notyourbroom: (inspector gadget)
[personal profile] notyourbroom
clitic morphemes are silly.

i just had an interesting speech phenomenon;

I was talking to myself (because that's how I roll) and the following sprang forth--
An item of-- a lexical item, rather, 's denotation [...]
The syntax of that sequence is pretty interesting. With my current level of knowledge, I would construct it, I think, like this:



I'm almost certain that that analysis is incorrect, however.

"rather" feels like it's been moved (as commas tend to indicate) from its d-structure position. But from//to where? mm.

Note the following:
Data Set 1

"A fish, rather, is tired" ≠ "A fish is rather tired" 1
"A fish is rather tired" ≈2 "A fish, rather, is rather tired"
and...
Data Set 2

"A fish is tired"
  1. ≈ "Rather, a fish is tired"
  2. * "A, rather, fish is tired"
  3. ≈ A fish, rather, is tired"
  4. # "A fish is, rather, tired" 3
  5. ≈ "A fish is tired, rather"
So we know from Data Set 1 that "rather" does not originate as an adjunct to the verb when used in its clarifying sense, based both on intuition of the semantics of the sentences and the plain fact that both the adjunct-form and the clarifying form may coëxist peacefully. And given the clarifying form's wide range of acceptable positions in Data Set 2, its d-structure position is not immediately apparent to me.

(Also note that by changing the stress from fish to tired, we can force "rather" to clarify "tired" rather than "fish" in all the same environments. Spooky.)

But.. Yes. So I'm not sure how to make an analysis of the cause work, but the observation is still pretty cool: "rather" may somehow force itself between nested determiner phrases, as evidenced by the postpending of clitic morphemes in such structures.


  1. The first use of "rather" acts to clarify the subject, while the second use modifies "tired."
  2. I'm using the symbol ≈ to mean "has the same basic meaning as."
  3. This one might only sound bad because the surface position of "rather" is identical to its surface position in "A fish is rather tired," making it difficult to distinguish the intent of the usage.

Date: 2006-11-01 10:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nekokaze.livejournal.com
I know from running into this stuff in my own spontaneous speech that I can have similar insertions before that clitic, but not with "rather", unfortunately. You should see to whom such a use is grammatical. ("Rather" has a very limited syntactic role for me in terms of production, though I'm fully aware that others use it more often and more interestingly.)

Date: 2006-11-01 10:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nekokaze.livejournal.com
P.S. The last thing I was thinking about before reading this post was clitics. COINCIDENCE, OR INATE BEHAVIOR? YOU DECIDE.

Though that was actually more about Japanese reductions and which I would call clitics and the theoretically possible (if I'm recalling one bit right) utterance 照っててってった tette-te-tte-tta (shine.CONNECTIVE-CONT-QUOT-say.PST, roughly) '(he/she) told (you) to keep shining'.

Date: 2006-11-01 11:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marisa-b.livejournal.com
Yay for talking to oneself.

Didn't Legate say that we can't analyse sentences involving commas in the same way as those without? Or was that just her continuing to protect us from the big scary world of more-complex syntax?

Here's an interesting thought: your grammaticality judgments in Data Set 2 would pretty much all be the same if 'rather' were replaced by 'I mean' (4 is iffy, though, I think). Maybe there are just places in sentences that are more logical than others for such divisions?

Date: 2006-11-02 12:08 am (UTC)

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