[Ads-l] Sluicing

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Oct 23 14:26:19 UTC 2017

> On Oct 23, 2017, at 3:43 AM, Chris Waigl <chris at LASCRIBE.NET> wrote:
> I should start with the disclaimer that I'm strictly here as an amateur,
> and can neither comment on the analysis of this feature, not on its
> naming. This said.
> For a German speaker, this term is a pretty intuitive one.
> Interestingly, some of the examples on the (English) Wikipedia page are
> from German. It's always better to have an example to hand...
> ===> Er hat jemandem geschmeichelt, aber ich weiß nicht, wem.
> ===> He has flattered someone but I don't know who.

Right, it’s the case marking that make the German examples more interesting to a syntactician.  The above example (for those other than Chris) is telling because the stranded “wem” is Dative, like “jemandem”, because the verb ‘to flatter’ governs the Dative instead of (like most transitive verbs) the accusative.  That was cited by Ross as support for a rule deleting (sluicing) the verb in the second half of the sentence.  

I don’t know the exact reason Haj Ross used “slucing” for this operation in his 1969 paper*, but it was at a time when syntactic rules were often given (what seemed at the time) humorous and/or clever names.  “Slifting” was Ross’s term for “Sentence-lifting”, as in “It seemed like a good idea, he thought”.  If you express this as “It seemed, he thought, like a good idea”, that’s “Niching”, while “Stalin looks like he’s been dead for years” (as opposed to “It looks like Stalin has been dead for years”), now usually referred to as “copy-raising”, was at the time known as “Richard”.  Don’t ask.

The OED doesn’t include the linguistic sense of sluicing, but it does provide this evocative cite that Ross could have used as an epigraph:

1847   Dickens Dombey & Son (1848) xxxii. 325   This here sluicing night is hard lines to a man as lives on his condition.


*Just checked my disintegrating copy of CLS 5, Papers from the Fifth Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society (I wuz dere, Charley), and sure enough in the first paragraph of “Guess Who”, Ross explains that he will refer to the rule that converts (the structure underlying) “Somebody just left—guess who just left” into (the structure immediately underlying) “Somebody just left—guess who” as Sluicing, but he doesn’t say why.  (Yes, another sluice; the sluiced clause doesn’t have to be overt.)

> (And we're talking about the indirect interrogative clauses being
> reduced to the wh-thingy.)
> English "sluice" is a cognate of German "Schleuse", and the two words
> mean almost the same thing. Almost. I started out in the
> English-speaking world using "sluice" whenever I meant "Schleuse", but
> that just led to all sorts of confusion. I figured out the best 1st
> approximation for a translation should be "lock", as in, for
> transportation on rivers and canals. Locks usually have sluices, of
> course. In German, the verb "durchschleusen" ("sluice through", or
> rather, let something pass through, smoothly and swiftly, as if in a
> water channel) is pretty common. It is used especially in a figurative
> sense. And that's what's happening in the feature: The rest of the parts
> of the indirect interrogative clause are just, fffffffffp, virtually
> passed through from the main clause.
> Now of course Dr. Ross may have had a different metaphor in mind. But he
> better then deal with the German imagery...
> Chris
> On 10/22/17 10:01 PM, W Brewer wrote:
>> Dear linguists,
>>     I understand that yer use of <sluicing> is "a type of ellipsis that
>> occurs in both direct and indirect interrogative clauses. The ellipsis is
>> introduced by a wh-expression, whereby in most cases, everything except the
>> wh-expression is elided from the clause. Sluicing has been studied in
>> detail in recent years and is therefore a relatively well understood type
>> of ellipsis.[1]"  Wp's footnote 1 implicates Ross 1969 as possible
>> originator.
>>     Q:  What the h*** does the word <sluice> have to do with post-wh
>> deletion? Was it a spelling error for <slicing> & nobody dared to correct
>> him or what? I just can't picture a water chute in this usage. Snipping &
>> clipping have a less watery connotation, anyways.
>>     Ah gotsta no.
>> Sincerely,
>> WB
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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