LINGUIST List 5.123

Thu 03 Feb 1994

Disc: *These man and woman

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Directory

  1. Alexis Manaster-Ramer, Re: 5.115 *These man and woman
  2. Larry Horn, Re: 5.115 *These man and woman
  3. mark, Re:5.115 *These man and woman

Message 1: Re: 5.115 *These man and woman

Date: Wed, 2 Feb 94 08:16:55 -05Re: 5.115 *These man and woman
From: Alexis Manaster-Ramer <amrcs.wayne.edu>
Subject: Re: 5.115 *These man and woman

The question about *These man and woman is NOT how to force
any particular framework not to generate these kinds of
examples. I can write a simple context-free grammar that does
not. The question is what kind of framework can provide
some kind of explanation or at least a principled description
of this phenomenon.
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Message 2: Re: 5.115 *These man and woman

Date: Wed, 02 Feb 94 09:23:14 ESRe: 5.115 *These man and woman
From: Larry Horn <LHORNyalevm.ycc.yale.edu>
Subject: Re: 5.115 *These man and woman

In response to the claim in J. B. Johannessen's posting that the role
apparently played by string adjacency in determining number agreement is
illusory: I think the matter is more complex. I refer here to the arguments
presented in Jerry Morgan's BLS 10 paper "Some Problems of Agreement in
English and Albanian" (1984), which discusses the "closes conjunct principle"
and shows that this principle operates in certain syntactic contexts--he lists
there-insertion constructions, disjunctions, and some inversions--but not
elsewhere, and observes the problems this principle poses for GPSG and other
theories of conjunction. Some relevant data from Morgan's paper and from an
earlier paper by him ("Verb agreement as a rule of English", CLS 8) include
the following contrasts (at least for some dialects):

 There was/*were a man and two women in the room.
 There were/*was two women and a man in the room.
 but:
 A man and two women were/*was in the room.
 Two women and a man were/*was in the room.

 (Either) Harry or his parents are/*is coming.
 (Either) Harry's parents or his wife ?is/*are coming.
 ??Is/??Are (either) John or his parents here?
 ??Are/*Is (either) John's parents or his wife here?

(Morgan notes that for some speakers, the presence or absence of _either_ may
affect the judgments in the disjunctive cases.) These papers also provide
some interesting speculations on how the "rules" (if we can call them that)
or strategies that determine the form of number agreement in English could
have been learned.

--Larry Horn
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Message 3: Re:5.115 *These man and woman

Date: Wed, 02 Feb 94 09:56:15 ESRe:5.115 *These man and woman
From: mark <markdragonsys.com>
Subject: Re:5.115 *These man and woman

What do you make of the following?:
 A man and woman walk into a restaurant...

I find this construction acceptable.

 Mark A. Mandel
 Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 965-5200
 320 Nevada St. : Newton, Mass. 02160, USA : markdragonsys.com
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