Presentation on theme: "Gregory Ward Northwestern University Universidade de Santiago de Compostela Departamento de Filoloxía Inglesa 16 Xuño 2008 Seminar on Information Structure."— Presentation transcript:
Gregory Ward Northwestern University Universidade de Santiago de Compostela Departamento de Filoloxía Inglesa 16 Xuño 2008 Seminar on Information Structure and Word Order Variation Introduction
Information Structure Given (old, familiar) vs. new information –new in what sense? –given in what sense? Sentences with all new information are informative, but rare: –This guy sent a letter to a friend in a big city about a controversial topic. Sentences with all given information are common, but uninformative: –He did it.
Information Structure Most sentences contain a mixture of given and new information: –My friend John sent one of his friends in Santiago a letter about the serious depression hes been suffering from.
Information Structure Many aspects of information structure: Reference (choice of referring expression) Cohesion (coherence relations) Topic (discourse topic vs. sentence topic) Focus (focus/presupposition, common ground, question under discussion (QUD)) Intonation/prosody
Information Structure Word order variation (functions of syntax) Each language provides its speakers with a range of truth-conditionally-equivalent syntactic options (or constructions). Differences among them are entirely in terms of information structure. Truth-conditional equivalence: the gold standard of word order variation.
Word Order Variation Example Preposing (or topicalization) in English: the (optional) sentence-initial placement of a subcategorized (obligatory) argument of a transitive verb. That I didnt know. The first part I finished last week. People that like I have no respect for.
Word Order Variation: Preposing Basic (or canonical) word order I didnt know that. Marked (or noncanonical) word order That I didnt know. The two forms are true under precisely the same conditions: i.e, they are semantically, or truth- conditionally, equivalent.
Word Order Variation: Some Important Questions Are all marked word orders optional? Do all speakers use all word orders? When do children acquire marked word orders? What is the alternative to using a marked word order (the envelope of variation)?
Examples of Word Order Variation in English Canonical transitive sentences (subject-verb-object (SVO) word order, unmarked) Pat ate that banana.
English Noncanonical Constructions A. Preposing constructions 1.Topicalization That banana Pat ate. (This one she gave away.) 2.Focus Preposing A: Did Pat eat this banana? B: No. That banana Pat ate.
English Noncanonical Constructions: Preposing, cont. 3. Proposition Assessment a) Proposition Affirmation They said Pat would eat that banana, and eat that banana he did! And what a banana it was, too! A: Pats amazing. B: That she is! A: Soup or salad? B: Soup. A: Soup it is!
English Noncanonical Constructions: Preposing, cont. 3. Proposition Assessment (cont.) b) Proposition Suspension Im upset that Pat ate a banana, if eat a banana he did. c) Proposition Denial (Epitomization) Chomsky, youre not. Stupid, shes not.
B.Passive (get and be) 1. Passive with by-phrase That banana was eaten by Pat. That banana got eaten by Pat. 2. Passive without by-phrase That banana was eaten. That banana got eaten. English Noncanonical Constructions
C.Cleft constructions 1. it-clefts (clefts) It was that banana (that) Pat ate. It was Pat who ate that banana. 2. wh-clefts (pseudo-clefts) What Pat ate was that banana. (The one) who ate that banana was Pat. What Pat did was eat that banana. 3. reverse wh-clefts That banana is what Pat ate. Pat is (the one) who ate that banana. 4. th-clefts Thats a banana (that) Pat ate. Thats Pat who ate that banana. English Noncanonical Constructions
D.Inversion Eating that banana is Pat. English Noncanonical Constructions
E.Gapping Chris ate the orange and Pat, that banana. English Noncanonical Constructions
F.Right Node Raising Pat bought - and Chris ate - a banana. English Noncanonical Constructions
G.Left-Dislocation That banana, Pat ate it. Pat, she ate that banana. English Noncanonical Constructions
H. Right-Dislocation He ate that banana, Pat. Pat ate it, that banana. 1.Right-Dislocation with concomitant copula deletion Tasty piece of fruit, that banana. English Noncanonical Constructions
I. Heavy NP Shift Pat gave to Chris that huge overripe banana from Brazil. English Noncanonical Constructions
J. Dative Alternation (double object construction) Pat gave Chris that banana. Pat gave that banana to Chris. English Noncanonical Constructions
K.Particle Movement Pat ate that banana up. Pat ate up that banana. English Noncanonical Constructions
Combinations 1.Cleft + passive with by-phrase It was that banana that was eaten by Pat. What was eaten by Pat was that banana. 2.Inversion + passive with by-phrase Being eaten by Pat is a banana. 3.Reverse wh-cleft + RD Thats what I want, that banana. English Noncanonical Constructions
Combinations (cont.) 4.Reverse wh-cleft + LD + passive That banana, thats what was eaten. 5.Cleft + gapping It was Chris who ate the orange and Pat, that banana. 6.Gapping + inversion + passive with by- phrase + proposition suspension Being eaten in a frenzy by Chris was that orange, and by Pat, that banana, if eaten they were. English Noncanonical Constructions
Canonical intransitive sentences: A lovely fountain is in the garden A lovely fountain stands in the garden.
