difference in form without difference in meaning

Joanna Nykiel joanna.nykiel at us.edu.pl
Fri Aug 5 21:36:01 UTC 2011


There is a possible instance of syntactic variation without semantic  
difference. Elliptical constructions (sluicing, Bare Argument  
Ellipsis) may contain either PP or NP remnants in examples such as  
those below:

A: And we’ll compare notes some more.
B: Compare notes, on what?
A: On you, honey-pie. What else?
(Corpus of Contemporary American English)

A: And, somebody told me you read all the Harry Potter books by how old?
B: Four.
A: By four years old. Wow.
(Corpus of Contemporary American English)

"On you, honey-pie" and "What else" occur within a single speaker's  
turn, and "By four years old" is a paraphrase of "Four", suggesting  
genuine variation.
I've been working on a project investigating the distribution of PP  
and NP remnants, and so far haven't found any semantic constraints.

Perhaps another case in point could be the progressive vs. present  
simple tense in Early Modern English.

Joanna Nykiel

Joanna Nykiel
Assistant Professor
English Department
University of Silesia
Grota-Roweckiego 5
Sosnowiec 41-205, Poland
E-mail: joanna.nykiel at us.edu.pl
Homepage: http://uranos.cto.us.edu.pl/~jnykiel/

Uniwersytet ŚlÄ
ski w Katowicach http://www.us.edu.pl

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