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Specializations => Morphosyntax => Topic started by: Morphosyntax on May 06, 2018, 09:50:05 PM

Title: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Morphosyntax on May 06, 2018, 09:50:05 PM
Does anyone know of any literature on the following phenomenon?

2 doctors is fine

The subject seems to be a plural DP, but is actually implicitly a clausal subject whose verb is elided. I say this because the predicate doesn't ascribe a property to the DP "2 doctors" but the proposition of having or there being 2 doctors, e.g. in a question of how many doctors there should be in an operation theatre. It could be paraphrased as:

It is fine to have 2 doctors
It is fine having 2 doctors
To have 2 doctors is fine
Having 2 doctors is fine
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 06, 2018, 11:16:01 PM
I would consider this an instance of semantic agreement where conceptually you are talking about a single idea rather than a collection of two individuals.

Similarly we can use either singular or plural with a collective noun like "family":
The family is/are very nice.

There's some dialectal and conventional variation in exactly which form is selected, but in the right contexts it can vary.

In this case, "2 doctors" is similar to "macaroni and cheese", with a formally plural expression that represents a single idea.

I agree with you that it may be an elided form of a clause (for example, or an NP like "the idea of..."), but I don't think that is required for this to work, and I would think that in that actual usage it is more about viewing the collection as a whole than referring to some implied larger constituent.

An alternative analysis could be that the NP becomes [-count] so that singular agreement is used by default. I'm not sure about that analysis, and it wouldn't parallel the possible plural agreement for singular forms (like "family"), but it might help to explain it too.

You should be able to find substantial literature on the topic (or at least related topics) by searching for "semantic agreement".
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: binumal on May 15, 2018, 12:39:41 PM
One more example is the word Government- I have come across constructions like - The government has and The government have - Not sure if  it is a peculiarity of Indian English
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 15, 2018, 03:58:18 PM
Most organizations (businesses, governments, schools, etc.) take plural agreement in British English, so it's not surprising that includes Indian English. In American English there is a strong tendency toward singular agreement. But in a few cases it's more flexible, especially with the word "family" in particular, and especially when in an expression like "your family is/are nice". At least to my (American) ears, it's much harder to do that for a company because we aren't thinking of the individual members as individuals (indeed, that is the semantic contrast for "family", it's not a meaningless difference in form!). But anaphoric reference to groups/organizations is plural with "they", which is interesting-- "The company did something. They did it well."
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 16, 2018, 12:42:04 PM
I disagree with Daniel. "Two doctors is fine" is definitely a case of ellipsis, as suggested in the OP, whereas regarding a group as including its members and accordingly encoding the latter in the singular is a metonymy=the whole stands for its parts. These are two completely different mechanisms.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 16, 2018, 07:12:44 PM
What evidence do you have for active ellipsis within that syntactic context? E.g., a larger 'deep structure' truncated to what we see? If not, then how is that different from thinking of it as a singular semantic concept, and therefore semantic agreement?

I don't "disagree" with you, I'm just not sure if there's a way to tell the difference here. I don't know of a general rule where you can take a clause and elide it and make it a subject, so I don't see why this is anything other than a conceptual issue structurally. I agree it relates conceptually to a clause as well, but "ellipsis" would suggest it is being actively shortened in the grammar and I know of no evidence for that.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 17, 2018, 01:41:00 AM
To me, there are two arguments supporting ellipsis.

(1) You find sentences such as "inviting 4 people is fine". In a context where the topic of discussion (an invitation) has already been established in the previous discourse, it is plausible that "inviting" might be dropped.

(2) If you say "two people/doctors are fine", there is a certain ambiguity due to the meaning of "fine"=in good health condition.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 17, 2018, 02:38:39 AM
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Ellipsis is something which speakers initiate and which only occasionally becomes fully grammaticalized (see Nicholas Evans: "Insubordination"). To me there are two arguments supporting ellipsis.
That's not a substantial argument. It's basically the same as me saying it's conceptual. Either way, it's outside of the grammar, if it's not something conventional. Yet, in this case, it is conventional.

Yes, you are right about those potential sources, but that doesn't mean they're still synchronically connected.

