Odd dummy subject markers

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Apr 3 19:17:40 UTC 2006

At 2:10 PM -0400 4/3/06, RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
>A graduate student writes (in a paper on the semiotics of ethnic restaurant
>"On the sign it features a checkerboard pattern implying a tablecloth,
>whereas on the building it is simply a solid green line surrounded by yellow."
>I'm used to Southern substitution of "it" for "there," as in the second
>clause, but the "it" in the first clause seems weird to me. Is there
>some matter of
>emphasis here that is different from simply saying, "The sign features a
>checkerboard ... "? Or is the author just responding to the feeling
>that he cannot
>have a sentence with a noun-phrase "subject" that is overtly marked by a
So you're thinking it's a "translation" of "On the sign is a
checkerboard..."?  Certainly "On the sign features a checkerboard..."
wouldn't have been a possibility.  But I can either see this as a
blend of "The sign features..." and "On the sign is" or even "On the
sign is featured...", which would of course be more formal with the
passive.  I'm not sure the dummy is there for emphasis as such, but I
agree that it has partially to do with the fronted (not necessarily
subject) PP.


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