LINGUIST List 4.21

Mon 18 Jan 1993

Qs: Curious "it", Genitive "that"

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  1. Michael Newman, query on IT
  2. , Grammar Alert! New relative pronoun sighted.

Message 1: query on IT

Date: Fri, 15 Jan 93 18:27:49 ESquery on IT
From: Michael Newman <MNEHCCUNYVM.bitnet>
Subject: query on IT

Warning Long query!
In the course of an analysis of anaphoric pronouns in a corpus of U.S. TV
talk-show transcripts I've come across some curious uses of the pronoun IT.
I haven't heard of any analyses of this particular use of that pronoun, and
which resembles somewhat the usage of IT, as a semantically reduced cataphor
which Quirk et al describe as "PROP IT." "Prop" ITs include among other cases,
examples such as [1]
 [1] It was Dr Long. (Quirk, et al, #6.17)
and Quirk, et al describe the IT as being weakly cataphoric (not their words)
to an ellipted clause of the type WHO RANG THE BELL.
However, there are certain differences. 1) the lack of ellipsis. 2) the
presence of forms of WHO, 3) the possibility of felicitious substitution of
other 3-P pronouns, 4) the possibility of anaphoric coreference (if they are
referential as I believe they are).

Basically I am looking for intutions or work on this matter. N.B. only look at
the ITs in caps, as there are other types here as well.

[2]-How soon do you think it will be before we have a new
justice? How big a fight do you think it will be?
-That really depends on WHO's nominated. If IT is a moderate or
someone who might be mildly conservative, it could be fairly quick,
as early as the first Monday in October,

In [3] I marked the coreference relation with the relative pronoun because
the whole NP is predicative, and so of dubious referentiality (of course
you're free to disagree; I don't think it matters to this analysis)

[3] Senator Hatch, if IT is a conservative WHO is nominated,
and one thinks it probably will be because presidents nominate those
with their ideological intent and dispostion, the court will be imbalanced

[4] Up until now, the conservatives have increasingly had the
upper hand, but not always. Now, after this, after WHOEVER IT is is confirmed
and somebody will eventually be confirmed, I think it's fair to say that
the conservatives will all but have a complete lock on the Supreme Court.

Finally, I have one case without WHO which also contains a reference to an
infant which of course is well-known to be associated with it, except that
it is not a real infant but an adult who dresses up as a baby for sexual
pleasure (THIS IS FROM DONAHUE!!).

[5] It is a very loving and giving, consensual relationship between the
submissive and the dominant. It is the same thing between the infant, no matter
what age area that this infant is, whether it be the baby, the toddler, teenage

Assuming you agree that [2]-[4] are a class would you add [5] to it?
Another use of IT, which is different from the others, in which the IT
seems provoked by the use of the antecedent refering to a concept rather than
a person.
[6] I spoke earlier on the telephone to Justice Byron White. I asked him
what A STRICT CONSTRUCTIONIST was, and he said, and I'm quoting here,
"IT's what anybody thinks IT is.
anybody thinks it is."

If anyone has any references, comments or theories, I'd appreciate them.
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Message 2: Grammar Alert! New relative pronoun sighted.

Date: Sat, 16 Jan 93 10:47:48 ESGrammar Alert! New relative pronoun sighted.
From: <>
Subject: Grammar Alert! New relative pronoun sighted.

 "Bottom line is we want them to bring a product to market that's <===
 time had not yet come," said Ray Farhung, a Southern California
 Edison official...
 -- from: "Cool Contest", by Bill Vlasic
 The Detroit News, p.1D, January 10, 1993

 Note the genitive case of the relative marker "that" in the quotation
 above. Before this, I'd always inclined to the view that relative
 "that" and complementizer "that" were both non-referential, but the
 appearance of an obvious case marker here makes it abundantly clear
 that this "that", as used by at least one person, can be referential.

 I don't know whether to attribute the usage to the reported source, Ray
 Farhung, or the author, Bill Vlasic. Either way, it's something I've
 never seen before.

 Anybody else encountered a genitive "that"?

 - John Lawler Linguistics, University of Michigan
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