LINGUIST List 2.338

Friday, 5 July 1991

Disc: Impersonal verbs, Weather subjects

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  1. Koenraad De Smedt, impersonal verbs
  2. Hoskuldur Thrainsson, weather subjects

Message 1: impersonal verbs

Date: Thu, 4 Jul 91 14:06 MET
From: Koenraad De Smedt <DESMEDT%NICI.KUN.NLRICEVM1.RICE.EDU>
Subject: impersonal verbs
With respect to Jan Olsen's query:
>> (1) es regnet schon wieder
>> it rains already again
>> (2) das regnet schon wieder!
>> this rains already again
In Dutch, there is a DAT/HET alternation very similar to the German
examples and with a similar connotation, i.e. DAT is used for emphasis.
I have two additional points here: (1) this phenomenon not only holds
for weather verbs, but also for other impersonal verbs such as SPOKEN,
ECHOEN, TOCHTEN, etc.; and (2) the emphasis is not necessarily negative
(not everyone is as negative about the weather as you are ;-).
These two remarks hold for Dutch; I invite you to check if they also
hold for German.
Koenraad de Smedt
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Message 2: weather subjects

Date: Fri, 5 Jul 91 13:34:22 GMT
From: Hoskuldur Thrainsson <hoskirhi.hi.is>
Subject: weather subjects
Gisbert Fanselow asked about the possibility of having different
subjects with weather verbs - such as an expletive subject vs. a
demonstrative pronoun as in his German examples. - In Icelandic
one can either have the regular dummy "thadh" (where "th" is
a transcription of the Icelandic letter "thorn" and "dh" a transcription
for "edh") - or a non-dummy "hann" 'he'. The "dummy" (or the expletive
"thadh") can only precede the finite verb and not follow it as
regular subjects can but the "hann" can:
(1) Thadh rigndi mikidh 'i gaer
 it rained much yesterday
(2) Rigndi (*thadh) mikidh 'i gaer?
 rained (*it) much yesterday
(3) Hann rigndi mikidh 'i gaer
 he rained much yesterday
(4) Rigndi (hann) mikidh 'i gaer?
 rained (he) much yesterday
So, in a direct yes/no question the subject normally follows the
finite verb. An expletive (or dummy) "thadh" cannot do so, as shown
in (2) buth the "weather-he" can, as shown in (4) - but direct
questions with weather verbs are just fine without any subject
at all, as these examples also indicate.
There is a slight difference in style at least between the regular
expletive and this weather-he, the latter being somewhat more
colloquial. But the syntactic difference is very clear.
Hoeskuldur Thrainsson ("hoskirhi.hi.is")
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