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usage of "to parse" Options
robjen
Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2017 4:28:49 PM
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The online dictionary Merriam-Webster gives a few definitions of the verb "to parse".

(A) to divide (a sentence) into grammatical parts and identify the parts and their relations to each other

(B) to describe (a word) grammatically by stating the part of speech and explaining the inflection

(C) analyze critically

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

I am interested in definition C. I am going to make up three sentences with it.

(1) The detective spent days parsing the evidence he collected from the crime scene.

(2) Tom has a difficult time trying to parse his teacher's poem.

(3) Economists are parsing the current political situation in this country that has caused the international business crisis.

Am I using the third definition correctly? Thanks for your help.
Romany
Posted: Wednesday, November 01, 2017 6:39:43 AM
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I'm glad you asked this question, because this last meaning of "parse" has confused me a lot too.

I first saw it used to mean analyse/critique a situation outside of Grammar fields, here in an American post on TFD, but merely thought the poster had used the wrong word. When another poster used it like this too, I began to wonder about it.

Since then I have heard people use it on American talk-shows. I keep wanting to ask about it and then forget.So here goes:

1. How long has this usage been around?
2. Do any other Englishes use it this way?
3. Is it commonly understood in this way and have I just been unaware of it all my life?
mactoria
Posted: Thursday, November 02, 2017 6:26:17 AM
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Romany: A Catholic school student in my youth, I knew 'parse' in the grammatical context first, but since diagramming and parsing have faded in the intervening decades, at least in the US, the only context I've heard or used 'parse' in for many years as been that of analyzing or critiquing. Its usage in terms of analyzing politics or current events has grown significantly over the past several decades in the US.

Checked the Google Ngram, and 'parse' has been around in the English language (British and American, doesn't include Australian English) before the 1800s, though the Ngram doesn't specify definition of the word. Though since technical grammar terminology is seldom the subject of common conversation or writing (fiction or non-fiction) these days, I hazard the speculation that it's being used in the contest of analyzing or critiquing.
Romany
Posted: Thursday, November 02, 2017 12:46:05 PM
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Thanks, Mactoria;

Wow. And I had never twigged to that! I have only become aware of it in the last 12 months.

Though, after learning that, I'd still like to hear from a Brit, or Aussie, to find out whether they knew that, too. Or was I the only person in the English-speaking world who didn't!
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, November 03, 2017 7:08:14 AM

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Hi!
I've only ever known the word used in terms of sentences - until the last fifteen years or so.

Since then, I've known it used for a similar grammatical analysis of a "sentence" in a computer language - basically definition three in the American Heritage and Collins dictionaries.

Notably, The Collins English Dictionary, Oxford English Dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary and the Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary do not mention anything about "To examine closely or subject to detailed analysis, especially by breaking up into components".
They only have grammar/syntax definitions (whether English grammar or grammar in a computing language).


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Romany
Posted: Friday, November 03, 2017 7:25:07 PM
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Ah thanks Drago - that's all, really, I wanted to know: - whether this was a newly-coined meaning, and whether it was common to all Englishes.
robjen
Posted: Sunday, November 12, 2017 1:23:47 AM
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Thank you,everyone, for your input. Could someone please tell me whether I'm using the word correctly in my own sentences?

Please give me your feedback. Thanks again.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Sunday, November 12, 2017 4:19:08 AM

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Hello robjen.

Really, you need an answer from an American (or someone else who uses the word in this way.

It is a newly invented meaning, which has not even reached most dictionaries yet, so to me it just sounds like the wrong word.

(1) The detective spent days analysing the evidence he collected from the crime scene.

(2) Tom has a difficult time trying to understand his teacher's poem.

(3) Economists are studying the current political situation that has caused the international business crisis in this country.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
robjen
Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 3:22:42 AM
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Thank you, Drag0nspeaker, for your response. You said it sounds like the wrong word to you. So, I believe you understand the third meaning of the word. Could you please revise one of my sentences to make the verb work in it? Thanks again.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 4:54:59 AM

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Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Hi again.

It's difficult, because 'parse' does not mean 'analyse critically' to me. So any usage meaning that just sounds wrong.

However - just looking logically at your sentences, and replacing the word 'parse' with 'analyse critically' or a similar phrase, we get:

(1) The detective spent days critically analysing the evidence he collected from the crime scene.
This doesn't work. A detective does not criticise the evidence. He does analyse it, but evidence is evidence, it is not subject to the detectives opinions.

(2) Tom has a difficult time trying to analyse his teacher's poem critically.
Possible, but (to me) one doesn't TRY to criticise something. Either he likes the poem or he doesn't.
The sentence seems to mean 'understand' not 'critically analyse'.

(3) Economists are critically analysing the current political situation in this country that has caused the international business crisis.
This one, I could see.
The economists are analysing the situation and laying blame for different parts of it on politicians, parties, industrialists and so on.

The reverse of #2 is possible too. It would be a mixture of definitions (A) and (C).
The teacher parsed the student's poem, pointing out every error of grammar and syntax.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Romany
Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 8:03:26 AM
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Joined: 6/14/2009
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Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom

Robjen - remember what Drago says: it's a very new meaning which, at the moment, is only used in certain parts of the USA. So, as he says, you would need to specifically ask AE speakers for help in using it that way. To the rest of us it just sounds wrong and difficult to fit into sentences; so WE are learning about it ourselves and are probably in need of some advice!!
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