Again, I'm not sure we actually disagree about anything substantive here.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 17, 2018, 02:43:48 AM
In conceptual terms, to me there is a difference between the singular agreement with police/family and the "doctor issue". In the former case, family and police are conceptualized as a collective group containing different elements. In the latter, there is no such pattern (there is no such concept as "doctorship"). It seems difficult to reconcile the quantifier (2) with the singular unless we posit ellipsis derived from cases in which "doctors" serves as an object of verbs such as "consult", "call" etc. With "doctors" in the function of subject, this doesn't work:
*"two doctors is fine (for this job)".
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 17, 2018, 03:18:07 AM
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In the latter, there is no such pattern (there is no such concept as "doctorship").
I don't follow this part.

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It seems difficult to reconcile the quantifier (2) with the singular unless we posit ellipsis derived from cases in which "doctors" serves as an object of verbs such as "consult", "call" etc.
The quantifier and plurality/count of the doctors is contextually irrelevant. The focus is on the idea.

One argument against ellipsis is that there are many (perhaps infinitely many) possible sources which all work out equivalently:
Having two doctors is fine.
The status/assignment of two doctors is fine.
The group of two doctors is fine.
Seeing two doctors is fine.

For an analysis of ellipsis in synchronic terms (enough to license agreement!) I would like to be able to identify a specific source. Technically my point here isn't enough to falsify the ellipsis argument (because indeed one particular possible source above could be the source), but I find it less convincing for that reason.

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With "doctors" in the function of subject, this doesn't work:
*"two doctors is fine (for this job)".
I don't follow. "Two doctors is fine" works. And to my ears "...for this job" is also acceptable. Not with something more agentive maybe like "Two doctors operates well", but actually I think we can stretch that for a metonymic reading and have it work, even though it's a bit odd. It has a sort of comparative sense, like "One doctor operates terribly, two doctors operates well", with a sort of pun reading to it (zeugma?).

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In conceptual terms, to me there is a difference between the singular agreement with police/family and the "doctor issue". In the former case, family and police are conceptualized as a collective group containing different elements.
I see "two doctors" as an abstract expression of an idea, rather than a way of counting how many doctors. It's an answer to "what" rather than "how many".

It's the same situation that comes up in the following:
"What do you want to buy?"
"Two apples is important."
"Three bananas is optional."
"Four oranges is too much."

These are being treated as ideas, like citation forms, presumably being quoted from a list or as hypothetical scenarios. We could relate them to "having two applies" (etc.) but that doesn't seem like a literal source of ellipsis to me. Instead, I'd say it's more like:

"The idea of two applies is good."
or
"The quantity/amount of two apples is good."

Given that I don't have any way to falsify an argument of the form "it's ellipsis" I don't know what else to say there, but to me I don't think there's anything wrong with having essentially cited elements taking singular agreement, exempted/shielded from external grammatical relations. It's not too different from a direct quotation: "He said 'two apples'."

--

But to be clear, I do appreciate your comments here, and maybe you'll convince me. These constructions are puzzling either way.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 17, 2018, 03:38:29 AM
I did not mean ellipsis in synchronic terms, but in diachronic ones.
Going back to your remark:

Having two doctors is fine.
The status/assignment of two doctors is fine.
The group of two doctors is fine.
Seeing two doctors is fine.

With regard to ""two doctors is fine (for this job)", I might have been a bit imprecise and I get your point. But also in this case, the sentence would be amenable to something along the lines of "employing two doctors..." with "doctors" functioning as direct objects.

(1) and (4) also imply "doctors" as an object, as a source also postulated by me. We don't need a specific verb as the source of omission, but a specific construction, i.e. a transitive one.
I doubt that "group" could lend itself to omission, and this all the more since this sentence with anaphoric "the" seems innatural to me (but I might be wrong). One would rather say: the two doctors who form this group...", I guess. A generic one with "a" instead of "the" sounds much more natural.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 17, 2018, 08:03:29 AM
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I did not mean ellipsis in synchronic terms, but in diachronic ones.
OK, yes, I agree about that.

However, I think I can come up with similar examples spontaneously, so I'd argue it's productive synchronically, at least with the right pragmatic circumstances. For example, take any restaurant menu, and pick two items, and I can say "X and Y sounds good". You could say that's still roughly "Having X and Y", but there's no immediate linguistic priming context, nor is "Having X and Y" a typical/conventional phrase associated (for me at least) with ordering at a restaurant (although of course those words are used but not in that particular pattern).

