I lately lost a preposition

Damien Hall halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon Feb 11 15:01:08 UTC 2008

Arnold wrote:

> the pattern of "proceed" in the examples we've seen so far is
> different: a bare NP direct object (and then a very specific kind of
> direct object):
>    He proceeded B.A. in 1962.
> in fact, we haven't seen any examples of "proceed" with a full direct
> object NP:
>    ??He proceeded a B.A. in 1962.
> *or* any examples of "proceed to" with a bare object NP:
>    ??He proceeded to B.A. in 1962.

What if the cases of 'proceed' here and 'agree' as in 'agreed a new
constitution' were different because the degree in

He proceeded B.A. in 1962.

isn't a NP but an AdjP agreeing with the subject 'He'?  Arguments in favour of
that are:

- *proceed* could plausibly refer not to progressing in a metaphorical sense in
one's own education but to the physical procession of a degree ceremony (both
being from Lat. *procedere*, or course).
- Parsing it that way would do away with the need to explain the loss of a
preposition in this case because there was never one to be lost.
- If this is an AdjP (a noun in apposition, in this case) and not a NP, you
would expect it to be bare, as it is, though granted there are few examples of
this word-order in modern English with which to draw parallels.
- Maybe it's significant that the cites for this so far (not that I've looked
for any others) are from the seriously old Universities (maybe just from
Oxford, though I bet Cambridge at least does this too)?  If it's a usage
restricted to them, that would fit, since it's only really, really recently
that they have agreed (to) graduation ceremonies not in Latin but in English.
You'd therefore expect archaising, Latinate English in their ceremonies.

Although I'm (<blush>) a graduate of both Oxford and Cambridge (</blush), I
can't offer any intuition about the grammaticality of Arnold's '??' examples,
never having read the texts to do with graduation in that much detail, so what
I say above is based entirely on knowledge of grammar and of the general nature
of Oxbridge, not on any specific examples.

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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