Consolidated list of questions: English, Biology

First, 3 questions about English.

  1. Is it correct to use a triple possessive? Like so: John’s dog’s tail’s wagging motion.

  2. If a phrase is customarily two words but can be unawkwardly hyphenated, is it ungrammatical to do so? Examples: high-school, school-lunch.

  3. For the contraction 'd for would, is it acceptable for only pronouns? I’d, he’d, she’d. Or can I also say, the dog’d bark. Word red-lines dog’d.

Is a human born the most cognitively advanced animal in the kingdom? Or, phrased differently, are there any animals smarter than a 6-month infant, and if there exists any, at what age does the human infant become the most cognitively advanced animal?

Oh can’t edit any more but same thing for 'll for will
school’ll be closed.

I’ve never seen it like that but it’d be convenient if it’s acceptable.

Sure. There’s a bunch of really crazy constructions nobody uses in daily but are there in case they are needed. In this particular case, I would say the writer could have avoided it by simply establishing the dog’s ownership and thereafter referring to it as “the dog.” But, let’s say 2 or more animals, owners and tails are involved. In this case, you would need this to figure out which tail you are talking about.

This is not a grammar question, but simply spelling. If the dictionary says it should be hyphenated, it is. The exceptions would be “-like” and two colors, e.g. “elephant-like” and “bluish-green” which are hyphenated without being in the dictionary. Adding an unnecessary hyphen or removing a necessary hyphen would be a spelling mistake. Also note that before it is included in the dictionary, both forms may exist, but once it’s “canonized,” there’s only one correct spelling.

In general, contractions are spoken conventions that sound like saying the words really, really fast. If you say “I would” really fast, it sounds like “I’d” anyway. “Would of” becomes “Woulda.” While “dog’d” does exist simply because people are lazy, it would not be considered grammatic, in much the same way as “woulda.” That we have accepted contractions of have, had, am, were, etc. simply shows how often they occur in speech.

If you really dig into how contractions are used, they are nearly universally used when the contracted word is a helping word that doesn’t affect the meaning of the sentence. For example, in Korean, subjects, once set, are dropped in all following sentences, because they are no longer needed to understand what is being said. In English, contractions is a form of subject dropping as well.

There was recently a study of dog vocabulary where the estimation of a dog’s intelligence was something like a 5-year old child.

There’s a list at wikipedia:

Sure. But it’s colloquial and uncommon.

Sure. It helps to reduce ambiguity. You wouldn’t write, “I went to high-school”, but you would write, “The high-school lunches were horrible”. The hyphen joins the two adjectives and makes it clear that the last one is not part of a noun phrase. Thus, “high-school lunches” (lunches belonging to a high school) is different from “high school-lunches” (which could be public-school lunches up on a shelf).

This varies, though. Over time, many expressions start out as two-word phrases, then become hyphenated, then become joined into one word.

And there’s the obligatory XKCD link.

Again, this is perfectly okay, but colloquial. If you’re writing formally, your style guide’d probably disallow it.

In my opinion, a lot of these constructions simulate the patterns of speech in writing.

It’s a little awkward and could do with rephrasing, but it’s still fine in either a formal or informal context.

Say the phrase out loud. Is the stress on the first word, the second, or neither? If the stress is on the second syllable or neither syllable, then it’s not a compound noun and hyphenating it would be inappropriate. Compound nouns always stress the first word, often strongly so.

I wouldn’t say that school lunch is a compound noun, but YMMV - it depends on frequency of usage and whether you could separate the words without it being weird.

Definitely acceptable. You’d avoid it in some formal contexts, but then you’d avoid most contractions in formal contexts. Same for the 'll question.

I’ll pretty much leave the biology question to someone who can explain it better and provide better cites, but basically a human baby at six months is way less cognitively advanced than your average dog or chimp.

I have to disagree with the above. Dog’d is extremely informal and would seem out of place in anything but dialect dialog. I can’t see using the 'd ending with anything but pronouns.

Same for 'll. School’ll might be an acceptable way of transcribing someone’s real world speech, but I advise strongly against using it anywhere else. It’s never been used on the Dope before this thread.

It is certainly correct. Grammatically there is not limit as to how many of these you can string together.

John’s sister’s friend’s dog’s tail’s tip’s hair’s split ends were unsightly.

But you risk confusing the reader. Take this grammatically correct but highly nested statement that really should never have been written:

The salesman the woman the shoe didn’t fit hit quit.

I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree about how formal or informal that usage is, but it certainly is grammatically correct. It’s the kind of thing you’d more often see in printed newspaper articles, where character limit is important (and on twitter, but that is very informal).