What's interesting, regardless, is that if this is a diachronic development (at least sometimes), then it relates to a side project of mine, thinking about ways in which diachronic changes leave remnant anomalies behind in the grammar in the linear form. So in this case, some original more complex construction has been simplified but left singular agreement behind.
Here are some slides about this:
http://publish.illinois.edu/djross3/files/2018/03/GrammaticalAnomalies.pdf
I'll save this discussion in my notes for that project as another possible example of such developments.

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We don't need a specific verb as the source of omission, but a specific construction, i.e. a transitive one.
Ah, very interesting, and a profound advantage of Construction Grammar to explain such data over a Generative model assuming a specific underlying sentence.

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I doubt that "group" could lend itself to omission
Group is really interesting in itself:
"The group is nice."
"The group are nice." (marked, but possible in the right context.)

While your points about the potential sources make sense, it is still my intuition that this is a conceptual substitution (e.g., implicitly "the idea of...") rather than a more relevant underlying structure. I don't know if others would agree with me though.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 17, 2018, 08:32:57 AM
With regard to the kind of omission underlying subordination, Evans himself notes that there might be different matrix clauses, which however need to be semantically (and in this case I'd add "constructionally") similar or compatible with the outcome.

What you remark is very interesting and provides further evidence for ellipsis (regardless of the stage where it might have occurred):

"(Having xy) sounds good"

motivates the origin of "sounds good" in a copulative construction with an obligatory singular verbal form.

The reason why:

"Wine and bear tastes good" (in the sense of different beverages and not of a cocktail)

is hardly acceptable (at least to me) is the fact that this sentence cannot be embedded in a construction which requires a 3rd singular person verb: "Having/ordering... tastes good".

And yes, I am a "construction freak", although a bit less than Goldberg ;-)
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 17, 2018, 09:16:17 AM
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"Wine and bear tastes good" (in the sense of different beverages and not of a cocktail)

is hardly acceptable (at least to me) is the fact that this sentence cannot be embedded in a construction which requires a 3rd singular person verb: "Having/ordering... tastes good".
I see no problem with that, either as grammatical or as having an underlying source like "Drinking X and Y tastes good". (Admittedly that in itself ends up being somewhat metonymic or something, but it works for my ears.)
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 17, 2018, 09:50:13 AM
Interesting. So, if I get you right, "wine and beer tastes good" is commonly used in the sense I specify above?
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 17, 2018, 10:05:11 AM
I wouldn't think commonly used (although perhaps in the right context), but something you could say. The meaning would be a pair of beverages you'd drink together. For example, it would make more sense to say something like "Vodka and water is better to avoid a hangover", meaning you'd drink some vodka and then some water, and repeat. Not a mixed drink, but a related pair. It's a single concept, but not a single entity.

In fact, a good example here would be a wine and meal pairing. "Red wine and steak is/?*are good." or "White wine and fish is/?*are good." I don't see that as an ellipsis of any obvious longer phrase either, but it's one semantic concept. Arguably "The pairing of..." but that phrasing seems more forced than the original. And it's really quite awkward to my ears if not outright ungrammatical (in the intended reading) to have "are" instead of "is".

To me, this is a simple choice on the part of the speaker as to whether they want to package the information as a single semantic concept, and if so then singular agreement is appropriate. That doesn't happen in all pragmatic contexts, but if the speakers wishes to phrase it that way, it works. Other times of course they won't want to phrase it as a single unit and instead you'd get plural agreement just like you could say "Red wine and steak are good" referring to two separate concepts, both of which are (potentially independently) good.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 17, 2018, 10:36:17 AM
I am not a native speaker of English, but I studied in the UK and lived there for a long time. To me, at least in the British usage "Vodka and water" refers to a cocktail. Otherwise one would say "Either vodka or water..." in your example. But then again, I might be biased. However, I think it's important to clarify where one comes from in terms of orientation. I am absolutely anti-chomskian. To me, analysis starts from what people acutually say and not from what they might say but never do.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 17, 2018, 10:42:34 AM
I agree with "wine and steaks is good", but then again, to me it implies an omission along the lines of "(a meal with)...". Otherwise how would justify it?
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 17, 2018, 12:58:36 PM
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I am not a native speaker of English, but I studied in the UK and lived there for a long time.
I'm a native speaker of US English, and these nuances of unusual agreement are areas known to differ in US and UK English, so that's worth being aware of in the discussion. I can't comment on UK English, and it might be different from what I'm saying (or even narrower dialectal variation).

