Odd dummy subject markers

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Mon Apr 3 19:53:34 UTC 2006

The PP need not always be fronted, either.  Just as normal
is "It says in the Bible that . . . ."--although "It
features a checkerboard pattern on the sign . . ." could
imply a definite antecedent for "it" (the restaurant, or
whatever), making "it" less dummy-looking?


---- Original message ----
>Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2006 15:17:40 -0400
>From: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>Subject: Re: Odd dummy subject markers
>---------------------- Information from the mail header ----
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-
>Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: Odd dummy subject markers
>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
>>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
>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
>subject) PP.

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