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English / Re: Subject in the "wrong" place?
« Last post by Daniel on November 16, 2018, 11:27:21 AM »
These facts are relatively well known, but not consistent with your analysis. The complication is that there are two possible ditransitive verb constructions in English with verbs like give, each of which appears to have a different primary object in terms of passivization:

1) You gave me a book.
2) You gave a book to me.

These can both be passivized, but in different ways:

1') I was given a book (by you).
2') A book was given to me (by you).

Note that the imaginable variants are ungrammatical:

1'') *A book was given me (by you).
2'') *I was given a book to (by you).

Actually, (2'') sounds slightly better than (1'') to my ears, but I'd still say both are ungrammatical. Regardless, neither of these forms is used, because when we want to passivize the direct object (THEME) we'd use (2') and when we want to passivize the indirect object (RECIPIENT) we'd use (1').

In other words, the variation here is about which underlying/corresponding non-passive sentence is used to generate the passive sentences.

I really don't follow what you're saying about "subject" because you're not using the term in a consistent or standard way. Simply put, the "subject" in English is almost always easily identifiable as the first noun in the sentence, taking nominative case (only marked in pronouns), and with which the verb agrees. There are some odd exceptions or marginal cases, like "there is/are" existentials (where, varying by speaker or formality and apparently a case of ongoing historical change now, sometimes the verb agrees with "there" and sometimes the 'logical subject'). But there is no such uncertainty with the sentences discussed in this thread. For all of them, the first noun is the syntactic subject.

The definition of passive gets a little complicated for marginal cases, especially in languages that don't look quite like English, but we can define "passives" as variants of "active" sentences, in which a non-subject argument is promoted to subject. Therefore, by definition, passives have as subject what used to be an object, and it is in the normal subject position then. There are some especially marginal constructions in some languages called "passives" that might not be intuitive (and may be controversial). For example, take a look at the APiCS chapter here:
Especially the "Passive without verbal coding" type there, which basically looks like an active sentence, seems somewhat counterintuitive, and then seems to be relying on semantic criteria rather than syntactic criteria (though transitive verbs appearing with just one argument is a hint).

In the end, there are different questions: those of analysis (for which panini's comments that you need to be consistent are very important!) and those of definitions (which are not worth arguing about because definitions are arbitrary and can vary, although that likewise means you cannot find the 'real' definition or make conclusions as such). What matters for both, however, is consistency.


Regarding your point about "parcel" being a subject in some sentences, that is not a standard analysis in any sense. Maybe your intuition relates to the idea of THEME as a thematic role. In some sense, ditransitives are "about" the THEME (hence the name), but beyond that, they are certainly not the subject.
English / Re: Subject in the "wrong" place?
« Last post by panini on November 16, 2018, 03:15:54 PM »
"Apple" is a direct object, or in relational grammar terms, a direct object chômeur (former direct object, having been usurped by Dative Movement). Functionally speaking, so-called subject/object/indirect object relations do not change. As I said. Formally, though, they do: something becomes the subject, or direct object. I would certainly insist that if one is asking about "subject" as a formal part of speech, that the form of the pronoun and facts about word order and governance of agreement are all and only the valid factors to consider. And if you are asking about functional relations, then you are not asking about formal relations – so you first have to decide what question you are asking; is it about form (syntax) or function (semantics)?
English / Re: Subject in the "wrong" place?
« Last post by Forbes on November 16, 2018, 12:00:38 PM »
I certainly do not think the point I am making is obvious. I note what you say about analysing the two forms in different ways. My point is that the form "I/John was given an apple" is an oddity which does not conform to the usual rules. The reason we have it is that it has arisen from a hypercorrection. Back when word order was more flexible, the usual (or at least more common) word order for "an apple was given (to) me" was (using modern English) "me was given an apple". When word order became fixed with the subject of a statement coming first and accordingly sentences beginning with "I" rather than "me", "me" was felt to be wrong and replaced by "I". It was only a small step from "I was given an apple" to "John was given an apple". The forms are now so well established that they are considered standard.

Is the reluctance to accept that "I" is not the subject simply because "I" is a subject pronoun and comes in the position where one expects the subject to come in a statement. If you say that "I" must be the subject because it is a subject pronoun that is to insist that the function must follow from the form. If you say that "I" or "John" must be the subject because it comes first in the sentence it is because you are following a rule which has been formulated without taking into account exceptions. In short, you are saying that because "I" and "John" behave by position and form as if they are the subject they must be the subject.

If in "John was given an apple" "John" is the subject, what is "apple"?

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English / Re: Subject in the "wrong" place?
« Last post by panini on November 15, 2018, 06:14:24 PM »
I'm not sure what you would be right about, but you could be right about something. I think you're wrong if you think it's obvious, even if it is true. In A, you claim that John is the subject, and I have no quarrel with that. Then in B you conclude that "parcel" is the subject and John is the IO. But actually, John is the subject. Notice that we can substitute various pronouns and NPs in that position ("I was sent...", "you were sent...", "the children were sent...") and we notice that that first clause governs verb agreement – because that is the subject.

You are mixing syntactic and semantic analyses. The passive has the function of making the post-verbal nominal become the subject, and it exiles what would have been the subject into a "by" phrase (which you can just omit). In the good old days, semantic relations were determined before the various movement rules messed up what is the subject vs. the object.

