LINGUIST List 8.187

Fri Feb 7 1997

Disc: Odd construction

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Michael Pickering, Odd construction

Message 1: Odd construction

Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 15:20:02 +0200 (EET)
From: Michael Pickering <>
Subject: Odd construction

I was interested in Kate Gladstone's communication (LINGUIST January
23) in which she wrote: "When Sentence 1 of an utterance ends with a
noun phrase identical with that which is to begin sentence 2, the 2
sentences are combined into one longer sentence with no internal
morphological change other than deleting one of the occurrences of
that noun phrase forming the 'hinge'" Kate's example was "Smith throw
the ball to Johnson runs with it to Carter (etc.)"

I have been wondering for years why this construction is not a common
one e.g. in English. It feels like there ought to be an obvious
explanation, for instance via universals hypotheses, or a
psycholinguistic theory of attention, or a text-linguistic theory, or
pragmatics - but can anyone offer an explanation? Are there multiple
explanations? And why don't narratives of even rapidly successive
events usually get cast into this form?

For example, the following narrative text (Aelfric's Lives of the 
Saints ed. Skeat 1966 OUP p. 285) I chose at random:

"Martin also once met a hunter; their dogs were furiously chasing a
hare over the broad field, and it doubled repeatedly, thinking by the
doubling to escape death. Then the saint had ruth of the hare's peril,
and commanded the hounds to desist from running, and to let the hare
escape by flight. Then the dogs stood, at the first word, as if their
feet were fastened to the earth, and the hare got away safely from the

which becomes, in my "odd" version:

"Martin also once met a hunter was hunting a hare with dogs furiously
chasing the hare doubled repeatedly thinking by doubling to escape
death threatened the hare was pitied by the saint commanded the hounds
to desist from running and to let the hare get safely away from the
dogs stood at the first word as if their feet were fastened to the

Yes, of course the "odd" version has certain obvious and instructive
differences from the original. But suppose this version had been the
original - why do HNLs (human natural languages) reject such

Michael Pickering
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