LINGUIST List 5.79

Sat 22 Jan 1994

Disc: Internal/External Evidence, Specifier Scope

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , External/internal evidence
  2. David Powers, Re: 5.68 Query: *These man and woman
  3. Paul T Kershaw, These men and woman

Message 1: External/internal evidence

Date: Thu, 13 Jan 94 09:08:04 ESExternal/internal evidence
From: <>
Subject: External/internal evidence

I appreciate Mark Aronoff's comments on my posting, but I do
want to make it clear that I am NOT dismissing ALL secret
language arguments. Rather, just as with internal data, I
regard external data as variously compelling or not depending
on the circumstances, specifically, on whether we can establish
that a particular pattern is not learned idiosyncratically by
speakers quite independently of the rest of the language.
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Message 2: Re: 5.68 Query: *These man and woman

Date: Fri, 21 Jan 1994 13:13:44 Re: 5.68 Query: *These man and woman
From: David Powers <>
Subject: Re: 5.68 Query: *These man and woman

This is interesting, something I have noted in many European languages.

I'm not just interested in why this is prohibited, but whether there
are languages in which a specifier can be applied to a conjunction
in which the inflections are not correct for the conjuncts both
as a composite and severally.

In English also:

 0e. * A man and woman
 1e. ? The man and woman

This is more obvious in more heavily inflected languages, compare German

 2e. The man and the woman
 2g. Der Mann und die Frau

 3e. Dear Mr and Mrs X
 3g. Lieber Herr X, Liebe Frau X

There would be a tendency to retain the duplicates in German even when
forms are identical, and gender not significant, but not always.

 4e. The men and women
 4g. * Die Maenner und Frauen

 5e. The men and the women [all]
 5g. Die Maenner und die Frauen

I see a subtle contrast between 4e and 5e, in relation to the (resp.
greater and lesser) degree of expectation that they would act together.
Also, I think I've heard both 6g and 7g.

 6e. ? My Honoured ladies and gentlemen
 6g. Meine sehr geehrte Damen und Herren

 7e. * Honoured ladies and honoured gentlemen
 7g. Sehr geehrte Damen, Sehr geehrte Herren

My explanation would be that features which can result in different
forms in a slot prohibit anything in that spot governing a(n unspecified)
compound, combined with a tendency for this requirement to spread, or
harden, so as to affect even feature combinations which cannot exhibit
different surface forms, as in 7g. As I hint below, there may also be
other factors which contrive to keep the second specifier slot present.

I find what I can and can't say of 0-2e extraordinary. I must, for
example have at least all the articles in the following:

"A man and a woman came into the store. {The man and the woman|They} walked
(together) to the counter. The shopkeeper and his son came forward
expectantly. The man and woman then left without saying a word."

For 1e to reach the level of acceptability, for me, it is necessary that
they first be linked together in a definite context (with two definite
articles or a plural pronoun) and then be used in a context where pronoun
anaphor would be impossible or ambiguous). In other words, for me,
a plural phrase requires some sort of buildup in expectation that it
is acting as a unit, before it will fuse.

I would also like to note

8e. The shopkeeper and his son.

and point out that the default expectation would be that there is a slot
to be filled before the second noun, and suggest it is this expectation which
needs to be overcome for fusing.

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Message 3: These men and woman

Date: Fri, 21 Jan 1994 23:18:23 These men and woman
From: Paul T Kershaw <>
Subject: These men and woman

A query has been placed asking about the ungrammaticality of:
 (1) *These man and woman
Presumably, the query is based on the idea that, since "man and woman" is
semantically plural (in that it refers to two individuals), "these" should be
appropriate. Interestingly, (2) is more acceptable (as acceptable, to my ear,
as (3)):
 (2) This man and woman
 (3) The man and woman
(Consider (2), for instance, in the context of a wedding, where the phrase
typically used is "this man and this woman": "If any among you here know why
this man and this woman should not be wed...", but (2) seems acceptable in the
same frame.)
 I have wondered myself (and to Janne Johannassen, whose recent dissertation
was on Co-ordination phenomena) about data such as in (4):
 (4) a. ?John or I am happy.
 b. ?John or I is happy.
 c. *John or I are happy.
 d. You or we are happy.
Although there are some obvious differences the problem in (1) and that in (4)
(such that in the latter there is the issue of Case assignment to resolve), it
seems to me that there might be some relation on the phonological level. That
is, (4a) strikes me as better than (4b), albeit slightly, and I think part of
this is because there is a string, "I am happy", which is an acceptable
sentence. In (1), it is the dissonance of "these man" more than anything else
which strikes me as off. (On the other hand, (4a) may be more acceptable for
syntactic reasons of adjacency, a hypothesis which is also applicable to (1).)
 I'm not propgating a theory here, just suggesting some possibly relevant
 -- Paul Kershaw, Michigan State University, KershawPStudent.MSU.Edu
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