C. Faulkner on the Possessive Antecedent Proscription

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Jun 5 03:14:24 UTC 2003

scott sadowsky:
 >On Wed, 4 Jun 2003, Lesa Dill wrote:

  > >His comment was about this type of construction--
  > >Faulkner's writing style makes him difficult to read.

 >So what would the prescriptivists have us say?  "Faulkner's writing
 >style makes itself difficult to read"?

the usual two choices are repetition -
  Faulkner's writing style makes Faulkner difficult to read.
and cataphora -
  His writing style makes Faulkner difficult to read.
though a non-pronominal definite anaphor is also possible -
  Faulkner's writing style makes this writer difficult to read.
(or "the (celebrated) Southern writer" or whatever).

these are all significantly more marked, in discourse terms,
than the proscribed sentence.  but you can appreciate that only if
your interpretation of sentences isn't filtered through The Rules.
if it is so filtered, then any of the others is infinitely better
than the - quite simply incoherent - proscribed sentence.

arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu)

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