defend = 'defend against'

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Dec 13 17:02:03 UTC 2012

On Dec 13, 2012, at 11:11 AM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:

> On Dec 13, 2012, at 7:39 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
>> It may have something to do with people wanting to avoid prepositions
>> whenever they can. But why? To conserve planetary oxygen? Just a tentative
>> SWAG.
> i've posted a number of times on "transitivizing P-deletion", a syntactic development that potentially serves two purposes: (a) brevity; (b) indicating, iconically, a tighter sematic/pragmatic bond between verb and object than the P-marked variant does.
> arnold
> ------------------------------------------------------------
Indeed, but we're dealing with Zipf's and Martinet's opposition between "speaker's economy" and "hearer's economy", or the neo-Gricean dialectic between clarity ("say enough") and brevity ("don't say too much"). In many contexts the least effort tendency toward brevity or economy is trumped by the need to maintain clarity, as in phonology, when faithfulness and markedness clash. This is especially likely to occur when the meaning resulting from the deletion/suppression of the suddenly extraneous element is the opposite of the original*, which in principle would be the case here (much more than in other cases of prep-drop), except that perhaps the context will tend to secure the intended meaning.  (How often would someone actually be defending the charges, as opposed to defending (themself) against the charges?)

*Not to deny the emergence of constructions in which it's hard to figure out whether P or not-P was intended, especially when negatives collide or disappear, as we've often discussed (miss not, could care less).  I just came across another hypernegation that pops up in French:  "Vous n'êtes pas sans ignorer...", lit. 'you're not without being ignorant of/that...' *should* mean 'you don't know' but is usually (always?) used to convey 'you (surely) know'.  The first page (of the 45K raw g-hits) for "ne pas être sans ignorer" is filled with commentaries bemoaning this "lapsus" or "faute courante".


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