[Ads-l] The part of speech of it

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Thu Oct 1 23:35:47 UTC 2015


But "it" can be modified by an adjective -- "He was an ineffective/lazy it, and didn't catch anyone."  Although I would put this "it" in quotes, which perhaps makes it not an exception to Larry's analysis.

Joel
      From: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
 To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU 
 Sent: Thursday, October 1, 2015 11:41 AM
 Subject: Re: [ADS-L] The part of speech of it
   
> On Oct 1, 2015, at 11:09 AM, Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> I can't answer the question, but to me it is the same as 'trumps' in the
> sentence "Spades are trumps."

But "trumps" can be a subject as in "Trumps win against all other suits", while "it" can't (for me, anyway).  "Trump" I think is an ordinary noun (although I can think of one who would beg to differ), allowing modification ("small trumps"), while "it" isn't and doesn't.
> 
> It is also similar to 'cleanup' in the sentence "Duda is batting cleanup."

The OED has "clean-up" as a noun "freq. attrib." (clean-up hitter); there's a 1909 cite referring to "batters of the 'clean-up' kind", not apparently referring to the fourth hitter in the lineup, but by 1922 a cite refers to the "the clean-up position".  But none of these are possible for "it", which only occurs predicatively, so I don't think we've cracked the puzzle yet. (You can get "the 'it' role", but that's metalinguistic or quotational in a way "the cleanup position" isn't.)  

It doesn't really pattern with predicate-only adjectives either, since it doesn't pass the adjective test:

She seems (looks, sounds) asleep/agog/awake.
#She seems (looks, sounds) it.  

The OED does get to our "it" eventually (after many other entries, including one glossed as 'sexual intercourse'--it is a very versatile word), taking it to be a noun (and not worrying about its distributional restrictions).  The first cite is from Scotland:

C, n. 1  a. In children's games: (the name of) the player who has the task of catching or touching any of the others. Also fig. and in extended use. Cf. he n.1 3a.

1825  J. Jamieson Etymol. Dict. Sc. Lang. Suppl.  It, a term applied, in the games of young people, to the person whose lot it is to afford the sport. Thus, in Blindman's Buff, he who is blindfolded is It, in Loth.

C, n. 1b. is a synonym for the game itself, i.e. "tag":

2.  b. A children's game in which one player has the task of catching or touching any of the others

LH

> 
> I think 'maillot jaune' works the same way, n'est-ce pas? Also Punto and
> Banco in baccarat.
> 
> DanG
> 
> On Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 5:15 AM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at ix.netcom.com>
> wrote:
> 
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:      American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:      Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
>> Subject:      The part of speech of it
>> 
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> 
>> In various children=E2=80=99s games, such as tag, freeze tag and =
>> hide-and-seek, one person is designated as it, which perhaps can be =
>> summarized as the person having the role of making someone else it =
>> according to various rules. Wiktionary and the Oxford Dictionary site =
>> say the role is to catch other players. I don=E2=80=99t think the caller =
>> in mother, may I? or Simon says is referred to as it.
>> 
>> Wiktionary (https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__en.wiktionary.org_wiki_it-23Noun&d=AwIBaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=-4MrIZN-o_h0_cP-NMv7bRZsne8KYPSHkgZwBxI0r4I&s=y4GtY6CbIqHpLPk9YZINpVwBgQB0f-BYnATzPKdDnK0&e= ) lists this as a noun =
>> and the Oxford Dictionary site =
>> (https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.oxforddictionaries.com_definition_american-5Fenglish_it-23IT&d=AwIBaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=-4MrIZN-o_h0_cP-NMv7bRZsne8KYPSHkgZwBxI0r4I&s=1lbufLBxF5ST9ndo1TKRa86aexotO73IlLAZISxNdy4&e= ) =
>> lists it as a pronoun.
>> 
>> 1. Noun?
>> If if it=E2=80=99s a noun, you should be able to say,=20
>> 
>> * =E2=80=9CRachel=E2=80=99s the it.=E2=80=9D=20
>> 
>> (Wiktionary but not Oxford has a different definition that probably =
>> works for this.)
>> 
>> 2. Pronoun?
>> If it=E2=80=99s a pronoun, you should be able to say,=20
>> 
>> * =E2=80=9CRachel is it. It is trying to catch me!=E2=80=9D
>> 
>> Neither of those work, and the Wiktionary illustrative sentence (which =
>> appears to not be a citation) is, "In the next game, Adam and Tom will =
>> be it=E2=80=A6=E2=80=9D showing that this =E2=80=9Cit=E2=80=9D can be =
>> plural.
>> 
>> 3. Proper noun?
>> I don=E2=80=99t think it=E2=80=99s a proper noun, either, along the =
>> lines of Miss America:=20
>> 
>> Rachel was last year=E2=80=99s Miss America/ * yesterday's it
>> 
>> 4. Predicate adjective?
>> Could it be a predicate adjective, along the lines of =E2=80=9Caglow"?=20=
>> 
>> 
>> The ice rink was aglow
>> Rachel was aglow
>> 
>> * The aglow ice rink
>> * The it Rachel
>> 
>> My first guess is predicate adjective and second proper noun.
>> 
>> Benjamin Barrett
>> Formerly of Seattle, WA
>> 
>> Learn Ainu! https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__sites.google.com_site_aynuitak1_-3D&d=AwIBaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=-4MrIZN-o_h0_cP-NMv7bRZsne8KYPSHkgZwBxI0r4I&s=Ot_oLMGY2eV7MlWEuaDh6dAfhObzFw5-pyqGlTFAsAY&e= 
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