LINGUIST List 9.218

Thu Feb 12 1998

Qs: English-Chinese, "promise", (Un)Certainty

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  1. jonathan glassow, Native Chinese Speakers
  2. Karen Courtenay, The "subject control" verb PROMISE
  3. Henny Klein, (un)certainty

Message 1: Native Chinese Speakers

Date: Thu, 12 Feb 1998 11:12:58 -0800 (PST)
From: jonathan glassow <>
Subject: Native Chinese Speakers

I am presently writing my Master's thesis for linguistics. The topic of 
my thesis is a contrastive analysis of English and Chinese compliment 
behavior, as well as looking at how NATIVE CHINESE speakers compliment in 
English. Any (NATIVE CHINESE) or (NATIVE ENGLISH) speakers interested in 
assisting me in a Discourse Completion Test (DCT) survey of 24 questions
please contact me at :

(the DCT can be sent and returned via email)
Thank you very much
Jonathan Glassow
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Message 2: The "subject control" verb PROMISE

Date: Thu, 12 Feb 1998 09:24:02 -0500
From: Karen Courtenay <>
Subject: The "subject control" verb PROMISE

I would like to ask other native speakers of English if they can use the
following construction in their ideolects:

 I promised Kris to buy the cat food. 

This is the so-called subject-control type of verb (though it seems to be
the only one of the type), where the subject "I" is the person who is to
buy the food. It is often contrasted with the object-control type, as in:

 I persuaded Kris to buy the cat food.

where Kris is the one to buy the food.

I cannot, in my idiolect of English, say

 *I promised Kris to buy the cat food 

at all. Nor can several other people I know. We can only say:

 I promised to buy the cat food. 
 I promised Kris I'd buy the cat food.

Since the subject-control verb PROMISE is very often used in argumentation
in linguistics articles, I would like to know exactly how common and
widespread this construction is. How many other people cannot use PROMISE
as a subject-control verb in this construction?
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Message 3: (un)certainty

Date: Thu, 12 Feb 1998 17:35:51 CET
From: Henny Klein <>
Subject: (un)certainty


As a linguist, I work at a project of information retrieval in the 
medical field. Right now, I'm interested in ways to infer how CERTAIN 
the writers of scientific texts are about phenomena they present and 
discuss, such as the physiological or clinical effects of a medicine. 
 A first screening of such texts provided different lexical clues 
related to certainty, like sentence adverbs (PROBABLY, SURELY) modal 
verbs (MAY, COULD), epistemic and other groups of verbs (DOUBT, 
SUGGEST, CONCLUDE), and modification operators (ALTHOUGH, 
NEVERTHELESS). Questions that arise: Are there more such clues? How 
must we interprete them? Can we for instance order epistemic verbs 
according to their impact, their degree of certainty?
 I like to know what has already be done on these subjects. The 
fields of linguistics that may be of interest seem manyfold however 
(lexical semantics, discourse analysis, comp. linguistics,..), and I 
found only few tracks yet (modals mainly) so I turn to you for help:
 If you know references to literature about linguistic means to 
express confidence/ uncertainty, and their interpretation, please 
mail me.
 Best, Henny

Henny Klein email:
Groningen University Centre for Pharmacy tel: +31 50 3637571
Social Pharmacy and Pharmacoepidemiology fax: +31 50 3633311
A. Deusinglaan 2 
9713 AW Groningen, The Netherlands
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