Heard on Springer: "my cousin nephew"; "your baby mama"; "Mary,

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Wed Nov 26 14:53:02 UTC 2008

On Nov 25, 2008, at 11:37 PM, Josh Macfelder wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Josh Macfelder <josh.a.macfelder at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Heard on Springer: "my cousin nephew"; "your baby
> mama";
>              "Mary,
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Tue, 25 Nov 2008 07:56:54 -0800, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
> ... this is a well-known sort of "gapless relative", of a
> type that has a resumptive pronoun ("her") instead of a gap...

> [Macfeder] This is the first time I have heard this structure used
> by an English
> speaker.

I doubt that no such examples have ever come by you; you probably just
notice them before.  they're reasonably common in speech.

> But when I was in Foz de Iguaçu on a vacation, I heard
> similar-type phrases very, very often.

as i said in my "More gapless relatives" piece in Language Log, there
are two types of relative structures with resumptive pronouns in them
-- what i label ResIsland (where the pronoun rescues an island
violation) and what i label, after a 1990 BLS article by Ellen Prince,
ResPrince.  the ResPrince structure would allow a gap, but a
resumptive pronoun does some useful discourse work.  (the ResPrince
structure is non-standard in English, but entirely standard in some
other languages, Yiddish for instance.)

i bring this up because the "similar-type phrases" that you heard in
Brazil could have been of either type.

> Colloquial Portuguese in Brazil
> is famous for such structures (even though they're rightfully
> considered slang).

why "rightfully"?  i'm not doubting that resumptive pronouns (of
either type) are indeed "slang" (well, non-standard) in colloquial
Brazilian Portuguese, but that's just a fact.  nothing predicts that
certain expression-types will be non-standard, or slang, and indeed
languages (and varieties of a single language) differ as to the status
of particular expression-types.

> For example, the sentence Wilson Gray has heard
> would sound something like this in Brazil: Maria, a mulher que eu
> cuido das crianças dela (almost equivalent structure-wise to the
> English counterpart).

that certainly looks like a ResIsland example.

(further complication: there's a third type of gapless relative
structure, with neither a gap nor a resumptive pronoun in it, what i
label NoPro.  this occurs in english, but is non-standard.  in many
languages, for instance Japanese and Korean, it's entirely standard.
some details in my Language Log piece.)


> JM
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