rarity of preposition stranding

Tom Givon tgivon at uoregon.edu
Sat Oct 2 00:16:44 UTC 2010

Au contraire, cher ami. There IS a very general mechanism of zeoing of 
argument; in the 1960's terminology either by 'movement' or by 
'deletion. In the case of embedded REL-clauses, we tend to see it as 
'deletion. In the case of AGT-deletion passives, too, maybe. In the case 
of WH-questions, we call it 'movement'. In the case of promotion to DO 
(as in Rwanda), maybe 'movement' again. The common denominator is that 
the noun that carried the ad-position is now missing from its 'normal' 
(high-frequency) position, and what shall we do with the  poor 
beached-whale adposition? It carries vital information about GRs or 
SR's, so we can just pitch it (we pitch the noun because of 
predictability, but the adposition is less predictable).

In the case of English WH-question, you go back to 18th Century written 
English, you find preposition migrating to the WH-word. And this already 
appears at the same period (& earlier) with REL-clause subordinators 
such as 'whereof', 'whereas', 'whereat', 'wherefor', 'whereto', 
'wherein' etc. Also, incidentally, in non-embedded referring/anaphoric 
expressions such as 'thereof', 'thereby', 'thereat', 'thereto', 
'therein', 'therefor', etc. It is fairly clear, further, that the use of 
the 'where-PREP' pattern in English REL-clauses hitched a ride on the 
earlier use in WH-questions. Such hitchiking, precisely in this 
direction, is extremely common, and has cropped up later on in English 
again (in spoke German 'with /wo/, in Greek with /pou/, in Kriop with 
/w(h)e(re)', in  spoken Hebrew, etc.) These are extremely mundane facts, 
Matt, readily available, both in  old texts and in the lit. (Bern Heine 
wrote about it in 2007 & 20089, inter alia). All it takes is looking, 
and I suppose seeing. So just buy some old books & start reading them. 
Sure, there's a lot of complexity in those pathways. But still, with all 
this diversity, there are some clear central MECHANISMS of emergence, 
not only a collection of surface patterns. After all, Fritz didn't only 
ask if the patterns are rare (he, I think naively, assumed that). He 
also wanted to know--or so I gave him credit for (stranded PREP again, 
dammit!)--why. A collection of facts is decidedly not an answer to a WHY 
question, but qat best the reason for asking it.  TG


Matthew S. Dryer wrote:
> Not so fast, Tom.  It is certainly true in principle that one can often better
> understand why a rare phenomenon is rare by getting a better understanding of
> more common related phenomenon.  But I see nothing in your two emails that sheds
> any light on why the English-type of adposition stranding is so rare or how any
> of the literature on the related phenomena you discuss sheds any light on this
> question.  Unless you can do that, I see no reason why it would be worth Fritz
> looking at these related phenomena, to help answer his question.
> Matthew
> On Fri 10/01/10  5:40 PM , Tom Givon tgivon at uoregon.edu sent:
>> 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 
>> down/under'.
>> 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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