Date: Wed, 4 Oct 1995 08:05:46 -0400 From: "M. Lynne Murphy" <104LYN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MUSE.ARTS.WITS.AC.ZA> Subject: lexical choice i think bob wachal's student's fill-in-the-blank is going to bias its answers: today, i'm going to do the _________. since you're forced into using a definite determiner, i would be more likely to fill-in-the-blank with "wash"--but that's not what i would say about my need to wash clothes--i'd say "today, i'm going to do laundry." i'd be less likely to stick "laundry" in there, because "the laundry" = the place that does washing for me (or a laundromat). (for a while there was a trend to promote laundromats as singles joints. so i suppose "doing the laundry" could take on a whole nother meaning there.) this is not to say that i can't use "the" with "laundry" meaning 'dirty clothes', but that would be in a case where the laundry in question is more definite. when i "do laundry", i do whatever laundry there is. i don't talk about doing "the laundry" because the "the" makes it sound like it's something you can do and be done with--but we know this is not true (unless you launder au naturelle, there will be more laundry to do when you're done with "the" laundry). the "the" makes it specific-- as in "the laundry you left at my house is starting to smell". lynne --------------------------------------------------------------------- M. Lynne Murphy 104lyn[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] Department of Linguistics phone: 27(11)716-2340 University of the Witwatersrand fax: 27(11)716-4199 Johannesburg 2050 SOUTH AFRICA