January 31, 2015

Infinitive-like gerund?

This is a WP post today (January 31, 2015):

Hi there, I thought about those 2 sentences, and I realized that both are correct:
(1) I saw her talking.
(2) I saw her talk.
While in 1, the adverb (correct me if it isn't) is gerund, I can't classify the adverb in the 2nd sentence. I mean, I realize that the first is much more progressive action, and the 2nd is more completed? But I can't classify it, I mean if it were infinitive it would look like:
I saw her to talk*
And it doesn't make any sense.    
— Exx8 
Answers so far:
  1. It's a bare infinitive. See the coverage on the topic in the Wikipedia article on the use of English verb forms. --
  2. I think the above is right - bare infinitive. But I don't think the first is technically a gerund. I think in your first example "talking" is a present participle acting adjectivally, as described at Gerund#Distinction_from_other_uses_of_the_-ing_form. --SemanticMantis
  3. SM's right. "Talking to him is exasperating" would be an example of a gerundial use of talk. English used to have separate forms, but they merged to -ing after Chaucer. German retains the difference: Bedutung "meaning" comes from the gerund, and bedeutend "meaningful" is the participial form. English has lost the -end form and merged the two under -ing. --μηδεic

Among opinions, my opinion is that if the core question and answer cannot narrow down their peripheries meaningfully, the redundancies are left for further complications than their answers can be drown from their respective semantic features like, first, what a finite or infinite or non-finite form here is. 

It reminds me of also the similar question ‘phoneme-like allophone’. Here is clearly distinguishable semantic features that provide answers however, although the basis in which how they differ must be brought first for any reasonable further analysis. Otherwise, what here is the same as 'like' on the ‘infinitive-like gerund’ question. Like in here, if it is fine among linguists that 'phoneme' is as the primary anatomical-landmark sound-features of the vocal tract that has underlying orthographic representation (though not really in the sense ‘contrastive’ or ‘predictable’, but as the concept of abstractions from concrete sound phenomena) and an allophone as a secondary anatomical-landmark sound-features, the most striking is the take that what constitutes an allophone depends on the linear order of a target phonetic feature and the conditioned tone in question--like why not [l] and [ɫ] phenomenon if so. An answer to this can be made, but how correct that would be for a simple and strait answer is always the problem, since the dark ‘l’ also has the autosegmental realization as an allophone. 

Not to say I am not in full agreement with one or any of the above 3 answers. A strait or one sentence answer is perhaps not an answer here. Then it also seems that the puzzle how to be still fair to those who like a straight answer is no more of that of the puzzle to solve.   


  1. Anonymous7/2/15 11:29

    Very fascinating writings in WP after a some while, though I doubt that most readers might be left out from having the basic understandings so as to get good grasp on the issue being discussed. A mistaken part in here is perhaps something like "exasperating" in "Talking to him is exasperating" as the gerundial use of "talk", while "exasperating" should be considered rather as a participle use of "talk" in this since the predicativity is semantically linked to the subject "talk" only as the participle adjective.

    1. The poster μηδεic is saying that the problem is solved here if there is different forms like in German language for present participle and gerund.

      You are saying no that is not an issue here? Since it is not the exact form of the participle adjective? Is it then a noun linguistically?

    2. It looks like to me that the poster μηδεic did not intend the meaning in the way as you described other than saying something on the predication relation of predicate-subject (rather than something on the predicate relation of the predicate- verb-phrase) while others were discussing something on the predicate relation of the predicate-verb-phrase. He might have misread a bit (or perhaps quick read) about the senses content of the question as if it had been the question of participle adjective, and for that reason perhaps, he added some more flavours from German language examples in this. German language seems to have the morphologically distinguishing verb patterns between a present and past participle, but that doesn’t seem to do the content sense.

      Certainly “Talking” as in “I saw her talking” does not provide the participle environment in which the meaning must be extracted. It is instead a pseudo-participle, as it is exposed in the discussion here for further literature on the logic of its descriptive grammar. I am not a specialist in descriptive grammar in English, but my good guess is that it isn’t a gerundial “talk”.