Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sentential Subjects: vP?, TP? other?

I've just completed a preliminary draft of the introduction to the section on topicalization. Exactly what this involves theoretically is huge question: for now, I'm adopting a fairly unconstrained interpretation of the term to mean any fronting of a constituent to the initial specifier position of the clause, where the fronted constituent is typically followed by the "topic marker" thì (but also by what I'll call secondary topicalization markers including and (in certain uses). Hence topicalization will include relatives, conditionals and a bunch of other things besides] But the present query relates to sentential subjects, which I also think are topicalized in this sense.

First the text:

Sentential Subjects

One type of topicalization that is of particular theoretical interest involves sentential subjects. As the examples in (3) illustrate, Vietnamese sentential subjects are not introduced by any subordinating complementizer: indeed, it is ungrammatical to place a complementizer in sentence-initial position. In spite of this, such constructions are highly frequent, and appear to be parsed without difficulty:

3a. (*Rằng) họ cười khúc khích làm chúng em thẹn. (Nguyễn 1997: 222)
that prn laugh giggle make plural prn embarrassed
'(The fact that) they giggled embarrassed us.'

b. (*Rằng) nhà tôi ở trong hữm thế này mà anh tìm ra kể giỏi lắm. [Huffman: 277]
that house I be in alley like this REL you find show skillful very
'(The fact that) my house is in an alley like this yet you found it shows that you are pretty clever.'

The examples in (4b) and (5), in which a clausal argument precedes the assertion morpheme and the anterior marker đã, respectively, are also consistent with a fronting analysis as sentential subject-fronting analysis: see Duffield in prep. and sections NN above

4a. Ông Ba có ngủ ngon không? (Dương 1971)
prn Ba asr sleep well Q
'Did Mr Ba sleep well?'

b. Ông Ba ngủ có ngon không?
prn Ba sleep asr well Q
'Did Mr Ba have a good sleep?' (lit. Mr. Ba sleeps is good, not?)

5. Họ ăn đã xong. [G: 258]
prn eat ant finish
'They finished eating.

Now, the query. I'd like to be able to distinguish a number of analytic options for the bracketed constituents in (4b) and (5). The minimal assumption is that they're something smaller than TPs, say vP, for the sake of argument. However, if it's possible to have higher functional categories (sẽ đã có không) within this constituent then we d be forced to assume they're tps at least. [Note that although there lot of structure in (3b), it's all fairly deeply embedded and still compatible with a vp=sentential subject analysis.] Any thoughts, help, advice, most welcome!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

An initial query about reciprocals

In the initial draft just completed reciprocals, I noted the following:

Reciprocal pronouns

Reciprocity is Vietnamese is usually expressed by nhau ('each other'). Ngô N. B. (1999: 175) provides the following examples (also LVSP), in which nhau occupies a position c-commanded by the matrix subject họ ([raised] object and indirect object positions, respectively):

7a. Họ giúp nhau làm bài tập. [EV: 175]
prn help eachother do homework
'They help each other do homework'

b. Thỉnh thoảng họ viết thư cho nhau. [EV: 175]
occasionally prn write letter give eachother
'Occasionally, they write letters to each other.'

c. Hai cái áo giống nhau nhưng một cái rẻ và một cái mắc. [LVSP: 325]
two cls shirt resemble each.other but one cls cheap and one cls expensive
'These two shirts look alike, but one is cheap and the other expensive.'

Nguyễn Đ. H. (1997: 137) mentions one other rather interesting example involving nhau, in which the reciprocal occupies the object position, and the thematic object is projected as a prepositional phrase:

8. Anh ấy kiện nhau với ông chủ. [NDH: 137].
prn dem sue eachother with prn boss
'He sued his boss (literally, he sued each other with his boss).'

Though (8) may be interesting, and (7) not unhelpful, there's a good deal more to find out. First off, I'd like to know what happens in other embedded subject cases, such as (i)-(iii) below.

[If these constructed examples are ungrammatical for some irrelevant reason, please excuse (and correct the idiocy), but the point should be relatively clear: is nhau licensed in finite complement clauses, in VP-complements to causative làm and làm cho? I'm assuming that these examples are all fine if nhau is replaced by a pronoun with disjoint reference.

(i) Họ nghĩ (là) nhau dã viết lá thư
prn think comp each other ant write letter
'*They thought that each other had written the letter.' [= 'They each thought that the other had written the letter.'

(ii) Họ làm nhau khóc.
prn make eachother cry
'They made each other cry.'

(iii) Họ làm cho nhau nhảy.
prn make give eachother dance
‘They made eachother dance.’

Any advice, thoughts, most welcome!

Stopping vs. Completion: a query about Aspect

Gage (1975: 258) gives the following examples to illustrate differences between Vietnamese and English with respect to the expression of Aspect:

1a. Anh ấy ngưng chạy [G: 258]
prn dem stop run
'He stopped running.'

b. Anh ấy ngưng học [G: 258]
prn dem stop study
'He stopped studying.'

c. Tôi không thể ngưng việc được.
prn neg-poss stop work can
'I couldn't stop working.'

2a. Anh ấy ăn lót lòng xong.
prn dem eat breakfast finish
'He finished eating breakfast.'

b. Tôi đã soạn đồ hanh-lý ra xong.
prn ant unpack suitcase go-out finish
'I've finished unpacking.'

[ Also, note:
Họ ăn đã xong. [G: 258]
prn eat ant finish
'They finished eating...which needs to be accounted for]

Observation: The predicates in (1) are all activity predicates, whereas those in (2) denote accomplishments or achievements. The expectation is that ngưng could also be used with the latter predicates as well; however, as in English, it should imply that the activity has stopped before completion (i.e. is temporarily suspended). Could someone please provide relevant examples?

Query: If these examples are representative, rather than a sampling error, they suggest that predicates to do with true telicity always appear postverbally, whereas 'quasi-aspectual predicates' that simply mark the edge (beginning or end) of an event (Travis' Outer Aspect?) appear preverbally. I have a sense that the syntactic options for the pre/post-verb lại bear this out. Does this seem to be on the right track?