LINGUIST List 6.720

Wed 24 May 1995

Sum: He saw the house red, Coordination without conjunction

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  1. Linguistic Group, Sum: He saw the house red
  2. Christopher Culy, Coordination without conjunction (summary)

Message 1: Sum: He saw the house red

Date: Fri, 19 May 1995 10:56:27 Sum: He saw the house red
From: Linguistic Group <>
Subject: Sum: He saw the house red

The following persons responded to my query on whether or not the
sentence 'He saw the house red' is grammatical/meaningful/acceptable.

1. Deborah Yeager (
2. Frederick Parkinson (
3. Ivan Uemlianin (
4. James Kirchner (
5. Juan Antonio Pena (
6. Julie Vonwiller (
7. Karl Teeter (
8. L Shockey (
9. Leo A Connolly (
10. Margaret E Winters (
11. Marion Kee (Marion.KeeA.NL.CS.CMU.EDU)
12. Mark Mitton (
13. Paul Wilt (
14. Paul Woods (
15. Richard DeArmond (
16. Richard Ingham (
17. Russ Loski (
18. Sam Salt (
19. Stephen P Spackman (
20. Ted Harding (

Many thanks to you, and especially to the List for providing the forum
for exchange. My apologies if there are mispelt names - a few were
deciphered from the e-mail address.

The response was most encouraging, and the feedback I have gathered,
valuable. I had brief discussions with some of the respondents who came
back with more than one response, having reflected on it further and
deeper. Marion Kee provided a computational linguistUs view, including a
structural analysis which was particularly useful in connection with my
work in machine translation.

Opinions were, expectedly, diverse: ranging from an unequivocal No
(nope!), to Needing a very exceptional context to be acceptable, to
Marginally acceptable, to a resolute Yes it makes perfect sense.
Generally it seems that most 'deviant' expressions can be acceptable
when fitted into a particular context, and that acceptability depends
on which point one is at, on the prescriptive-descriptive dichotomy
(i.e.learnt grammar rules, representing correctness vs.layman's usage/
intuition/poetic license). In short, the entire argument base could be
hinged on the acceptability of John Hollander's poem title, "Colorless
green ideas sleep furiously" (quoted by Karl Teeter).

I think that one can steer a middle path: avoid the inclination to see
linguists as trying to systematically force a meaning to explain
something that makes sense, or that a judgement based on intuition is
unsupplemented by a learned syntatic performance skill and therefore less
valid. Adopting Thorne's solution (1965:51) to the dilemma that a grammar
(considered a representation of competence) cannot explain deviant
strings and their interpretation, we can look at the issue with a shift
in perspective: 'Given a text... containing sequences which resist
inclusion in a grammar of English it might prove more illuminating to
regard it as a sample of a different language, or a different dialect,
from Standard English... Interpreting the sentences of the (text) is
like learning a language: one seeks to discover regularities which imply
rules which one has not yet internalized as part of one's linguistic
competence. [in Fowler: 71]

I've been told that this query came up a few months ago, so I am posting
the responses only to those who asked for it. I would be happy to let
anyone else have it on request.

Lalita Sinha
Computer Assisted Translation Unit
Universiti Sains Malaysia
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Message 2: Coordination without conjunction (summary)

Date: Wed, 17 May 1995 12:30:35 Coordination without conjunction (summary)
From: Christopher Culy <culyCsli.Stanford.EDU>
Subject: Coordination without conjunction (summary)

Hi all,

Awhile ago I posted a query about whether there are any languages which
allow coordination of sentences without an overt conjunction (also called
asyndetic or paratactic conjunction). I received many replies. Thanks to:

Ronald Cosper, Roy Dace, Jane Edwards, Jan Engh, Bob Hoberman, Janne Bondi
Johannessen, David M. W. Powers, david Solnit, David Stampe, S.N.
Sridhar, Sonia Vandepitte, Theo Vennemann, Jeffrey Weber, Debbie
Ziegelere, Ed Zoerner

The responses pointed out three relevant types of examples. First is
coordinating conjunction in the sense of "and", in languages in which
there either is no corresponding sentential conjunction, or the
conjunction is not obligatory. Languages mentioned included Amerindian
languages, Cayuga (Ontario), Chadic languages of Bauchi State (Nigeria),
Dutch, English, Haitian Creole, Modern Greek, Kannada, Pacoh (Mon-Khmer),
and Turkic languages and Modern Turkish.

The second type of example is subordination. One such example (from
English, parallel to a Norewegian example) is "Were you to go there, you'd
find a pot of gold". Languages mentioned included Chinese, Norwegian and
other Scandinavian languages, Singaporean English, and Zulu.

The third type of example is lists. A simple example is Caeser's famous
message "I came, I saw, I conquered", which seems as a whole to have the
intonation of a sentence.

Brown, Adam. 1992. Making Sense of Singapore English. Singapore: Federal.

Johannessen, Janne Bondi. 1993. Ph.D. dissertation.

Li, C. & Thompson, SA. 1989. Mandarin Chinese. A functional reference
grammar. Berkeley & LA: Uni. of California Press

Mackridge, P. 1987. The Modern Greek Language. Clarendon Press

Mithun, M. 1988. The grammaticization of coordination. in. J. Haiman & S.
A. Thompson (eds.) Clause combining in grammar and discourse.
Philadelphia: Benjamins.

Payne 1985. ??

Sridhar, S.N. 1990. Kannada (Descriptive Grammar). London: Routledge.

Thanks again to everyone who responded.


Chris Culy
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