A.Inversion 1.Locative In the garden is a lovely fountain. In the garden stands a lovely fountain. 2.Non-locative Also lovely is the fountain in the garden. English Noncanonical Constructions
B. Existential there-Sentences Theres a lovely fountain in the garden.
English Noncanonical Constructions C. Presentational there-Sentences There stands a lovely fountain in the garden.
English Noncanonical Constructions Combinations 1.Existential there + Preposing In the garden, theres a lovely fountain. 2.Presentational there + Heavy NP Shift There stands in the garden a lovely fountain. 3.Inversion + Cleft It is in the garden that stands a lovely fountain.
Investigating Noncanonical Constructions Empirically Three prevailing methodologies: Intuitions Psycholinguistic experiments Corpus-based investigations Each has its strengths* and weaknesses! *note CCCvCCC phonology!
The Three Methodologies: Pros and Cons Intuitions Pros Useful in guiding initial stages of hypothesis formation. Gaps: often the relevant corpus data do not exist (which does not mean that the construction or form is ungrammatical!). Example: recursive preposing
Recursive Preposing? I find it difficult to accept the fact that I have no control over some aspects of my life. The fact that I have no control over some aspects of my life I find it difficult to accept.
Recursive Preposing? The fact that I have no control over some aspects of my life I find it difficult to accept. The fact that some aspects of my live I have no control over I find it difficult to accept.
The Three Methodologies: Pros and Cons Intuitions Cons Meta-linguistic (acceptability) judgements are notoriously variable and unstable. Judgements of unacceptability do not come labeled with the source of the unacceptability (e.g. syntax, semantic, pragmatics). Felicity or appropriateness depends crucially on context of utterance often difficulty to imagine.
The Three Methodologies: Pros and Cons Experiments Pros Extremely controlled environment; can zero in on very specific features on the discourse context Replicability
The Three Methodologies: Pros and Cons Experiments Cons Labor-intensive; costly Requires extensive preparation/permissions Ecological validity: To what degree does a subjects performance in a laboratory reflect what s/he does in a natural setting? Were never quite sure what subjects are doing while performing an artificial task.
The Three Methodologies: Pros and Cons Corpus-based studies Pros Practical considerations: easy to obtain huge amounts of naturally-occurring data (NOD) Gigabytes, terabytes, petabytes, exabytes, zettabytes, yottabytes… NOD abstracts away from individual variation. For historical periods/extinct languages, NOD is often the only available source. NOD often provides context of utterance.
The Three Methodologies: Pros and Cons Corpus-based studies Cons Not everything in a corpus especially on the internet is grammatical! Non-native speakers, errors, language play, machine-generated language, etc. Data requires theory! Example: The problem is is that… (100,000+ hits on google) Solution: multiple sources of data!
The Corpus Analyses of noncanonical constructions are based on a corpus of Standard American English (SAE), consisting of several thousand tokens of NOD. Written sources include newspapers, magazines, novels, nonfiction books, academic prose, and portions of the Brown Corpus.
The Corpus Oral sources include personal conversations, TV shows, films, interviews from Studs Terkel (Terkel 1974), and transcripts of the 1986 Challenger Commission meetings. (Are screenplays oral?) Style: formal vs. informal; planned vs. unplanned Data not collected randomly (sampling problems), so there is no systematic data on frequency. However, I do have some data on the frequency of one noncanonical construction!
The Preponderance of Preposing Is preposing more common in writing or in speech? In formal or in informal contexts? Issues to consider: –The relationship between writing and speech Does a noncanonical word order compensate for the absence of prosody? Does a canonical word order amnesty phonological dispreferences? –As a complex syntactic construction, would a noncanonical word order be more like to occur in written (i.e. planned) language?
The Preponderance of Preposing My valiant attempt to compare the written and spoken language of a single speaker (Richard M. Nixon) was somewhat inconclusive. In his book Six Crises, there were a total of 9,719 sentences and 69 preposings, for a ratio of 140:1. How does this compare with other constructions? Problems in counting (especially by machine): Nixon: That you dont want to answer, huh? Dean: The more we work on it, the more questions we see Nixon: That you dont want to answer, huh? [The Presidential Transcripts. 1974:95]
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