stands Still, by John M. Lawler, University of Michigan

[4.] -ɔl 2-Dimensional  shawl sprawl scrawl wall (Motion: crawl brawl squall haul fall)
[5.] -æp 2-Dimensional  flap clap lap map wrap slap strap cap chap
-æk 2-Dimensional Connected  plaque stack bracket tacky ash
-ap Off 2-Dimensional  bop top hop pop flop (Separate: drop topple lop crop)
[8.] -mp 3-Dimensional  rump hump lump stump bump tump dump plump

Prof Lawler defines 'dimension' on p 11 of 20. However, I don't understand or can't imagine the difference in dimension between the verbs for 2D and 3D above. For example:

[4.] A scrawl is written on a thin parchment or papyrus; so the 'height' of the writing material seems trivial. So should a scrawl be 1D?

[5.] How is a cap 2D? Similarly, how is a chap 2D? Humans (including chaps) can jump, and so can move along the z-, beyond the x- and y-axes.

[8.] How is a stump 3D, but a wall (in 4) 2D?


OK, lemme take these in order.

  • Dimensionality is the difference between a point, a line, a surface, and a volume.
    Respectively, these are 0-, 1-, 2-, and 3-Dimensional images. It's geometric.
    Pretty much everything physical falls into one of these dimensional classes.
    And humans deal with, and talk about dealing with, physical objects and phenomena. A lot.

  • A scrawl is a variety of writing. All writing requires (and thus implies) a 2-D surface to write on.

  • a cap is a variety of hat that fits closely over the skull. That makes it 2-D.

  • a stump is a 3-D object -- the remains of a tree that's been cut down -- that is roughly the same size in all 3 dimensions, like a hump or a lump or a bump. That's what -ump means.
    But stump also has the st- 1-D assonance like stick, stem, stand, stiff, still. In the case of stump, the 1-D shows up, too; a stump is a 3-D object that used to be a 1-D object.

  • a wall, on the other hand, is a 2-D object, pretty straightforwardly.

Since you seem very literal in your interpretations, I add that when I say something is "1-D", I don't mean that it lacks the other two dimensions, but rather that it has only one salient dimension. Trees are 1-D, walls are 2-D, and stumps are 3-D because they have (respectively) 1, 2, or 3 salient dimensions.

  • Thanks. I'm trying to improve my imagination. About wall, how is it 2D pretty straightforwardly? Its verticality seems the most important feature; so why not 1D? About stump, how did the cutting of a tree make it 3D from 1D?
    – NNOX Apps
    Aug 10 '15 at 1:57
  • 1
    @LePressentiment I wonder if part of the issue here is that cultural differences result in slightly different "prototype referents" for certain words. For example, I suspect that most American English speakers would most readily think of the flat surface on each side of a room when hearing the word wall. From your comment, I suspect that you more readily think of a stone or brick structure that divides two territories or serves to keep certain parties out of some area or to keep certain parties from escaping some area, in which case its height might be its most salient characteristic. Aug 10 '15 at 21:54
  • 1
    @musicallinguist, good point. When working for Sanyo I had to explain that a young colleague was off sick "after falling off a wall on his way home from the pub". This was greeted with incomprehension until I realised that the Japanese manager was trying to picture the young man falling off the wall of a room. Aug 12 '15 at 6:04

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