Date: Mon, 18 May 1998 19:31:29 -0500
From: Gerald Cohen
Subject: Re: Law/Principle of Least Effort

I am grateful to Larry Horn for his 5/18/98 message concerning the
Law/Principle of Least Effort. It's been a while since I've worked on this
topic, and I appreciate the update.

I realize it's risky to advance thoughts without first checking the
latest literature, but here goes anyway. I approach the Law/Principle of
Least Effort from the perspective of my work on syntactic blends, and from
that work it seemed clear to me that in many instances the above
Law/Principle is violated by blends.

To take just a few examples. There's French "pleonastic ne," which as
far as I can tell adds nothing to the content of the message and yet takes
additional effort, however minimal, e.g.: Il est plus riche que je ne
pensais. (Literally: He's richer than I didn't think.")

Secondly, I once heard someone say: "simultaneously at the same
time"--without his intending any special emphasis. I've also heard "It's
full up," whereas "full" alone would suffice.

Finally (although I have more), I noticed "although...but" in the
Pushkin short story "Baryshnja-Krestjanka"; one or the other could be
dropped with no change of meaning: "Xotja eto rassmeshilo Alekseja, no
uderzhalo ego ot dal'nejshix pokushenij." = "Although this struck Aleksej
as funny, but (it) restrained him from further (amorous) attempts."

Is there in fact there is a rational purpose for these seemingly
extraneous features?

--Gerald Cohen