12.2029, Disc: Semantics and Pragmatics of to-contraction

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LINGUIST List:  Vol-12-2029. Sun Aug 12 2001. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 12.2029, Disc: Semantics and Pragmatics of to-contraction

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Date:  9 Aug 2001 10:26:50 EDT
From:  Lotfi at www.dci.co.ir
Subject:  Disc.: to-contraction

Date:  Thu, 9 Aug 2001 07:33:27 -0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)
From:  "Angus B. Grieve-Smith" <grvsmth at unm.edu>
Subject:  Re: Disc: Semantics and Pragmatics of to-contraction

Date:  Sun, 12 Aug 2001 14:59:51 +0100 (BST)
From:  Richard Ingham <llsingam at reading.ac.uk>
Subject:  Re: 12.1980, Disc: Semantics and Pragmatics of to-contraction

-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------

Date:  9 Aug 2001 10:26:50 EDT
From:  Lotfi at www.dci.co.ir
Subject:  Disc.: to-contraction

Dan Everett wrote:
>the Chomskyan account does not extend to the cases I raised.
Agree. And also add what possibly accounts for the
unacceptability of "traceless" bad contractions is irrelevant
to the Chomskyan account: Chomsky's theory is interested in the
viability of traces, which are both theoretically and empirically
important for Chomskyan theories such as those of movement,
interface levels etc. A contracted form like 'I amn't against
pragmatics' is also bad (at least to me) although there are no
traces around, but it does not inform the Chomskyan linguist
of their object of inquiry and, as a result, irrelevant to the
trace theory.
>Two questions arise in this connection. First, is there a
>general account of to-contraction not based on traces,
I don't insist that a good theory of to-contraction must
necessarily involve traces. But I really doubt we can afford
a comprehensive account of any linguistic phenomenon (to-
contraction included) so that we need no auxiliary theory. At
least three different types of sources overlap with regard to
contraction: syntactic, semantico-pragmatic, and phonological
properties of the language. I doubt one single theory can take
account of to-contraction once and forever. Even if we can afford
some emergent mpdel of contraction (sth similar to an OT accounts
of language), it must inevitably rely on some sub-theories of
the differen>
>since the trace-based account
>does not extend to what look to be quite similar cases?
Once more we're where we started: these cases are NOT
similar to those covered by Chomsky: he was concerned with
those unacceptable contracted forms WITH traces v. acceptable
ones WITHOUT them. Dan, on the other hand, points to those
unacceptable cases WITHOUT traces v. acceptable ones WITHOUT
                     intervening traces?
                         YES  |   No
 contraction     YES      A   |   B
 possible?              -------------
                  NO      C   |   D
In other words, Chomskyan accounts are concerned with (B v. C)
with the empirical claim that box A is empty (in English).
What we've got in box D (while a legitimate scientific question)
is just irrelevant to this theory. Dan, on the other hand,
is focusing on (D v. C/A), which (even if not mistaken in
orientation as I fail to see which theoretical basis the contrast
between C/A and D is supposed to support/confute) is just
irrelevant to what Chomsky has done.
>The next question is how this NEW account might itself extend
>to the trace-blocking effects Chomsky mentions
All right! Dan has got a 'theoretical spanner' adjustable to any
to-contaction 'bolt'. Let's see how it works!
>Modal verbs involving intention of the matrix subject may contract
>(form a single unit with) their infinitival. Otherwise contraction
>is not allowed.
First, what does this 'may' mean here? If it is intended to reserve
the possibility of modal verbs of intention NOT contracting their
infinitival (a scape-hatch to save the theory's skin), then it is
not as general as Everett requires a theory of contraction to be.
Now we need a second theory to explain under which circumstances
the verb MAY NOT contract its infinitival.
Second, one can think of sentences like those in (to satisfy Dan's
(1) a. I like to go. (c.f. 'I want to go')
    b. I prefer to go.
    c. I wish to hear what happened.
    d. I'm dying to hear what happened. (a stronger form of c)
Dan's theory predicts (2) to be allowed:
(2) a. I lika go. (c.f 'I wanna go')
    b. I prefera go.
    c. I wisha hear what happened.
    d. I donna hear what happened. (in analogy with 'gonna')
One possibility is that these are some potential contracted
forms (esp. 2.d which is phonetically similar enough to the
existing contracted forms) that have not come in use but may if
there is a need to. Once used frequently enough, their oddness
will be gone. A similar story is conceivable for a trace-based
theory of contraction!
Ahmad R. Lotfi

