preposition stranding

Alan R. King mccay at REDESTB.ES
Tue Oct 27 10:13:53 UTC 1998

I would venture to say that Spanish does NOT have preposition stranding, as
I  believe and infer this notion to be understood by most of us (cf. M.
Polinsky's initial query, which singled out English and Scandinavian
languages as ones that DO have it).

So, if we have at least one language (or Romance dialect, if you like) that
doesn't allow preposition stranding, and at least one (English, say, or
Swedish) that does, let's see where they differ.  English allows both (1)
and (2):

I'm talking ABOUT Rocio.

Who are you talking ABOUT?

and similarly for a vast range of sentences containing prepositions.  And
here's a Swedish authentic example (the first two sentences of the
wonderful children's novel _Bröderna Lejonhjärta_ by Astrid Lindgren):

Nu ska jag berätta OM min bror.
now shall I tell ABOUT my brother

Min bror, Jonatan Lejonhjärta, honom vill jag berätta OM.
my brother, J.L., him want I tell ABOUT

"Now I'll tell about my brother.  My brother, Jonathan Lionheart, that's
who I want to tell about."

Now contrast Spanish:

Hablo DE Rocío. OF R.
"I'm talking about R."

¿DE quién hablas?
OF who
"Who are you talking about?"

***¿Quién hablas DE?

Es DE mi hermano DE quien quiero hablar.
is OF my brother OF who I.want talk
"It's (about) my brother I want to talk (about)."

Es mi hermano DE quien quiero hablar.
is my brother OF who I.want talk

***Es mi hermano quien quiero hablar DE.

and the same with any other Spanish preposition that I can think of.

I *don't* believe sentences like the following enter into the question at

Rocio came IN.

Rocio kom IN.
R. came in

Rocio entró (ADENTRO).
R. entered inside

((10), with the semantically redundant adverb _adentro_, occurs
colloquially quite frequently, for some speakers at least, even if frowned
upon by prescriptivists.)

Whether or not prepositions are "really" adverbs, I don't know; it looks to
me like a question of definitions, not one of phenomena, but that could be
just my way of looking at things.  But for the present discussion to be
meaningful, we need to distinguish between the items capitalized in (1-7)
and those in (8-10).  I would like to suggest that the former continue to
be called prepositions, and that this term be reserved for just such items
to the exclusion of the items exemplified in (8-10).  It seems sort of useful.

Secondly, no matter what is a preposition and what is an adverb (or
preverb, or coverb, etc.), it seems that in (2) and (4) something "happens"
which could sensibly be called stranding (of something).  Whereas in (8-10)
nothing gets stranded, as far as I can tell.


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