preposition stranding

Alan R. King mccay at REDESTB.ES
Mon Oct 26 17:06:48 UTC 1998

I agree with most of David Gil's points, which is easy because he agrees
with most of mine  ;-)  I believe he is quite right to differentiate
between the (superficially very similar) Welsh and Hebrew systems; that at
least is the drift of my original point.  Remember though that I referred
particularly to colloquial Welsh; in its diachronic origin the Welsh
construction probably began pretty much from where the modern Hebrew system
now is

(where you cannot in any context say:

*alav hu
on.him him

*bishvili ani me

or anything of the sort), but that is not true for modern Welsh.  However
standard literary Welsh, being more conservative (not to say archaizing),
no doubt represents an intermediate stage.  And most grammarians will look
first (or only) at the literary language's system, so be warned.

Jan Anward's Swedish examples are indeed good ones, but they also show that
we're dealing with a more general phenomenon which doesn't necessarily
involve prepositions at all, cf. _Och du heter?_ etc.  By the way, this can
be done in Spanish too.  So the preposition is not an essential part of the
story in these cases, and again we seem to be getting rather far from the
subject of preposition stranding.

As regards the Malay / Indonesian _-ka_ or _-kan_ problem, this may be
related to a pattern that seems to pop up more or less sporadically among
Oceanic (Austronesian) languages, in which what may look like a preposition
at first, and may have got itself described by a grammarian as such, turns
out because of its syntactic behaviour to resemble somewhat the Somali
items that started out this section of the discussion, with the difference
that the facts are somewhat more ambivalent for one reason or another,
making it harder to decide how to categorize the item in question
non-arbitrarily.  And then, if we were to ask whether any preposition
stranding patterns can be identified in such a language, we are again up
against problems of definition.  Unfortunately my Oceanic languages are
rusty of late, but I remember puzzling over a Nguna (Vanuatu) example.
Again unfortunately, I find that the book this was in is not in its place
on the shelf, so I cannot give details today.

And lastly, I agree in principle with David's "rebuke" regarding the
concept of "marginal to the grammar" or whatever I said.  I used the
expression conscious of the danger and with slight misgivings.  Yet I only
agree up to a point, beyond with I don't.  Of course we should not impose
*our* a priori ideas about what is supposed to happen in a grammar.  But
what about native speakers' feelings about the marginality (or
peripherality, or whatever) of some constructions, or words, or
pronunciations... within their language?  And this is turn, I think, boils
down to whether or not we will allow sociolinguistics into our linguistics
(I do), because such intuitions are certain to be manifested in the
distribution of such usages across registers, styles, etc. etc.


Alan R. King, Ph.D.
alanking at
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
SNAIL: Orkolaga plaza 3 1A, 20800 Zarautz, Basque Country, Spain.
PHONE: +34-943-134125   /   FAX: +34-943-130396
Alternative email addresses:   mccay at, a at,
70244.1674 at
Internet:   <>

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list