LINGUIST List 11.165

Wed Jan 26 2000

Sum: Inversion in Embedded Clauses

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. mwl1, Inversion in embedded clauses

Message 1: Inversion in embedded clauses

Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2000 10:34:33 +0000 (GMT)
From: mwl1 <>
Subject: Inversion in embedded clauses

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I asked whether native speakers of English accept (2b) and (3b) as 
stylistically marked variants of (2a) and (3a), or whether (2b) and (3b) 
are plainly ungrammatical?

(2a) I wonder into which garden my mother went.
(2b) I wonder into which garden went my mother.
(3a) That is the garden into which my mother went.
(3b) That is the garden into which went my mother.

I received 15 replies. A few respondents cautioned that (in American 
English) even (2a) and (2b) are stylistically marked because of the use 
of pied piping. Some other respondents mentioned a contrast between (2b) 
and (3b), so I think I had better list what each respondent/informant 
said about each sentence in this summary. (16 informants' judgments are 
listed here because two replies contain data from more than one informant 
and one contains no judgment data.)

For (2b):
(1) 'sound fine ... seem a little less stylistically marked than the 
non-extracted case ... sound even better if the inverted subject is heavy'
(2) 'ungrammatical, or at least very odd'
(3) 'plainly ungrammatical'
(4) 'ungrammatical ... one step beyond "stylistically odd"'
(5) 'cannot accept'
(6) 'borderline'
(7) 'odd'
(8) 'fine'
(9) 'impossible'
(10) 'a stylistic variant'
(11) 'distinctly strange to me, but not absolutely ungrammatical'
(12) 'I believe all of the types you are looking for are attested. 
However, the pragmatics (or discourse function) of this construction make 
a lot of examples that are constructed without any salient context sound 
pretty weird'
(13) 'a little awkward, pretentious, perhaps archaic, and pseudo-literary 
... not ungrammatical' (14) 'completely impossible'
(15) 'right out'
(16) 'not acceptable'

For (3b):
(1) Same as (2b)
(2) 'possible, as a means of expressing focus'
(3) Same as (2b)
(4) Same as (2b)
(5) Same as (2b)
(6) 'not at all acceptable'
(7) 'fine if somewhat marked'
(8) 'strange'
(9) 'OK if you make the inverted subject heavy'
(10) 'awkward and strained, though not ungrammatical'
(11) Same as (2b)
(12) Same as (2b)
(13) Same as (2b)
(14) 'conceivable (if we make "my mother" a bit heavier), though it 
sounds like fancy literary style'
(15) 'marginally less bad'
(16) Same as (2b)

Many thanks for the replies.

Ming-Wei Lee
Anglia Polytechnic University, UK
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