Author Topic: Island Constraints: a random thought  (Read 7520 times)

Offline Daniel

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Island Constraints: a random thought
« on: June 07, 2014, 09:19:12 PM »
I had a thought today about Island Constraints.

There's the typical example:
"How did you wonder that Bill fixed the car?"

And that's supposed to be wrong due to movement and such.

But I was thinking about how it really should be fixed, and I came up with this:
"How did you wonder did Bill fix the car?"
Somehow that seems more right to me, even though it's probably ungrammatical still.

Thoughts?
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Offline MalFet

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Re: Island Constraints: a random thought
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2014, 11:51:41 PM »
Hmm...to me, that second sentence sounds even worse.

Even if it didn't, what's the upshot?

Offline jkpate

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Re: Island Constraints: a random thought
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2014, 12:45:47 AM »
I have to agree with Malfet... the second sentence sounds somehow even worse.
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Island Constraints: a random thought
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2014, 09:11:09 AM »
It probably is "just worse".
But from a processing point of view, I think do-support is what's really lacking in the first sentence to give a hint at what the meaning is.
To the extent that I can understand the first sentence, it doesn't have the intended meaning. To the extent that I can understand the second one, it does.
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Offline MalFet

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Re: Island Constraints: a random thought
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2014, 09:41:47 AM »
Sorry, not me. Throwing in an extra do simply doesn't change the scope problems.

Offline lx

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Re: Island Constraints: a random thought
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2014, 10:28:13 AM »
For me, that sounds bad after wonder. I would never say "I wonder that..." but rather something like, "I wonder if/whether." There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with, "How did you wonder whether Bill fixed the car?" to me, but maybe other people won't agree. I'm not even sure myself. I saw this thread this morning and some times when I think about the sentences they sound moderately bad, sometimes awful and then sometimes passable. But it did occur to me that that basically never occurs next to wonder and I wondered whether or not that was the reason.

Offline Daniel

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Re: Island Constraints: a random thought
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2014, 12:18:11 PM »
Hmmm... nevermind :)

lx, your point about "that" is a good one. Maybe it was "whether"--
How did John wonder whether Bill fixed the car?

That one is mentioned a few places according to Google.


I think the reason my alternative sentence seemed better at first was due to linear relationships, maybe a parenthetical:
How (did you wonder?) did Bill fix the car?
At best it's the same grammatical reading as in "How is it that you wondered, about whether Bill did or did not fix the car?"
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Offline freknu

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Re: Island Constraints: a random thought
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2014, 03:19:36 PM »
I must be ignorant or biased, because both seem perfectly alright o_O Just a slight difference in meaning ...

Offline Daniel

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Re: Island Constraints: a random thought
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2014, 07:56:04 PM »
Hmm... the "How did you wonder whether Bill fix the car" sentence is cited in textbooks as an example of an ungrammatical sentence and most native English speakers agree.
Note that the "how" is related to how the car was fixed, not the manner of wondering. That's grammatical, just odd.



(Compare "What did you wonder whether Bill fixed?")
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Offline MalFet

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Re: Island Constraints: a random thought
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2014, 10:15:09 PM »
Right...if the "how" is understood to adjoin "wonder", the first sentence parses fine enough for me too, but it shouldn't (at least not for me) be grammatical under an intended interpretation adjoining "fix".

Offline freknu

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Re: Island Constraints: a random thought
« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2014, 06:00:03 AM »
Note that the "how" is related to how the car was fixed, not the manner of wondering. That's grammatical, just odd.

Ooohh! Now I get it :)