subject in nonfinite clauses

Brian MacWhinney macw at CMU.EDU
Tue Feb 17 15:55:35 UTC 1998

To my extremely non-native ears, the problem with (1) is that there is a
tendency to pull off "por mi abuela" as a separate phrase.  This would then
lead to a possible interpretation in which there is some other subject of
"decir."   In the case of (2) no such temptation arises.

(1)  *Por mi abuela decir estas cosas ...
(2)  Por decir estas cosas mi abuela ...

In other words (1) could be parsed with a comma intonation after "abuela".
I realize that this is not "para mi abuela", but still there are plenty of
preposed "por + nominal" phrases  in Spanish.  Many more than would be
possible in English, for example.

It would seem to me that sticking with (2) is simply an excellent way of
avoiding any garden paths in sentence interpretation.

This seems to me like a straightforward functionalist account of this

--Brian MacWhinney

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