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To me, at least in the British usage "Vodka and water" refers to a cocktail. Otherwise one would say "Either vodka or water..." in your example.
True, confusing example. It's hard to come up with a good one for what I wanted, but just assume the context makes sense. Like I said, where you're trying to avoid drinking too much alcohol without water. Or if you go to a party and they're offering both (and only) beer and wine, and most people have a preference and drink only that, but then you say "Come on everyone, beer and wine is best!"

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However, I think it's important to clarify where one comes from in terms of orientation. I am absolutely anti-chomskian.
I've been trained in a Generative framework, but I also find Constructional approaches to be useful. In my research I'm looking into ways of taking the most important aspects of both. (I don't think it's an either-or answer.) Admittedly it's much easier to find fault with both theories than to be sure about which aspects of either are definitely correct.

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To me, analysis starts from what people acutually say and not from what they might say but never do.
That's complicated-- in principle I agree with you (and reject 'armchair' approaches to things in favor of gathering real data), but it is also important not to overlook more peripheral types of usage in favor of only common expressions. And this is actually where Construction Grammar excels!
Personally the biggest problem I have is that I think many armchair style Generative analyses are not clear enough (or imaginative enough) about the contexts in which an utterance might be used, and therefore miss generalizations about grammaticality. I'd rather think of it not as whether a sentence is, outside of context, grammatical, but what it would mean if it were to be used. So something like we're describing here does have a clear intuitive meaning to me, even though it's a very rare sort of expression. (But as a whole, certainly not unused. Just rare enough it's hard to think of specific examples. Searching in a large enough corpus would surely generate some results under the right parameters! This isn't just hypothetical.)

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I agree with "wine and steaks is good", but then again, to me it implies an omission along the lines of "(a meal with)...".
I don't understand your insistence that there must always be a source construction (rather than as one potential analysis). As I've said, I believe it is citing a grouping as a general concept, which is in that sense not countable, and therefore gets singular agreement. It's grammatically like a direct quotation, shielded from external grammatical relations.
In this case, "a meal with" is not the appropriate substitution because it is a more basic concept than that. Maybe it's a snack. Maybe it's a smell. Maybe it's a look in a photo. Maybe it's a recipe. Maybe it's a taste of a meal but not a full meal. Or if you change those two items for some other combination it might be any other number of things. Just because you can paraphrase it doesn't make it ellipsis. It may be analogical to diachronic ellipsis (as you made a case for earlier), but not every combination like this needs a specific source construction.

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Otherwise how would justify it?
That's easy! It's just a concept. Like an infinitive form of a verb with no tense, this is an "infinitive" form of a noun phrase, with no number. It's not being counted, so the grammar isn't sensitive to that either. It's a concept, like "mac and cheese" or "steak and eggs". It's not a set phrase (binomial) like those, but it works the same way because "wine and steak" is a pairing rather than a plural group of two. If you really need it to come from ellipsis, then I suppose you could claim all of this is something like "[a set of] wine and steak", and the set is what gets singular agreement. But I just don't have that intuition, although I admit that such an argument isn't really testable or falsifiable. Either "ellipsis" or "abstract concept" would give us the same data.

The reason for my strong intuition is because of minimal pairs like the following:
"Red wine and steak is delicious."
"Red wine and steak are delicious."
Those have very distinct meanings to me, exactly as would be predicted from what I'm saying about the two distinct analyses. The second is sensitive to grammatical number specifically because it is semantically different from the first. The second is a list. The first is an idea.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 17, 2018, 03:12:35 PM
Let's agree to disagree. "An idea" is no linguistic parameter, whatever approach one might embrace. I agree with you about the fact that some combos are entrenched as units with a singular verb (in specific contexts to be defined), but this has nothing to to with the OP any longer.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 17, 2018, 07:39:23 PM
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"An idea" is no linguistic parameter, whatever approach one might embrace.
Indeed! That's why I'm saying this isn't a grammatical issue, because it's semantic agreement.

