rarity of preposition stranding

Frederick J Newmeyer fjn at u.washington.edu
Fri Oct 1 19:13:13 UTC 2010

On Fri, 1 Oct 2010, Tom Givon wrote:

> Well, I DID mean massive. I'm not as well-versed in Germanic, tho I see it 
> there too (Bernd Heine could tell you aplenty). So just think Latin for a 
> sec: Pre-tend, ex-tend, in-tend, con-tend; per-tain; con-tain, re-tain, 
> su(b)-stain, main-tain, ob-tain; re-pulse, ex-pulse, im-pulse, com-pulse; 
> re-ject, e(x)-ject, in-ject,  ob-ject; con-ject(ure); con-struct, in-strtuct, 
> de-struct, re-struct(ure);  etc. ect. ect.  There's a whole page of those in 
> my Syntax vol. I (2001), one of the early chapters, mostly talking about the 
> metaphoric etymology, which we know well. (George made a lot of hay off this, 
> claiming that metaphors never die, they just go & get reified in some lexical 
> Heave...). But we also know a lot (well, some of us do, maybe) about the 
> diachronic-syntax pathways that lead to such 'stranding', & how it connect to 
> the type of ad-position, earlier vs. later WO, zero-anaphora of both types, 
> the availability of other clitic-trapping word-types, ets. All that is needed 
> is widening our typological--and diachronic, really the same thing--horizons 
> just a little bit and what seems to you so exceptional reveals itself to be 
> rather massive. Best,  TG

I see. Then we mean something very different by 'preposition stranding'. Let me rephrase my question:

Does anybody have an explanation for why constructions of the following form are so rare crosslinguistically:

question-word (did) subject V P?

...where 'question-word' is a free morpheme and understood as the object of P.

Such constructions are extremely rare in I-E and crosslinguistically, as far as I know.


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