It depends: are you using the phrase as a noun, or as an adjective? If it’s an adjective, I might hyphenate it, to make it clearer that the two words go together.

Examples: “John goes to high school, because he’s a high-school student.”
“I’m making a round trip, so I want a round-trip ticket.”
“The high-speed train travels at a high speed.”

“The dog’d tree is covered in dog’d bark.” :stuck_out_tongue:

I’d avoid saying “dog’d” because it sounds too much like the word “dogged.”

[emphasis added—DHMO]

The phrase is, “would have.” The traditional contraction is “would’ve.” The bastard back-formation is “would of,” which kinda sorta sounds like “would’ve.”

The lazy speech practice has become the accepted spelling practice.

I think Thudlow’s criterion is better than this: the hyphenation depends on the function of the phrase in the sentence, not on the stress of its pronunciation.

That is, when a two-word phrase is used as a single adjective modifying another noun, it tends to get hyphenated.

Thus you would write, for example,
“All types of environmentalists are welcome in the sustainability movement’s big tent”
without a hyphen, but
“The sustainability movement’s big-tent approach exacerbated tensions between some environmentalist groups”
would require a hyphen.

The pronunciation of “big tent” in those two cases doesn’t really change AFAICT, but the function of the phrase in the sentence and the consequent appropriateness of a hyphen does change.

More often see? I don’t believe it. In fact, I’ll offer a challenge. Find me even one single use of a construction like dog’d or school’ll from a newspaper (outside of quoted dialectual dialog or the equivalent).

It’s the same criterion - except that I’d change ‘adjective’ to ‘modifier.’ I’m just suggesting one way of detecting the function that phrase has in that sentence.

I’d hear a change in ‘big tent’ in those two examples, though I’ve never come across it as a phrase.

I probably should have provided a cite to show that I’m not making this up out of head: compound nouns stress the first word. That’s just an English language learning site, but it’s one of hundreds.

What? You think it’s that unlikely that character-restricted media will use these contractions more than the Straight Dope? I don’t think it’s very common, especially not in the newspapers I read (which tend to have a more formal style and avoid contractions except for possessives and ‘it’s’), but it certainly happens.

And I’m not sure how I’d provide a cite from a printed newspaper even if I had one to hand.

My guess is that many of the larger adult mammals (dogs/cats and other carnivores, marine mammals, elephants, primates) and some of the more intelligent birds (some parrots, crows, ravens, etc) are “smarter” than a helpless 6-month old infant.

I don’t think it’s disputed that the great apes and dolphins are closest to humans in intelligence. I’d say the great apes probably possess an intellect closer to ours by virtue of our common evolutionary past, somewhat similar social structures, and the fact that we inhabit and interact with the same world. I don’t doubt dolphins are smart, it’s just that their “smartness” is likely very different from ours, given the unique challenges of our respective environments. Humans and great apes are apples, dolphins are oranges.

That said, IIRC there is some consensus that an adult bonobo or chimpanzee is at least as intelligent as a human toddler (1-3 yo), and possibly on the order of a preschooler (3-5 yo).

No need to fight. There’s two types of grammar: rules of use and rules of form. A rule of use involves how it’s used in “real” speech, in which case contractions like school’ll can be found all the time. Rules of form are those that are written down in grammar books in an (mostly vain) attempt to preserve the grammar. In these books, you’ll never, ever find school’ll as a rule (although I could probably find them listed as errors in a typical grammar book.)

Loads of them. 6-month children are not very bright. Dogs, for example, have been equate to anything from 3-5 year old children (I find the latter unlikely, but I can easily see the 3 year old kid in a bright dog).

Oh, I’m not fighting - I’m always happy to agree to disagree, while of course secretly believing that I’m absolutely right, like we all do. :smiley:

You do see those contractions in some English language teaching books. School’ll and dog’d are particularly bad examples, though, since they sound awkward with those final consonants. The time’ll come when even the biggest grammar maven’d be surprised at people decrying contractions.

Also, when prove is used as a linking verb, is it always “proved to be,” or “will prove to be”

Or can I say, “the steering wheel proved too difficult for me to handle…”

This looks like a case of dropping. As stated earlier, it’s human nature to drop non-meaning bearing parts of a sentence to make them shorter and easier to say, e.g. “The man (that is) wearing the hat came late.”

Or, this could be a case of overgeneralization. We want to use “prove+to”, but in this case, we have “prove + too,” and therefore we accept it as “close enough.”