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Let's agree to disagree.
That's fine. One aspect of this discussion that confuses me, though, is that my explanation seems better suited to a constructional approach, and if you weren't explicitly stating that you don't adhere to Generative Grammar, that's exactly how I'd be reading your analysis. But maybe if I interpret your explanation in a broader functional way, where "ellipsis" doesn't mean something in a derivational sense, we're really saying the same thing. But I still wouldn't call it ellipsis, and either way I don't know how we'd test for that.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 18, 2018, 12:58:07 AM
Then define and motivate semantic agreement, please (I have an explanation myself, but I'll wait for yours first). Ellipsis is not derivational, no (also cf. Evans). It's a process by which speakers start dropping units at whatever level. They might do so for different reasons. Sometimes omissions are one-offs, sometimes the community adopts them and they become grammaticalized in the course of time. It is not always possible to reconstruct the source, but in most cases there are several plausible ones. I'll give you an example about something that is happening in current German (blogs, chats etc). German requires the subject to be expressed. So "what do you mean?" would be "was meinst du"?. More and more users write "was meinst?" by omitting the subject. This is a case of ellipsis. The extent to which this will cause German to become a pro-drop language in many, many years is not predicable.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 18, 2018, 03:41:33 AM
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German requires the subject to be expressed. So "what do you mean?" would be "was meinst du"?. More and more users write "was meinst?" by omitting the subject. This is a case of ellipsis. The extent to which this will cause German to become a pro-drop language in many, many years is not predicable.
That example makes sense to me. But I get a completely different intuition for the English examples we are discussing. (And note that in English you can do basically the same thing as in German conversationally. e.g. "Got it?")

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Ellipsis is not derivational, no (also cf. Evans).
I don't see that as a meaningful term then.

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It's a process by which speakers start dropping units at whatever level.
That's not what my intuition is for these constructions.

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Then define and motivate semantic agreement, please
Compare:
"Your family was nice."
"Your family were nice."
The speaker is expressing a different perspective on the number, or indeed countability, of "family". It wouldn't make sense to me to say that one is elliptical (or both), although you could claim something like "the members of..." without any direct evidence, if you insist on the vague idea of "ellipsis" in a non-derivational sense. But that could apply to literally any construction that has unusual forms, just imagine some extra structure that would make more sense and say it's "elided".

In this case, speakers are mentioning the idea of "two doctors" (or "red wine and steak") or whatever, and then discussing that conceptually rather than referring to countable entities.

I have a strong intuition about this, and just saying "there's something missing" isn't evidence against it. I'm not sure how to falsify either approach, except inasmuch as mine predicts much wider productivity whenever speakers wish to speak this way, and that's what happens. Since there is always going to be some structure you could claim is elided, that's not a way to test for this. And arguably everything is elided in some sort of cognitive analogy in describing the world. But I don't see that as explanatory in this case.

I would be willing to consider this a sort of Constructional derivation where the internal grammar of the construction is irrelevant because it is being mentioned rather than embedded. If that's "ellipsis" then OK. But it's not literally eliding anything. It's just mentioning a concept.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 18, 2018, 04:07:02 AM
I think we are merging two aspects. Let us leave the ellpsis story aside, which would be of diachronic interest, as I wrote before. From a synchronic point of view, the sentence with the doctors is a grammaticalized one (in certain contexts). So, if you argue from a constructional point of view you need to relate a certain syntactic form to a meaning, otherwise you are not arguing constructionally. So I'd formulate it this way: subject 1 and subject 2 + 3sg verb + adjective/adverb. Meaning "two entities are evaluated as jointly (not) fulling a certain purpose".
"Not" obviously stands for negation.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 18, 2018, 04:47:32 AM
This isn't a specific grammaticalized construction. It's possible in any context where citing/mentioning a complex NP is pragmatically appropriate instead of referring to individual entities. Literally any sentence/construction you can imagine would permit this, although of course rarely does English mark grammatical number so that it would be contrastive. Basically it would only ever appear with subject NPs. I don't know whether other languages behave similarly.

If you were organizing a photo shoot for some kind of advertisement and trying to decide who to put in the photo with the product, and you wanted to explain to someone about who to put in the scene, would this be appropriate in Italian?
"Il bambino e la bambina รจ perfetto."
If not, Italian is different from English. If so, wouldn't the same sort of mentioning-rather-than-referring apply?

