Odd dummy subject markers

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Wed Apr 5 18:27:40 UTC 2006

Assuming the role, apparently, of spokesman for Southern
intuitions (!), I'll confirm that sentences with Ron’s quasi-
dummy "it" do seem usually to include a "that" dependent
clause, though "that" itself can have been deleted (so to

     "It said on the radio that showers are expected."

     "It said on the radio showers are expected."

    * "It said on the radio the prediction of showers."

The dependant clause can be in the form of a direct

     "It said on the radio, 'Showers are expected.'"

     "It said on the radio, 'Expect showers.'"

And the transformation of the clause into an infinitive
phrase is possible:

     "It said on the radio to expect showers."

But that seems a little different (intuitively speaking).
Could it occur in Northern Normal?


---- Original message ----
>Date: Wed, 5 Apr 2006 09:31:01 -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 9:00 AM -0400 4/5/06, Amy West wrote:
>>I've been doing more Old Norse than modern
>>English recently, so this construction reminds me
>>of the "anticipatory pronoun" in Old Norse. Where
>>a pronoun appears in the first clause which
>>stands in for the following dependent clause,
>>kind of like:
>>He intended it, that they would get out.
>>If you look all of Charles Doyle's examples, I
>>think they follow that "it...that" pattern
>>linking the two clauses.
>>---Amy West
>Well, but those "it"s refer to the upcoming clause (hence
>"anticipatory"), so they're rather different.  In the old
days of
>transformational grammar we used to describe them as
instances of
>extraposition from object (parallel to subject
extraposition in "It
>is likely that S" or "It bothers me that S") or, in the
>(mid-60s) terminology of Peter Rosenbaum, "it-replacement",
>extant cases include:
>I resent/regret it that they will get out.
>I take it that they will will get out.
>For me these are quite different from "It says in the paper
that they
>will get out" where, as Arnold was noting, you don't get the
>paraphrase "That they will get out says in the paper".  I
don't see
>any of Charles's other examples as fitting the
extraposition pattern
>either, although like Arnold I find most of those below
>unsayable (without active morphology, that is--in the
passive, they
>turn into straightforward extraposition cases, e.g. "It is
>in the Bible that we should make a joyful noise"
corresponding to
>"That we should make a joyful noise is asserted in the
>>>Date:    Tue, 4 Apr 2006 12:31:56 -0200
>>>From:    Charles Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
>>>Subject: Re: Odd dummy subject markers
>>>>From this discussion, it may be a sort of rule we could
>>>formulate:  That the quasi-dummy ’Äúit,’Äù as Ron
identifies it,
>>>occurs mainly with verbs belonging to a semantic category
>>>COMMUNICATING or REVEALING (a reason Ron’Äôs example
seems a
>>>little odd could be that the verb ’Äúfeature’Äù only
>>>belongs to the category).  More normal would be:
>>>~In the Bible it avers that dancing is a sin.
>>>~It asserts there that we should make a joyful noise.
>>>~In the New Testament it implies that public prayers are
>>>~It said on the radio that a cold-front is coming.
>>>~On the news this morning it reported that DeLay will
>>>~In the minority members’Äô report it suggested that Bush
is a
>>>~It showed on the Food Channel how to make crepes.
>>>~On her CAT-scan it revealed a tiny tumor.
>>>~In the judge’Äôs decision it never even brought up the
>>>question of a woman’Äôs right to choose.

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