Department of the English Language, Chair
Azad University at Khorasgan
Esfahan, IRAN.
Mail: lotfi at www.dci.co.ir

-------------------------------- Message 2 -------------------------------

Date:  Thu, 9 Aug 2001 07:33:27 -0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)
From:  "Angus B. Grieve-Smith" <grvsmth at unm.edu>
Subject:  Re: Disc: Semantics and Pragmatics of to-contraction

	The fact that some people, including Carl Mills and Dan Everett,
produce the following examples:

1) I intenna go
2) I planna go
3) I getta go
4) Who do you wanna go?

in addition to the relatively common

5) I wanna go

can be easily explained if we adopt a Bailey Wave Model (Bailey 1987) in
addition to a frequency-based explanation.

	In a Bailey Wave Model, "connatural" changes spread through
physical space (dialects), stylistic space (register) and social space at
the same time.  If we combine this with Joan Bybee's frequency
explanation, then they also spread through lexical space, starting with
the most frequent lexical items.

	This means that the changes eventually will cover the entire
lexicon of the entire stylistic range of every speaker of the language, if
not blocked for some reason.  It is no surprise that some people are
farther along than others, and certainly believable that children born
recently would have generalized even more.  I look forward to hearing more
from these children and their peers as they grow older.

Bailey, Charles-James N.  1987.  Variation Theory and So-called
'Sociolinguistic Grammars.'  Language & Communication 7: 269-291.

				-Angus B. Grieve-Smith
				Linguistics Department
				University of New Mexico
				grvsmth at unm.edu

-------------------------------- Message 3 -------------------------------

Date:  Sun, 12 Aug 2001 14:59:51 +0100 (BST)
From:  Richard Ingham <llsingam at reading.ac.uk>
Subject:  Re: 12.1980, Disc: Semantics and Pragmatics of to-contraction

It would be interesting to know if the corpus data referred to in
Dan Everett's posting include any examples that would be analysed with a
syntactic trace, e.g:

(1) Who can I get _t_ to post the letter for me?
(2) He's the chap who I got _t_ to post the letter for me.

My intuitions are that contraction would sound terrible in such cases
(as of course Chomsky's account predicts). I wonder if the CMU SPHINX data
base tells us anything different.

On the other hand, perhaps with _wanna_ one might well find cases of
contraction across a trace, as in:

(3) Who do you want _t_ to win, kids?

I once heard a children's entertainer on a cross-channel ferryboat utter
(3) with a very clear 'wanna'. But I didn't have my tape recorder with
me... Maybe CMU SPHINX has had more luck.

Richard Ingham

> The original data was noticed by going through many spectrograms (not
> systematically for this particular problem, I admit) in the CMU SPHINX
> data base and noticing that 'get +to' almost always comes out with far
> less reduction of the 'to' than 'got + to', etc. There is a robust
> fact here. And I have tested the judgment with many natives speakers,
> mostly from the Midwestern US. Again, though, not systematically. That
> certainly needs to be done, following something like the methodology
> suggested in Wayne Cowart's book, Experimental Syntax.
> So, if Dick Hudson is right, that 'we're still in the stage where
> "wanna" is an alternative to "want to"' then we are also still in the
> stage where a syntactic account seems less than promising.
> Dan Everett

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