Actually going back to something you said earlier, we could think of this as a sort of grammatical metonymy: we refer to the singular concept of a collection of entities in the singular because that is how they are pragmatically relevant.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 18, 2018, 06:15:10 AM
I have several arguments which prove that we are dealing with a construction (the one with the doctors) with a number of restrictions in case you should be interested.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 18, 2018, 07:44:46 AM
Sure. But how can you "prove" a construction? Regardless, having a specific construction wouldn't mean that in the general case this isn't just a 'citation'/mentioning form.

Still, I don't think either of us has a direct counterargument to the other's analysis, or any way to (potentially) falsify either one. So we can just leave both as plausible explanations.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 18, 2018, 07:59:14 AM
As you prefer. You can prove a construction by showing that it only works with some restrictions (see Goldberg). To me linguistics is not about "proving" things, but about accounting for some phenomena, whereby there might be equally plausible accounts which completely differ from one another.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 18, 2018, 08:51:16 AM
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You can prove a construction by showing that it only works with some restrictions (see Goldberg).
Well, in the general sense, I don't think there are restrictions on this use of singular agreement for plural-structured concepts. But perhaps in this particular case there are exceptions to that. I didn't mean that you shouldn't enumerate them here. I just meant that in general it's fine if we agree to disagree, because the different proposals we're making don't seem to make any different empirical predictions.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: nico on May 18, 2018, 08:59:37 AM
They do, but I won't bother you any longer with this issue.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 18, 2018, 09:36:05 AM
Please share them then. And the evidence that this is a construction rather than a general use of number-less noun phrases mentioned rather than referring to individuals. While my intuition is for another analysis than yours, I'm interested in what you have to say about it.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 19, 2018, 06:34:36 AM
Thinking about this more, I guess my analysis is basically equivalent to a metalinguistic construction, maybe not limited to nouns at all:

Imagine describing a scene as director for a movie:
"Yellow is fine."
"Happy is fine."
"In the corner is fine."
"Both is fine."
"Quickly is fine."

Maybe even literally metalinguistic as in a writer correcting a draft:
"And is fine."
"Went is fine."
"Goes is fine."
etc.

I'm not sure to what extent the noun phrases in the original example (and the others discussed above) are more like normal subjects than the obviously atypical examples given here, but I think this may be the same reason why plural agreement doesn't apply.
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Audiendus on May 19, 2018, 06:38:09 PM
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"Yellow is fine."
"Happy is fine."
"In the corner is fine."
"Both is fine."
"Quickly is fine."
With the exception of the first one (where "yellow" can be a noun), I would say that these definitely involve ellipsis; they would not make sense without some prior context, e.g. "Shall I look happy?", "Do you want it in the corner?", which is implied in the answer (e.g. "To look happy is fine"). Contrast these with a sentence such as the well-known saying "Two [i.e. two people] is company, three [people] is a crowd", which can stand on its own, so we do not need to invoke ellipsis.

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"And is fine."
"Went is fine."
"Goes is fine."
etc.
I think that if you put 'and', 'went' and 'goes' in quotes, they may be regarded as normal subjects (nouns), although ellipsis is another possible analysis (e.g. "to put 'and' is fine"). Without quotes, they cannot grammatically be normal subjects, so they must be elliptical. (They look odd without quotes, however, and if we were adding the missing words we would insert quotes anyway, i.e. "to put 'and' is fine".)
Title: Re: Plural Subject + Singular Agreement (Implied Clausal Subject)
Post by: Daniel on May 19, 2018, 08:36:30 PM
I wouldn't say they involve ellipsis (which I see as a specific syntactic operation in a generative sense), but they do involve/require context. If we coined the term "discourse ellipsis" then that might fit. Similar to how fragment answers work, but in this case there is no full linguistic structure to refer back to, so I don't know that they'd still be literally "ellipsis" rather than just fragments -- that is, concepts rather than declarations.

Indeed, quotations might be needed as punctuation-- I was thinking of just pronouncing those words, not how to write it out (I'm not sure such sentences would really appear in print).

So is it the case that those examples require quotes, but the plural subject NPs discussed above in this discussion do not?

As I said, I don't think that "Two doctors is fine" is literally metalinguistic, but it's something along those lines-- mentioning, rather than referring. Playing with the compositionality of language.

For similar reasons I'm not certain that quotes are needed on all of the examples in my previous post, although I would be more likely to agree for those than for the plural-with-singular-agreement noun subjects.