LINGUIST List 4.861

Tue 19 Oct 1993

Disc: Null object

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. John Goldsmith, Re: 4.849 Null-Object
  2. "david joseph kathman", Re: 4.849 Null-Object
  3. Dominique Estival, 4.849 Null-Object/ coucher avec

Message 1: Re: 4.849 Null-Object

Date: Mon, 18 Oct 93 19:54:09 GMRe: 4.849 Null-Object
From: John Goldsmith <>
Subject: Re: 4.849 Null-Object

I have been away from the discussion for a few days, so I may well
have missed something, but I hope noone got the impression that
the null object in French allows one to say anything like
"*Je l'ai couche avec" (I've taken that from Bill Bennett's
posting). Anne Zribi-Hertz of Universite de Paris VIII has done
some careful study of this construction. You can say, "Si tu
couches avec, c'est ton probleme," or (as someone once more or
less said to me) "Elle couche avec, pis elle couche avec, c'est
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Message 2: Re: 4.849 Null-Object

Date: Mon, 18 Oct 93 22:17:55 CDRe: 4.849 Null-Object
From: "david joseph kathman" <>
Subject: Re: 4.849 Null-Object

Just my latest two cents on the "come with" discussion:

I've been asking around, and "come/go with" seems to be centered around
Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota (at least as far as American English,
which is what I meant by it being a "midwest thing"; I was interested to
hear that it also occurs in South Africa). My roommate, who grew up in
downstate Illinois (Champaign/Urbana), finds the construction as perfect
as I do; on the other hand, my father, who was born and raised in Cincinnati,
insists he had never heard it until he moved to Chicago 25 years ago, and
that he has always thought of it as a "Chicagoism". A fellow Chicago
student who is from Flint, Michigan also vehemently insists that he had
never heard it before moving to Chicago, and that for his first few years
here he cringed upon hearing it because it sounded so bad. So based on
this admittedly limited survey, there would seem to be an isogloss somewhere
in Indiana. (I've also been assured that they have the construction in
Milwaukee, though I have no firsthand knowledge of this.) The two people
I asked today who grew up on the west coast (in Seattle and California)
don't have it, though they're aware of it since they live in Chicago; the
same goes for a woman from New Orleans. Candace McKenna's anecdote about
"come with" popping up in Seattle is intruguing; could it have spread
across North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho, or was it brought there by
Midwestern transplants, or did it spring up independently?

I'm not sure what to think about the ultimate origin of this thing. The
fact that it's present in South Africa would seem to indicate that Dutch
is a promising lead, and the areas where it's attested in the Midwest are
heavily populated with Scandanavian immigrants, which may have something
to do with it. The fact that they apparently don't have it in Cincinnati,
probably the most German-influenced city you'll find in North America,
makes me wary of a (High) German origin, as does the fact that they also
don't have it in Pennsylvania, despite the Pennsylvania Dutch hypothesis.
I'd be very interested to see any other input people have on this, especially
Germanicists, who I'm sure would be better qualified than me to sort all
this out.

Dave Kathman
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Message 3: 4.849 Null-Object/ coucher avec

Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1993 12:18:46 4.849 Null-Object/ coucher avec
From: Dominique Estival <>
Subject: 4.849 Null-Object/ coucher avec

I have to disagree with Bill Bennett's statement that
> "rester avec" would fit a
> discussion of empty (prepositional) object, but could it be discussed as a
> verbal object "je l'ai couch/e avec", where -trace- alone is in final
> This is a bizarre form of verb in present-day French.

While I accept "couche' avec" without object in (spoken only) contexts like:
 1. Lui, tu as couche' avec?
 2. Non, j'ai jamais couche' avec.
 3. Paul, Marie, elle a couche' avec.

etc..., "je l'ai couch/e avec" is totally ungrammatical. In other words, the
clitic form of the null object is not possible, even though the object can be
topicalized. Note that topicalization (as in 1 and 3) is a marked construction
in French, while left-dislocation with a resumptive pronominal form is

I must also say that in my experience of French and of American English
"venir avec" is very marked and much rarer that "come with". I have heard
the latter often enough both in the Philadelphia area and in Chicago, but the
former only a few times, and I think only since I've been in Geneva (but I don't
want to speculate about possible Germanic influences on Swiss French).

I have never heard "rester avec".

Dominique Estival
ISSCO, Universite de Geneve
54 rte des Acacias, CH-1227 Geneve
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