preposition stranding

Alan R. King mccay at REDESTB.ES
Mon Oct 26 11:04:08 UTC 1998

>I am looking for languages (other than English and Scandinavian) which
>productive preposition stranding. Any suggestions?
>Maria Polinsky

Hi there Masha!  I'm not sure of the technical definition of preposition
stranding, and therefore unsure whether Welsh has it or doesn't.  Certainly
very informal spoken Welsh as I have often heard it does, but this is
doubtless calqued from English.  An example of this calqued usage would be:

Pwy wyt ti'n siarad am?
who are you ASPECT speak about
"Who are you speaking about?"

where the preposition _am_ "about" has been stranded just as in English, cf.

Wyt ti'n siarad am John?
are you ASPECT speak about John
"Are you speaking about John?"

But apart from that, in "correct" (and certainly in literary) Welsh, we
have this construction:

Pwy wyt ti'n siarad amdano?
who are you ASPECT speak about.3ms
"Who are you speaking about?"

Welsh has full morphological paradigms of preposition + person combinations
like amdano "about + 3rd person masculine singular".  Now I think that
whether or not you want to call this preposition stranding depends
crucially on the rather complicated issue of the category of the personal
component (here, _-o_ "3rd person masculine singular").  If this is a
pronoun, then _amdano_ is a preposition followed by a NP.  However, I don't
think _-o_ is a pronoun, at least not in present-day Welsh.  Rather, I
think _-o_ is an INDEX on the preposition, which in (3) above AGREES with
or INDEXES the question word _pwy_ "who".

I'll give just one item of evidence in support of this assertion.  In
("correct") colloquial Welsh, we have:

Wyt ti'n siarad amdano fe?
are you ASPECT speak about.3ms him
"Are you speaking about him?"

Notice that normally in this context (unlike (3)!) _amdano_ is followed by
the pronoun _fe_.  Sentence (4) without _fe_ is probably possible, but I
believe statistically much less common in the colloquial language (which
tends to avoid most forms of pro-drop, of which this could be an instance).
 Note on the other hand the definite ungrammaticality of (5), which lacks
the person index on the preposition:

*Wyt ti'n siarad am fe?
are you ASPECT speak about him
"Are you speaking about him?"

Tentative conclusion: _amdano_ does NOT contain a pronoun (in the sense of
a certain kind of NP head), only a preposition with a syntactically
required index morpheme.  It is, then, a "form" of the preposition _am_.

Does that mean that (traditional, "correct") Welsh has preposition
stranding in sentences like (3)?  I tend to think it does.  And yes, this
construction is fully productive in Welsh grammar.

All the best,

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