rarity of preposition stranding

Tom Givon tgivon at uoregon.edu
Fri Oct 1 21:40:20 UTC 2010

Copy of note to Fritz:

 From where I sit, it is all connected, both synchronically (similar 
pattern) and diachronically (patterns mutating into other patterns). 
There are grammatical constructions that act as context for the original 
'stranding'; then you have various next-steps, eventually to (in some 
cases) full lexicalization (as in Latin or Germanic). So in Rama, the 
exact same configuration as in IE exists, but it is a much earlier 
stage, so I can see the early 'trapping' process a bit more clearly. In 
Latin & Old Gothic it's already too advanced, hard to see the 
variational steps any longer, it is largely  already lexicalized. In 
Rama you can see just the beginning of lexicalization, a few compound verbs.

In Klamath or Numic you can see much more, a host of it, tho you can 
still see the nominal or verbal etymology of the ad-positions. In Latin 
they LOOK like they should be de-verbal, as in Rama, but the etymology 
is not quite as clean, too much time has pass. So you still have the 
verb 'ex-it' on 'en-ter', but it's harder to find the verb 'con' or 
'sur' or 'per'; tho in Spanish 'sub-ir' is still a verb meaning 'go 

But In Bantu the grammatical process is much more advanced that in Rama, 
it gotten into  REL clsauses, passives, and other derivatives from them. 
And there's a considerable amount of lexicalization, mostly in 
set-phrases (typical early stage) such as 'excuse me', 'thank you' 'how 
are you' & more. In all these cases, you can see the role of 
zero-arguments right there (missing AGT-of-passive, zero coreferent 
inside the REL-clause. My las supervised African dissertation, a grammar 
of Lunda (Boniface Kawasha, ca. 2002, U. Oregon) has tons of that in 
REL-clauses, it is like the promotion-to-DO in Rwanda (Kimenyi 1976), 
but only in REL clauses, not main clauses. I flashed on this when I did 
my dissertation on Bemba (1969). Then, my supervisor, Paul Schachter, 
said "you've got too much in it already, I don't want to read a whole 
grammar". So eventually I dumped two boxes of data. Sic transit.

You gotta open up your classification schemata just a little bit, Fritz. 
Otherwise you'll keep missing the real goodies, where the explanations 
of typological differences lie--usually in plain site.  TG


Angus B. Grieve-Smith wrote:
> On Fri, October 1, 2010 12:16 pm, 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.
> In order to have preposition stranding, you need prepositions, right?  So
> the only way we can answer the question of how rare languages with
> preposition stranding are is by getting a rough sense of the proportion of
> languages with prepositions they represent.  Mr. Givon mentioned a bunch
> of languages with them, but is there a comprehensive list in some typology
> text somewhere?
> I also wanted a clarification from Mr. Newmeyer: your category of
> preposition stranding includes (1) but not (2), right?
> 1) Who are you going with?
> 2) Are you coming with?

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