Nov. 1st, 2006

notyourbroom: (inspector gadget)
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.

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notyourbroom

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