LINGUIST List 4.816

Mon 11 Oct 1993

Disc: Null object

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Amy Dahlstrom, Re: 4.806 Null-object
  2. Jeff Bishop, German null object?
  3. Rebecca Gross, Re: Null object

Message 1: Re: 4.806 Null-object

Date: Sat, 9 Oct 93 13:56:24 CDTRe: 4.806 Null-object
From: Amy Dahlstrom <>
Subject: Re: 4.806 Null-object

In Chicago, the with + null object construction is not limited
to `come/go', and it has certainly spread far beyond people with
German ancestry. Here's an example. I keep my car in a parking
garage run by Arab-Americans in the South Loop area of downtown
Chicago. Near the entrance of the garage is a sign announcing
that hand car washing is available; various options and prices
are listed, and then the sign ends with:

 Please let attendent know
 "Leave key with"

Now, I believe the punctuation of the last line is an example of
the nonstandard but extremely common use of quotation marks to
indicate emphasis (rather than, say, ironic distancing by the
sign painter).

Amy Dahlstrom
Univ. of Chicago
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Message 2: German null object?

Date: Sat, 9 Oct 1993 10:31:20 -German null object?
From: Jeff Bishop <>
Subject: German null object?

Several people have posted references to constructions such as "er kommt
mit" as containing a null object or "ending a sentences with a
preposition." I contend that it is neither; while it is clearly true
semantically (how can you come along if there is no one to come along
with?) the "mit" in "mitkommen" is no more a syntactic preposition than the
English "by-" in "bypass." Mitkommen is an intransitive verb in its own
right, not the mere combination of "mit" and "kommen." Else it
would be a bit difficult to explain why "null-subject prepositions" must
occupy the node which immediately precedes the finite verb, while common
prepositional phrases can move freely:

 Er kommt nicht mit uns ("generic" negative)
 Mit uns kommt er nicht (he'll go, but not with us)
 Er kommt nicht mit
 *Mit kommt er nicht
 Mitkommen will er nicht

Note that the *only* situation where "mit" can move from the head of the
verb node is when kommen/mitkommen is nonfinite, the same environment in which
 it can no
longer be separated from the verb at all. Thus, when the nonfinite
"kommen" is moved, mit- has to "come with." IMNSHO, this is fairly strong
evidence that "mit" is bound to the verb, which has been found to be
"happiest" at the end of a clause (as seen in dependent clauses). A "null
object," on the other hand, could just as easily have appeared anywhere
where an explicit object could have appeared. It also fails to account
for the numerous situations in which "dangling prepositions," while
common in English, are absent in German:

 I need someone to work with
 *Ich brauche jemanden zu arbeiten mit
 Ich brauche jemanden, mit dem ich arbeiten kann
 I need someone with whom I can work

While the outcry against "dangling prepositions" in English may be a
prescriptive rule up with which we cannot put, it is surprisingly
descriptive of German once the preposition look-alikes in
separable-prefix verbs are accounted for.

Jeff Bishop

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Message 3: Re: Null object

Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1993 09:22:35 Re: Null object
From: Rebecca Gross <>
Subject: Re: Null object

In regards to the null-object discussion, here is an interesting example in
vernacular usage in English, at least amongst my peers:
S1:I'm going to the beach.
S2: Can I go with?

--Becca Gross
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