Archive for the ‘Pronoun case’ Category

whom from long ago

March 19, 2015

In the NYT Magazine on Sunday (the 15th), an article, “The Last Volunteer”, with an account, as told to Dan Kaufman, from Del Berg:

Del Berg, 99, is the last known surviving veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a contingent of nearly 3,000 Americans who fought to defend the democratically elected government during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.

The beginning of his story:

It was 1937, and the Fascists had already revolted in Spain. I was walking down a street in Hollywood when I saw a sign — “Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade” — written on the side of a building. I turned the corner, opened the door and went in. The people inside said, “What can we do for you?” I said, “I want to go to Spain.” They couldn’t legally send people to Spain, they told me, but did I want to help? I did. My life started with poverty and then came the Depression. I felt a certain responsibility to help the Spanish workers and farmers.

They told me to go to an organization called the Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy. I was put to work there helping organize meetings and collecting clothes for the Republic. There was a younger guy working with me. One day he turned to me and said, “Do you want to go to Spain?” I said yes, I sure do. He said, “I’ll tell you whom to go see.”

That whom caught my eye; it sounded awfully formal for the context.

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Rowling’s ESOC

February 21, 2015

From Ben Zimmer, this whom from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (p. 311):

Krum, whom Harry would have thought ___ would have been used to this sort of thing, skulked, half-hidden, at the back of the group.

The position that the relative pronoun fills in this sentence — as the subject of a subordinate clause (itself functioning as the object of the verb thought) with VP would have been used to this sort of thing is marked by the underlines. In now-standard, but somewhat misleading, terminology, the pronoun is “extracted” from the subject position of an object clause, a configuration I’ve labeled ESOC (for Extracted Subject of Object Clause).

The fact that the pronoun functions as a clausal subject would predict, in most syntactic frameworks, that it should be nominative case (who). However, it immediately follows a verb, a position where an accusative pronoun is often called for; it “looks like” an object, and ESOC pronouns are often marked as accusative: whom (as in the Harry Potter sentence).

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McCosh on NomPred

February 5, 2015

From the Princeton Alumni Weekly on 2/4, an entertaining note from the 1/25/46 PAW:

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Sunday NomConjObj

February 4, 2015

In the NYT Sunday Review on February 1st, an interview by Kate Murphy. Background:

Michel Nischan is a two-time James Beard Award-winning chef who founded and now runs Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit sustainable food advocacy group that has forged partnerships with health care providers nationwide to prescribe and make farm-fresh produce available in low-income communities.

And then in the section on “Playing”, Nischan says (relevant bit boldfaced):

While I didn’t get to know James Beard, I did end up meeting one of my childhood heroes, Jacques Pépin, and we became very dear friends. He’s the one who turned my wife and I on to pétanque, which is kind of the French version of bocce. We caught on quickly enough — Jacques doesn’t like playing with people who can’t play — that he invited us to join his league and we play every other Sunday during the summer. It’s a really social and remarkably fun game.

A nominative conjoined object (NomConjObj) my wife and I, which struck me as perfectly ordinary these days; indeed, the prescriptive standard alternative my wife and me struck me as somewhat awkward in this context — and I’m someone who doesn’t use NomConjObjs. What might be going on here?

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NomConjObj from Jack Straw, in writing

December 22, 2014

In the NYT this morning, in a notable photo taken by Ruby Washington for the paper back on 2/14/03 and reprinted on the occasion of her retirement: showing a congratulatory note from British foreign secretary Jack Straw to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell:

The British media are reporting you and I as ‘fighting back’ against the ambiguity of the Blix reports.

A Nominative Conjoined Object with the pronoun form I where the prescriptive standard has me. One of a collection of such examples from public figures (among others, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, U.S. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, HRH Prince Andrew, and candidates Mitt Romney and Joe Biden in the last presidential election.

In the prescriptive standard, a conjoined pronoun has the same form that it would have in isolation, but for some considerable time there’s been a competing system that uses nominatives in coordination, even for grammatical objects. This system tends to be used in informal contexts, especially in speech, but it also appears in informal writing, as above.

On the choice of pronoun forms, see this recent posting, where I carefully distinguish the catalogue of forms, which can be labeled by arbitrary names, from the principles for choosing among them in syntactic constructions, principles that have to be discovered by examining actual usage(s).

Monday quartet

November 10, 2014

Four varied cartoons in this morning’s crop: a Zits on address terms; a Scenes From a Multiverse on ; a Rhymes With Orange on case-marking of pronouns with than; and a Zippy reviving Doggie Diner.

(#1)

(#2)

(#3)

(#4)

One by one …

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The classic owl joke

March 4, 2014

From several sources, this Sandra Boynton cartoon on whom:

An old joke, offered by people for National Grammar Day, which is today.

Today is also Opal Armstrong Zwicky’s birthday (her tenth, moving her into the edge of tweendom) and, this year, Mardi Gras.

[Note on St. Pancake’s Day, from 2012, here.]

More Recency Illusion

February 24, 2014

From Tom Grano, a CBS News report from yesterday, from Bill Flanagan, representing the “grammar police”:

Time now for a public service announcement from our contributor and first-person-singular-pronoun policeman Bill Flanagan of VH1:

I know it sounds snobby to point this out, but in the last 10 or 15 years, millions of intelligent English-speaking people have become flummoxed by when to use “I,” and when to use “me.” You hear it all the time:

Are you coming to the movie with Madonna and I?
Won’t you join Oprah and I for dinner?
The Trumps are throwing a party for Barack and I.

It’s embarrassing!

At least people who mess up the other way — “Goober and me are going to town” — sound folksy, colloquial, down-to-Earth. But people who say “I” when they should say “me” sound like they are trying to be sophisticated and they’re getting it wrong.

There’s a lot to criticize here. But I’ll start with the phenomenon, known in the syntax business as the Nominative Conjoined Object (NomConjObj for short) and the claim that it’s arisen only recently.

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Knock knock

January 14, 2014

Passed on by Facebook friends, a 2007 Dork Tower cartoon:

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How ’bout them Cubbies?

May 12, 2013

Today’s Zippy:

So the strip is “about” hair(s), but it’s also “about” How ’bout them Cubbies?

(On a personal hair and holiday note: I’m watching Hairspray for Mothers Day.)

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