I lately lost a preposition

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Feb 14 18:00:47 UTC 2008

On Feb 11, 2008, at 7:01 AM, Damien Hall wrote:

> 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'?

nice hypothesis -- that "B.A." here is not an object but a
predicative.  it could be a NP (as in "He became president in 1962")
or an AdjP (as in "He became pedantic as he grew older").  in either
situation the case of the predicative would be nominative in Latin
(see below).

>  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).

of course, "B.A." could still be an object in Latin (in the
appropriate oblique case).

> - 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.

bare predicative NPs are available in English in various constrained
circumstances (having to do with roles or ranks), so it wouldn't have
to be analyzed as an AdjP.

> - 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.

this is a great idea, that the English construction is a calque on
Latin, and it's consistent with several analyses.  one thing it would
predict is the absence of an article, since Latin didn't have articles.

> 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.

i'm afraid that what we need now is someone familiar with the customs
of Oxbridge and the relevant texts.


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