Monday, 12 September 2011

The Dangling Participant

It's been while since I've actually had a good waffle on here. It's partly because I have a blockage in the creativity brain cell and partly because I've discovered photo editing. I also have a lovely new camera.

I will not detain you too long, but a line of thought has been wending its weary way through my sullied intellect and I would very much like to share it with my ailurophile buddies.

My experience with cats has only ever been on first come first served basis. In other words only one cat at a time has graced my abode (one can't really count Tigger!) So I've never been able to study multicat interaction at close quarters. It also means that the one cat I've had living with me has been the sole recipient of my attention, love and devotion .... and, to be honest, sometimes also wrath e.g. after an altercation regarding the ethics of shredded furniture in the living room.

However, throughout these long years of close proximity to Austin there is no doubt in my mind that he is starting to learn the basics of English grammar and syntax. No, he is, really!

When he first arrived he was understandably reticent and a tad reluctant to throw himself wholeheartedly into life chez moi. After all I was a middle-aged lady of punctilious disposition and he was a mog from the mean streets of downtown Colwyn Bay. It was not, at first glance, a perfect union.

As time passed by and we got used to each other, a change started to take place in more than one of us!

He became more vocal and, in actual fact, so did I. We would chat about our day, or at least I would and he would chip in now and again with comments and opinions. Eventually Austin would initiate a conversation and I would interject with thoughts of my own. As time has gone on, we have settled into a routine of chat and backchat. So what have I observed?

It might be my imagination but I've noticed he's starting to differentiate between the parts of speech. I think it is illustrated very well by an exchange that took place the other evening.

Picture the scene. It was a dark and stormy night and Austin was out on the town ... well in the garden actually ... and I wanted him to come in. For those who are unfamiliar with the lexical categories, we (Austin and I, for it's a combined study) have referenced the following tome:

"In the Mood: Aspects of a Tense Voice in Feline Linguistics" by Magnum O'Puss (a little known Irish catademic). The parts of speech that we identified have been highlighted in red:

Me:       "Austin?" = the interrogative

Austin:  "Meow?" = the responsive interrogative

Me:       "Come now!" = the imperative

Austin:   "Meow!" = the counter imperative

Me:        "This minute!" = the escalating imperative

Austin:  (walking slowly away):  "Meow!" = the dismissive interlocutive

Me (arms akimbo, following him in the dark):   "Pleeeeaase!" = the diminishing interlocutive

Austin (heading for the hebe bush):  "Meow!!" = the declining interactive

Me (right behind him):  "You ___ cat" = the mumbled derogative

Austin:   "ƾ" = the verbless claws

Me:        "$**!T" = the moronic overreactive and the expletive deleted

Austin:    »^ᴗӧ^«


  1. Ah, the joys of photo editing! I think I spend 99% of my time editing...addictive, isn't it? ;)

    I used to chat to Spike too, although I doubt he understood. Most of the time he'd just stare at me as if to say "yes, yes, but you promised me carrots..."

    I'm pretty sure Austin, however, understands every word. After all, he'd have to know what you're saying in order to completely disobey, haha!

  2. That sounds like a conversation that goes on around her every day. But it just goes to show you that cats do rule. Austin you keep up the power. Take care.

  3. so creative, hilarious and intellectual, all rolled into one!

  4. Ha..Ha..Ha... Austin, this is so funny and I'm the same ! but my version, I just make mom play chasing with me till I 'm satisfy and then I get in.
    Have a lovely day

  5. Austin,
    Purrrlease don't reveal the secret. We are supposed to be unpredictable. Break the routine. Ooops...Aunty Caro, I have to keep my subjects in line once in a while. purr...meow!

  6. Austin! I believe I have heard these exchanges back to me as well. Not outside, I never get to go outside BUT I do travel through out the house and I have duties to attend. Mom tries to command if and when..and our exchanges have gone quite actually like yours and your mom's.

  7. Hi, there! It's me, Tucker. Mom was going to write to you, but she is too busy wiping the computer monitor clean of Diet Coke. I'll leave the reason why to your most excellent deduction.

  8. Sarah you are so right!

    Marg, this conversation is universal I fear

    Caren, Blimey! Thanks x

    Mr P, You are the mancat for sure!

    Angelina, you managed to keep them in order pretty much all the time. No fears there x

    Admiral, it is so good that these exchanges have been identified for posterity. Your duties are very exacting, so will not detain you x

    Tucker, tell your mom that I find 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water cuts through the splut x

    Katnip Guys, Chuckles = increasing grin

  9. I haven’t even finished my first cup of morning coffee, and here I am treated to a delightful feast of linguistic delicacies filled with an endless buffet of interrogatives, imperatives, and interlocutives! What a wonderful post and I love the growth you and Austin are making, both as friendly companions, and scholarly counterparts. Austin’s range of vocabulary is quite impressive and his ability to be so dismissive with so little effort is remarkable! Bravo!

  10. Deb you are too kind xox A feast? I hope you don't feel you've overeaten? lol

    Seriously, It does amaze me how we and our feline friends can become so in tune, even if the melody gets a little inharmonious at times!

  11. *MOL*
    Of course we cat´s understand what you beans are saying !
    But it´s not always we hear what you are saying ;-)
    Sometimes we have a lot of cotton in our ears *MOL*

  12. Love this! And quite familiar with these sorts of conversations!

  13. You speak meow! Mizz Zoe and I used to chat ever so often during the day!

  14. What a fun post, I cracked up all the while I was reading. So creative! I love the conversation, sounds like one Nate and I have quite often. :)

  15. Well it is apparent that the language of meow is universal, we've all learnt it! Thanks guys :))

  16. Oh, woe to you, my dear CaroScat, Austin is only just letting you know that he's understood every syntactical stunt from the very beginning. You may review the subjects you didn't know he could understand.

  17. I fear I must, Bernadette, otherwise the entente will become even less cordiale!!!

  18. Teeeheeeeheeeee! You and your linguistics, I would never have thunk it... forsooth ;-)

    I think he does get what is being said. He understands tonal fluctuation, and body language.


  19. He is, isn't he! I'm going to send him up to Oxford :)


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