1

The following is a part of an article about the linguistic diversity of New York City by Ross Perlin:

The great migrations, increasingly diverse till early 20th century, came to a sudden halt with the immigration act of 1924, with its hard cap on immigrants and its racist quotas in favor of Northern and Western Europe. The city's diversity was becoming just a little less radical. By the time the United Nations arrived in New York City in the 1950's, it was a mostly a town of seven particular tribes: Irish, Italian, Jewish, African American, Puerto Rican, West Indian, and Dominican. This is what now many think of as the dynamic "old New York" -- but it was the most static the city has been, linguistically speaking, since its founding.

I don't know how to read the sentence indicated by bold type. I guess that it has the meaning something like "At that time the city was linguistically in the most static period in its entire history". But, I don't understand how it is constructed grammatically.


EDIT 17 OCT

Thanks to the responses to my question, I understand the meaning of the sentence now. But, I still don't understand how it is constructed.

(1) it was the most static the city has been since its founding.

A sentence containing a relative clause usually can be divided into two sentences:

(2) Thursday was appointed as the day the trial would be held.

(3a) Thursday was appointed as the day.

(3b) The trial would be held at the day.

But it seems sentence (1) cannot be divided in this way.

And, a relative clause usually restricts the interpretation of the antecedent. But, in (1) the antecedent (the most static) seems to restrict the meaning of the relative clause (from the entire history of the city to a particular period in it). I found a sentence which has a similarity to (1) .

(4) He looked me up the last time he was in Tokyo.

I think we can add extra words to make it more usual form (though awkward):

(5) He looked me up the last time of the occasions when he was in Tokyo.

Can we add some words to (1) to make it usual form? Is this kind of analysis irrelevant?

  • 1
    If I'm not mistaken, it should mean "Linguistically speaking, (what people think of as) the dynamic "old New York" was the most static (time/period) the city has (even) been since its founding." -- But to be sure, I would have to read more of the text, which I'd like to pass. – Damkerng T. Oct 16 '15 at 14:50
  • You've correctly understood the meaning – G. Ann - SonarSource Team Oct 16 '15 at 18:06
2

Removing the "linguistically speaking" part from the sentence leaves us with:

...but it was the most static the city has been since its founding.

Meaning that since the time the city was founded (since its founding), it was at the point where it had been more static than it would be considered at any other point in history. Rearranging what I have just said would lead to me saying it was the most static the city had been ever since it was founded, which is essentially the very sentence you're referencing.

But what does this mean? Well, seeing as the only demographics referenced in the extract were Irish, Italian, Jewish, African American, Puerto Rican, West Indian, and Dominican, this would lead us to believe that there weren't exactly many languages being spoken here. Linguistically speaking, there wasn't much going on in terms of diversity and linguistics. You could, after all, say that it was fairly... well, static, after all.

  • I think it would be helpful to explain how "linguistically speaking" relates to "the most static". – ColleenV parted ways Oct 16 '15 at 18:42
  • @ColleenV I've edited that in now to help clear up the confusion. – nine Oct 16 '15 at 18:43

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