rarity of preposition stranding

Hartmut Haberland hartmut at ruc.dk
Fri Oct 1 18:50:43 UTC 2010

  Just to add to Fritz' point about German:
There is some preposition stranding in colloquial German, but the 
preposition ends up in a funny place.
English: What does this have something to do *with*?
Danish: Hvad har det noget at gøre *med*?
Colloquial German (at least from where I am from): Was hat das was *mit* 
zu tun?
Standard German: Wo*mit* hat das (et)was zu tun?
English: Who does this have something to do *with*?
Danish: Hvem har det noget at gøre *med*?
Colloquial German: Wem hat das was *mit* zu tun?
Standard German: *Mit* wem hat das etwas zu tun?
Your turn.

On 01-10-2010 20:42, Frederick J Newmeyer wrote:
> Thanks, Tom,
> I'll check out the references that you cite, but your posting has me a 
> bit confused. It is not clear to me from what you wrote why 
> P-stranding is so rare. Or are you saying that it is not rare? Are you 
> tying the rise of P-stranding to the shift from SOV to SVO? If so, it 
> should be much more common than it is in Indo-European and in other 
> languages that have undergone the same word order change. But in 
> modern SVO Indo-European languages, it occurs only in Germanic and 
> with one or two prepositions in French. So I'm not sure what you mean 
> when you write that stranding occurs MASSIVELY in Romance and Germanic 
> (and in I-E in general). Surely that is not true. Where is there 
> stranding in Romance at all outside of French? In general in Romance, 
> the preposition and its object have to be fronted together.
> Furthermore, we had stranding in some environments in Old English (eg 
> with topicalization), even though that language was still SOV. As 
> English developed, there arose more and more stranding environments 
> (eg with wh-movement and passive). I'm not sure why this extension of 
> P-stranding would follow from what you wrote about word order change. 
> But in German, I believe that the exact opposite happened. Even though 
> German is 'less SOV/more SVO' than it was 1000 years ago, stranding 
> has basically disappeared.
> Best,
> --fritz
> Frederick J. Newmeyer
> Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
> Adjunct Professor, University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser 
> University
> [for my postal address, please contact me by e-mail]
> On Fri, 1 Oct 2010, Tom Givon wrote:
>> A conflation of typological features partially predicts which 
>> languages do or don't strand ad-positions on the verb (as well as on 
>> other constituents/words). These features predict various diachronic 
>> pathway, but the synchronic  endpoint products don't always look the 
>> same. Colette Craig/Grinevald (with Ken Hal;e) has a nice description 
>> of this in her Rama work. Like Romance & Germanic, Rama strands 
>> post-positions MASSIVELY on the verb, but at a prefixal  rather than 
>> suffixal point. The typological difference is transparent: Rama is 
>> ex-SOV with pre-verbal PPs. English is SVO with post-verbal PPs (see 
>> Givon 1971, CLS #7). In Romance & Germanic (both ex-SOV), the 
>> strnaded pre-positions are already so fused (old stuff) that a 
>> non-etymologists may not count them as "the real thing".
>> But--the diachronic process is remarkably similar: PPs undergo 
>> zero-anaphora of their core noun, for one of two major reasons: (a) 
>> generic predictability (antipassive); and (b) anaphoric 
>> predictability ("traditional" "pro-drop" zero,). In Rama, Bonnie 
>> Tibbitts & I did the statistics (tho never published it), and the 
>> antipassive zero clearly showed up as the main driving force. I 
>> suspect Romance & Germanic data may have been the same, but they are 
>> so old and I'm not sure you can find texts going that far back to do 
>> the appropriate stats.
>> At any rate, In Indo-European this has been a MASSIVE process. Peter 
>> Hook showed similar stuff in Indic. Then of course it is massive in 
>> Bantu (SOV) at the grammatical level (fairly recent), and even  the 
>> lexical (extended later from the grammatical; lexicalized, if you 
>> will.) And I can show you massive stranding of post-positions on Ute 
>> verbs in  both the suffixal AND prefixal positions (different 
>> generations, different mechanisms, and different word-types that 
>> absorb "second-position clitics").
>> Finally, there is some discussion of the mechanism in English (the 
>> interaction between unstressed pronouns, zero anaphora & stranded 
>> prepositions) in ch. 3 of my "Bio-Linguistics: The Santa Barbara 
>> Lectures" (Benjamins, 2002).
>> Best,  TG
>> ==================
>> Frederick J Newmeyer wrote:
>>> Dear Funknetters,
>>> Does anybody know of a functional explanation (published or not) for 
>>> why preposition stranding is so rare in the languages of the world? 
>>> (I am referring to constructions such as 'Who did you talk to?', 
>>> 'Mary was talked to', etc.) As far as I know, it exists only in 
>>> Germanic, marginally in French, and possibly in some Niger-Congo 
>>> languages. There are a number of functionally-oriented accounts of 
>>> P-stranding in English, but I wonder if anybody has taken on the 
>>> question of its rarity crosslinguistically.
>>> Thanks!
>>> --fritz
>>> Frederick J. Newmeyer
>>> Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
>>> Adjunct Professor, University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser 
>>> University
>>> [for my postal address, please contact me by e-mail]

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