no fun with pronouns

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Tue Dec 7 19:15:31 UTC 2010

From: Ronald Butters :

Where is the "pronominal confusion"? There are only two pronouns, both =
of which refer to some person who was mentioned in context that Victor =
does not give.

Two pronouns and (admittedly not a pronoun), "the man".

But the context (or lack of it, and I think Victor gave quite enough
relevant material) is exactly the point.  We *infer from the context that
"his", "him", and "the man" refer to the same person, but in strict
grammatical terms, there is no reason why this should necessarily be so.

        "James's lawyer delivered Fred to the British police for questioning
in an investigation of Andrew who has angered Washington ..."

This particular trope is frequently -- and given that Victor is citing
MSNBC, may even be so in this case -- the result of spoken material directly
transcribed into written form.  Thus it was in Wessex towards the end of the
eight century AD, and thus, apparently, so it is still today.

Plus ca change ...

(For the Chronicle in the original, on  Cynewulf and Cyneheard --

"Anno Hēr Cynewulf benam Siġebryht his rīċes ond Westseaxna wiotan
for unryhtum dǣdum, būton Hamtūnscīre, ond hē hæfde þā oþ hē ofslōg þone
aldormon þe him lenġest wunode. ... " )


Even "the man who has angered Washington" is clearly a =
deictic reference to the same person. There is nothing remarkable or =
noteworthy whatever about the sentence (except that we are not given the =
immediately preceding context). f

On Dec 7, 2010, at 10:33 AM, Robin Hamilton wrote:

> It's rather endearing, though.  For pronominal confusion, it rivals =
> Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for 755 on Cynewulf and Cyneheard.  But =
> particular entry may have been based on a lost oral alliterative text.
> Dunno what excuse MSNBC have.
> (We may also have the earliest recorded instance of a bran-new =
sex-crime --
> wilfully spilling secrets on the Internet.)
> Robin
> _____________________________________________
> ------Original Message------
> From: Victor Steinbok
> Sender: ADS-L
> To: ADS-L
> ReplyTo: ADS-L
> Subject: [ADS-L] fun with pronouns
> Sent: Dec 7, 2010 6:00 AM
> MSNBC's article on Asange's arrest contains the following sentence:
>> His lawyer had earlier arranged to deliver him to British police for
>> questioning in a sex-crimes investigation of the man who has angered
>> Washington by spilling thousands of government secrets on the =
> "His", "him" and "man who..." all refer to the same person.

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