I've been neglecting this blog for a while, largely the result of going on vacation. I spent two and a half weeks in Malaysia, and another two weeks recovering from jet lag and trying to catch up with other work. We went to introduce our son Aran (now 14 months old) to his great grandmother and the rest of my wife's very large clan. We all had a wonderful time, even Aran, who, after getting over some stranger anxiety, seemed to lap up the attention from all his cousins.
Linguists often like to explore sentences that are grammatically well formed but hard for people to parse. Apart from provoking simple curiosity, they also suggest things about how the mind processes language. So, for example, there are "garden path" sentences such as "The horse raced past the barn fell." There are also sentences composed from homophones. Stephen Pinker (in The Language Instinct) provides one from Buffalo (the city), buffalo (the animal), and buffalo (to deceive or intimidate):
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
Which means "Bison from Buffalo (that other) bison from Buffalo intimidate (themselves) intimidate (other) bison from Buffalo."