May 2, 2014

One at a time but on/in its subject?

"An honor must be earned," commonsense says, but in the world of academe, it is not always pretended to be about the quality of the print products. Commonsense also says that the higher the technicality of a subject goes, the lesser  the quantity of its readers becomes. Yet language and linguistics subject is  still the passion for many; no need to mention that it is just for linguists. 

Whenever I have my read times these days, I try to do some literature reviews, primarily on English language and linguistics but on a small scale. I do enjoy writing posts for a language blog as this  eventually gives me some good keep up exercise as well.     

So is to my reviews, without anything of my own, so to speak,  the last few weeks of worlds of mainstream media on the linglang has been very  smooth; nothing serious, noting wrong, nothing much to debate.  But those who read blogs, journals, etc might have perhaps noticed that the ‘verbal illusion’ is something difficult to be understood and that agreed with. There is number of good reasons why the authors were/are mere on the idiomatic and pragmatic aspects of the issue and not on the semantical or grammatical aspect of it. Something like in these, for example:
No head injury is too trivial to be ignored
No sinner is too wicked to be condemned

Here the confusions are just like on some of our verbal conventions like I am home or I am at home that give the similar reading. I prefer the adverbial with the preposition like at home rather than home. The Google NgramViewer, however, supports  the  home version rather than at home version as an emerging new trend among English speakers around the world.      
But on the grammatical aspect of the verbal patterns, there seems no verbal illusion since it is strait forward and cannot be read as  ‘No sinner is too wicked' and 'no sinner is to be condemned’.   Since to be condemned here in this sentence is just the complement of the participle adjective wicked (via functional potential for transformation),  I like to argue that our grammatical verbal pattern does not allow any other  way of reading this sentence. However I agree that this, as authors  indicated, may be a bit problem for L1ers and L2ers since our verbal patterns are sometimes catenatives. 

Some of the other things from last few weeks of language blogs and journals that i like to pinpoint are our common errors or likes that we face against our intuitions day-to-day, something like of in which circumstances we have the choice of using the preposition in or on for the same meaning  is in particular. And the other thing with this context that I like to add is our choices or styles of adjectives. For example,  why we like to refer something like 'I like to speak in English' rather than 'I like to speak on English' or vice versa appears to be the matter of our own referent to the preposition in question. The same analogy seems to be concealed with our adjective choices as well,  like for example, why we like to refer something as 'linguistics subject' rather than 'linguistic subject' but 'linguistic explanation' rather than 'linguistics explanation' or  'something in political explanation'  versus 'explanation in politics'. Certainly we can argue that each of these forms as having its own non-identical referent not an exact synonym to its counterpart, so to speak.

Written by: Nevill Fernando  
Posted by: LangLing    


  1. Anonymous11/5/14 18:01

    Also, in other comment on the infinitive issue ('have to+verb') recently, you are strongly disagreeing with our modern grammar explanations on this catentative. Any comment why it is irrelevent to catentative?

  2. Since LangLing posts have often been in popular journals like Cambridge Journals and Oxford Journals and in so many other journals, blogs, etc., and for this reason that the most readers of LangLing seems to be the academicians in linguistics and social sciences and PhD students in linguistics and English, I prefer to add some more literature on this sometime later.

    For a quick comment now:

    "This is one of the most difficult areas of English grammar and despite a great deal of intensive study over the last twenty years there remains much disagreement over quite basic aspects of this analysis." (Huddleston 1986, 209)

    Imagine you need reliable sources for your curiosities, like trusted persons to ask or trusted publications to read etc., but the world of research and publications cannot be of any further help other than enough controversies for you to sort things out first?

    One of the reasons for this dilemma is perhaps, since we have over fifty years of our research and publication now, that the varying approaches each grammarian selects which in turn make things open than narrow things down.

    To look at some details on the catenative grammar posted here in LL, however, with respect to the alternative literatures elsewhere and to the comments and questions etc., I would better say that it is a matter of classifications, at least for sake of the efforts made in their analyses. However whether the alternative approaches are correct or not is another issue. In those of many analyses, the two notable analyses in this literature is obviously the verbs and complements analyses. The complement analyses seems strait forward in many respect but the verb analyses seems in dispute. On the verb analyses, like among various disagreements, my argument also was that verbs like use to, have to, ought to do not provide the catenative element, other than only as semi-modal unlike the other. Which is then to say, in a narrow sense, that they are catenative--misleading at the same time in the context of our analytical validity as to their features in our traditional grammar are concerned.

    Certainly there is so much to read about catenative elements of verbs and complements.

  3. Anonymous10/7/14 11:48

    Some writers claim to bring such a use like ‘have’ in ‘I have to leave’ as catenative for infinitival and bring this analogy as a main verb to ‘have’ as in ‘I have a story to you’ or ‘I have a story to tell’, while others allow more polysemy but with widely varying views on how many different senses are to be distinguished from each other. The problem is still nevertheless particularly acute in the analysis of its categorical prime even if it is only so polysemously analogous to which the complement is categorically significant. Then, what are the main categorical markers, to say that some verbs are purely modal, main, or catenative etc? And why do complement analyses differ from verb analyses here?

    1. Steffen Baldacci21/7/14 13:33

      Some dynamic verbs like ‘hope’, ‘want’, ‘have’ and the stative paradigm of verb ‘be’ all have the inherent semantic quality to complement their predication (in here, complement) as catenative. The ‘have’, however, is probably the mistaken one in that it is literally analytic one but understood as if it were catenated, literally lacking the inherent quality (or semantic feature) to which the complement can be of synthetic, so to speak.

  4. The underlying principle 'one at a time but on its subject' or 'one at a time but NOT on its subject' is the controversy here. Obviously, it is the most controversy among literary references on 'catenative verb'.

    1. Anonymous5/8/14 11:27

      To the majority (Halliday, Palmer, Huddleston, McCarthy, and to number of others), the principle of catenative relies on the complement pattern of verbs, namely a pattern that provides an additional action, a state, or an event that relates back to the same subject.

      To others, such a take is too vague since any verb can add any number of complements. For some authors of grammar books (Garth, Fernando, etc) are on this view. But Nevill Fernando is very new to this field although he has been writing for a while now.

      Any better examples to clarify the concept in details with the etymology, current use, and misconception etc. or recommendation for a book or books that have more details?

    2. I/have/a machine/ to do the job/ >>predicative
      I/have/a machine to do the job/ >>epistemic
      I/have to/do/the job/ >>deontic
      I/have/to do the job/ >>analytic

    3. Some what different from the above, but still failing within the general categorical analyses where the semantic role associated with the propositions though remain understood, is the take that analytic propositions are as albeit skeletal, either to express their grammatical semantics or truth conditions. And the prototypical counterparts are still deductible from the context, like 'I/have/to do the job/' = 'I/have to/do/the job/', although the inherent lexical property of each predicator of these examples differs as a dynamic one and an auxiliary one respectively.

      However, something like 'Mary is nice to talk', for example, doesn't illustrate the semantic predicates of both that 'She is nice' and 'She is available to talk', which the catenative analysis does.