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The Duke of York gambit1

  • Geoffrey K. Pullum (a1)

A Duke who has not been satisfactorily identified with any historical figure is lampooned in a traditional rhyme (believed to have been directed originally at the King of France) as follows:

The Grand Old Duke of York

He had ten thousand men

He marched them up a great high hill

And he marched them down again.

The implication is that this was incompetent and self-defeating activity on his part. Linguists very frequently seem to give evidence of a tacitly held belief that there is similarly something inept and risible about a linguistic analysis which determines that certain structures are assigned a derivation of the general form A→B→A, that is a derivation in which an underlying representation (or some nonultimate remote representation) is mapped on to an intermediate form distinct from it, and then on to a surface (or other superficial) representation which is identical with the earlier stage.

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