You gave contradictory analyses to your examples. You assigned subject role in A based on the syntax (order and agreement), but then assigned the IO role to John in B based on semantics. You have to pick consistent diagnostics. This is why people sometimes talk of the "logical subject", when referring to semantic roles (and thereby avoiding the complication that "subject" isn't a semantic role, but "agent" is, as is "recipient").
English / Subject in the "wrong" place?
« Last post by Forbes on November 15, 2018, 10:27:30 AM »
Consider the following two sentences:

A. John was sent to fetch a parcel.

B. John was sent a parcel.

In A if we ask who or what was sent the answer is John. We have no trouble is asserting that “John” is the subject of the sentence.

In B if we ask who or what was sent the answer is “a parcel”. Despite the word order, that seems to lead to the conclusion that “a parcel” is the subject of the sentence and that “John” is the indirect object.

Now consider:

C. I was sent to fetch a parcel.

D. I was sent a parcel.

The change has people doubting that in D “I” can be anything other than the subject, but if you accept that “John” is the indirect object in B you have to accept that “I” is the indirect object in D. I have always thought this was pretty clear, but in a discussion on another forum I found I was unable to persuade anyone that, despite superficial appearances to the contrary arising from word order and  “I” being a subject pronoun, in both B and D the subject is “a parcel”.

Am I right?

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Historical Linguistics / Re: Romance languages not descended from Latin.
« Last post by Daniel on November 12, 2018, 11:56:15 PM »
Yes, exactly right. The premise of the question presupposes that our analytical categories refer to entities out there in the world (or history) to be observed and classified (and presumably sharply distinguished). But it really doesn't work out well.
Historical Linguistics / Re: Romance languages not descended from Latin.
« Last post by vox on November 12, 2018, 08:07:18 PM »
There is a bit of a conundrum with labelling points on a continuum where the points at each end have different names. If you say that Latin and French are two different things then there has to be a point where Latin stopped being Latin and became French even if you cannot identify where it is. If you say there is no such point because you cannot identify it then you are saying that Latin and French are the same thing.

Lodge and other scholars answered that question :
Quote from: Anthony Lodge
Delimitation of Latin and French
When did the people of Gaul stop speaking Latin and start talking French? The question has frequently been asked (see Muller 1921; Lot 1931; Norbert 1966; Richter 1983) and all the scholars who ask it begin by giving the same obvious answer: they never did. French, like Italian, Spanish, etc. stands in the same unbroken line of descent from Latin as does modern Greek from Ancient Greek. Despite this, it is still legitimate to ask when it is more appropriate to label the language of a particular period as ‘Late latin’, ‘Proto-romance’, or ‘Early Old French’. (...)
The delimitation of genetically related languages on purely linguistic grounds is very often impossible: just as spatial dialects merge into one another in continua which commonly ignore political frontiers (or did until the imposition of standard languages from the centre), so different diachronic stages of a language form an unbroken temporal continuum. The only valid internal criterion would appear to be loss of mutual intelligibility, but mutual intelligibility is itself a matter of degree (see Hudson 1980:34-7), and it is highly unlikely that during the formative period of Gallo-Romance there was any significant break in communication one generation of speakers and the next. We must assume that language change preceeded as usual by imperceptible gradations over the years, different dialects and styes evolving at different rates. While accepting this principle, various scholars have nevertheless made attempts to identify a period in the evolution of Proto-Romance when linguistic change may have accelerated, producing, to justify a temporal boundary between Latin and French, a diachronic equivalent of the bunching of spatial isoglosses we find in linguistic geography (see Banniard 1980). The difficulty here is that in Proto-Romance the evidence for linguistic change in speech is very scanty indeed. (Anthony Lodge, French: From dialect to standard, p.87-88)

Looking for a break point between French and Latin it’s like looking for a break point between red and orange on a rainbow. We can’t find such point because it doesn’t exist, even if we clearly see that they are different colors.
Morphosyntax / Drawing case specified trees for english gerunds
« Last post by euler on November 12, 2018, 12:20:35 PM »
I'm reading Adger's Core Syntax book and am having a tough time with Exercise 1 of the functional categories chapter.

The exercise is about gerunds. Gerunds are specified by the form of suffixing -ing to verbs. Let's assume that adding -ing in English is ambiguos between being a little n containing the [of] case feature and a little v with the [acc] case feature.

The exercise is asking to draw a tree, completly specified with case features for each of the phrases in bold.

The reading of Shakespeare satisfied me.
Reading Shakespeare satisfied me.
One thing right off the bat that we see is that the phrases bolded have to be DP (given that they are in the subject position). Usually a PP is headed by a P, and has its DP complement, like above the table or near my foot. So, if this is parallel (and we don't have anything in the specifier of P), then the PP here would be of Shakespeare. (One could make an argument for reading being in Spec P, but that'd be a bit different).

The tree I came up with is: DP[D[the], nP[[me], NP[read n[ing] of Shakespeare]]]

Could someone help me out with the tree drawing+case feature agreement? I'm having a rough time trying to come up with a syntax tree that makes sense. Thank you!
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