LINGUIST List 7.1156

Thu Aug 15 1996

Sum: Predicate nominals

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Deborah Schmidt, Sum: predicate nominals

Message 1: Sum: predicate nominals

Date: Wed, 14 Aug 1996 13:57:40 EDT
From: Deborah Schmidt <>
Subject: Sum: predicate nominals

A while back, I asked whether the predicate nominals in (1) and (2)
could properly be classified as either generic or specific, since (it
seemed to me) they were not actually referring arguments:

(1) The beagle is my favorite breed of dog.
(2) Spop is my favorite dog.

I further wondered about subject versus predicate in (3)and (4):

(3) My favorite breed of dog is the beagle.
(4) My favorite dog is Spop.

I received some wonderfully thought-provoking responses from

Lorie Heggie
Bruce Despain
Richard DeArmond
Markus Hiller
Andrea Moro
Ewald Lang

Lorie Heggie discusses issues of these sorts in great detail in her
dissertation and in her WCCFL 7 and 8papers. She points out that
English may treat normally referring NPs as predicates as in "Hi, I'm
Lorie", and that copular sentenses create a situation where an element
which behaves syntactically like a predicate may still be interpreted
as referring. Thus reference would not necessarily be ruled out for
the predicate nominals in (1) and (2).

Suggestions from Bruce Despain, Richard DeArmond, and Markus Hiller led me to
see that in (3) and (4), the *syntactic* subject is the *logical* predicate ,
and the *logical* argument is the *syntactic* predicate. This inversion
phenomenon is well illustrated by (5) and its follow-ups:

(5) The tallest man in the room is me.

 I am over six feet tall.
 * He is over six feet tall.

The use of _is_ rather than _am_ shows that _the tallest man in the
room_ is the syntactic subject in (5). However, the follow-ups
indicate that _me_ is the only logical argument!

Andrea Moro also recommends the following references:

Moro, A. (1991) "The Raising of Predicates: ..." in MITWPL 15.
Moro, A. (1995) "Topics in Small Clauses with Predicative Nominals" in
		Small Clauses, Cardinaletti, A. -Guasti, M.T. (eds.)
		Academic Press NY 
Moro, A. (in press) The Raising of Predicates: ... Cambridge Studies
		in Lings, CUP

Thanks everyone.
 Debbie Schmidt

Oops! Somehow I missed naming Ewald Lang among the respondents to my
recent query about predicate nominals. The formulation of sentences
like the following, which show that *syntactic* subjects may be
*logical* predicates, and vice versa, is due to Ewald Lang's

The tallest man in the room is me.
 I am over six feet tall.
 * He is over six feet tall.

Thank you, Ewald, for really getting me thinking.
 Debbie Schmidt
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