preposition stranding

Steven Schaufele fcosw5 at MAIL.SCU.EDU.TW
Tue Oct 27 16:18:45 UTC 1998

Mauro Tosco wrote:

> I am not convinced by Paul's example:
> >je lui ai couru apres
> This sentence translates literally in other Romance languages; in my
> mother tongues it is:
> Piedmontese:
> i l'hai coruje dapress
> Italian:
> gli son corso dietro
> There are many other similar cases, e.g. Italian: "gli sono andato
> vicino" (= him I have gone near, "I approached him")
> The point is that French "apres", Italian "dietro, vicino", etc. are
> not considered prepositions in traditional (school) grammar, but
> adverbs - with a secondary use as prepositions when they occur with a
> noun (generally with the preposition "a", etc.).

Excuse me?  I've long maintained that that's precisely what adpositions
are: transitive adverbs.  Meaning, in any given language there is a
general syntactic/lexical class of adverbs, and in most if not all
languages some of those adverbs either accept or require NP complements
(to which they may have the power to assign case/Case, etc.).

> That's why French has "je LUI ai couru apres" and not *"je LE ai couru
> apres"

I presume Mauro is saying that not only is *`je LE ai couru apres'
unacceptable but that *`je l'ai couru apres'.  I'll let someone more
fluent in French than i speak to that issue.  As it stands, however, i
don't find this particular piece of evidence particularly probative.  If
`courir apres' is to be analyzed as an English-style `phrasal verb'
(e.g., `put up with'), then the oblique argument should be simply a
quasi-direct object, and *`je le ai/l'ai couru apres' should be OK.
That the oblique argument takes the form of a dative pronoun `lui' is
precisely what one would expect if it were to be understood as the
object not of the verb but of the `preposition': `apres lui' vs. *`apres

> Among different Romance languages (dialects?) the boundaries between
> the two categories may shift; thus, Paul's second example from French:

But if prepositions are merely transitive adverbs, it's completely
inappropriate to talk about `boundaries between the two categories'.

> "les femmes qu'il a couche' avec"  cannot have a direct translation in
> Italian (*"le donne che e' stato con" is not accepted) but it can in
> Piedmontese (actually, it is the most common possibility):
> "le fomne ch'a l'e' staje ansema"
> Piedmontese "ansema" is cognate to Italian "insieme" (and French
> "ensemble", "together"), and using the latter a translation in
> sub-standard (very sub-!) Italian is possible:
> "le donne che (ci) e' stato insieme"

But this is precisely an argument in favour of the equivalence of the
Piedmontese and Italian forms (even if the construction in question is
considered sub-standard in Italian), if the adverbs in question are
etymologically equivalent!

> French "avec" ("with") is rightly labelled in any French dictionary as
> a preposition AND as an adverb (with the specification "colloquial" in
> my dictionary); in French, "with" is possibly encroaching "together";
> Italian keeps the two strictly separated ("insieme" is much more used
> than its French cognate), while in Piedmontese (geographically, too,
> between French and Italian) "together" has almost completely taken the
> place of "with".

Along with Paul Hopper, i am sceptical about this appeal to `traditional
authorities' on an issue like this.  The fact that `traditional
grammars' insist on distinguishing between adverbs and prepositions is
precisely part of the reason why so many of us modern generativists tend
to view `traditional grammars' with suspicion: They are, from our point
of view, methodologically `deviant', they ask the `wrong' questions,
they take the `wrong' tack, they have an `inappropriate' point of view
(for `wrong' in the previous clauses, if you like, you may read
`inappropriate', `unenlightening', whatever suits your approach).

Steven Schaufele, Ph.D., Asst. Prof. of Linguistics, English Department

Soochow University, Waishuanghsi Campus, Taipei 11102, Taiwan, ROC

(886)(02)2881-9471 ext. 6504     fcosw5 at

        ***O syntagmata linguarum liberemini humanarum!***

        ***Nihil vestris privari nisi obicibus potestis!***

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