position of subject in nonfinite clauses

Jon Aske Jon.Aske at SALEM.MASS.EDU
Tue Feb 17 14:43:27 UTC 1998

Hi, Jose-Luis, welcome to the discussion.

On Tuesday, February 17, 1998 6:39 AM Jose-Luis Mendivil Giro wrote:

> I fully agree with the asterisk.

OK, it must be Basque Spanish then.

> (ii) Porque mi abuela dijo estas cosas, nos fuimos todos a casa.
> So, despite things being much more complex, the reason may be formal, what
> explains Clements' difficulties. I do not mean there is not a functional
> explanation (there is always, soon or later, a functional explanation if
> one looks for it)

Wow!  Well, that's good to know.

However, your resorting to "abstract nominative case assignation" to explain
the postverbal position of the subject of the POR construction is not
something I can live with (it sounds like hocus pocus to me, what can I

Of course, formalists are free to posit anything they want and then
transform it into whatever they want, but I really don't see how that
explains anything.  To me, and I would think that to most functionalists,
such formal constructs are just not real.  I realize I am not going to
convince you of this, but I just had to say it.

> If my starred example (i) is used in an embedded clause, the subject will
> _raise_ to preverbal position:
> (iii) He oido a mi abuela decir estas cosas...

>>From my perspective, raising is not an explanation for anything.  The
"underlying" structure that you say (iii) above comes from, namely (iv)
below, doesn't exist anywhere, as far as I can see.  The dative in (iii) is
nothing but a complement of OIR (which, by the way, explains why "a mi
abuela" can come before the infinitive clause, or even after it), which
indeed controls the infinitival complement.  I cannot accept that the
nominal constituent "(a) mi abuela" is ever physically part of the lower

(iv) He oido [a mi abuela decir estas cosas]...

I hope I haven't shocked anybody on this list by saying this.

On the other hand, it is clear that some sort of restructuring and
reanalysis is possible in this construction, ie the lower clause's
boundaries are somewhat porous, which is why you can get things like (v)

(v) He oido decir a mi abuela estas cosas...

But this happens in many Spanish constructions.  You may say that the notion
of "porous boundaries" is hocus pocus, but that is only if you believe that
boundaries and structure has a formal reality which is divorced from the
semantic and/or pragmatic forces which bind elements of constructions

Best, Jon

> _______________________________
> Dr. Jose-Luis Mendivil
> Linguistica General
> Universidad de Zaragoza (Spain)

Jon Aske
Jon.Aske at salem.mass.edu - aske at earthlink.net
Department of Foreign Languages
Salem State College
Salem, Massachusetts 01970
One who condones evils is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates
it. --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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