LINGUIST List 4.760

Mon 27 Sep 1993

Disc: Reciprocals

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  1. "Claudia Brugman", Re: 4.737 Reciprocals, Metanalysis

Message 1: Re: 4.737 Reciprocals, Metanalysis

Date: 26 Sep 1993 16:58:01 GMT+1Re: 4.737 Reciprocals, Metanalysis
From: "Claudia Brugman" <>
Subject: Re: 4.737 Reciprocals, Metanalysis

This is in response to Dale Russell's observations about _each other_:

>So far as I can remember, the syntactic literature that I've read on
>"each other" assumes that this phrase is a true reciprocal. That is,
>(1) should mean that John saw Mary and Mary saw John.
> (1) John and Mary saw each other.
>This is often the case, and certainly is true of (1). But I've been
>noticing that many people use "each other" to mean something very
>different, as in (2) and (3).
> (2) Not everybody knows how to get to the restaurant, so we'll
> all have to follow each other.
> (3) Those two boxes were stacked on top of each other.
>If "each other" were a true reciprocal, following each other would not
>get anyone anywhere, and two boxes being on top of each other would be
>logically impossible.
>What the phrase is intended to mean is something more like "each
>member of the group is in a transitive relation with one other member
>to form a linear sequence, except, of course, the first member, which
>does not participate in the relation on one side, and the last member,
>which does not participate in it on the other side."

There's a somewhat similar use of _each_ following _between_, e.g.

 Place a sheet of waxed paper between each layer of warm cookies

Of course this is semantically anomalous, since _between_ requires a dual
(or plural, for some speakers) object. More interesting is that it can't be
interpreted as meaning 'between each pair of layers. . . ' but rather 'between
each adjacent pair of layers . . .'. I've even seen this in print, in my
of _The Joy of Cooking_ (hence the example, though I believe I found
the real instance in the section on place settings).

Incidentally, I find this usage semantically anomalous, as I do Russell's ex.
(John and Mary followed each other). But I wouldn't be altogether surprised
to hear it coming out of my mouth.

Claudia Brugman
English Dept. and Linguistics Programme
University of Otago
PO Box 56
Dunedin, New Zealand
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