Sotomayoral NomConjObj

“My poor friend,” she [Sonia Sotomayor] recalled years later in a speech honoring Mr. Cabranes, “he spent all that time listening to José and I dissect the Puerto Rican colonial spirit.” (David D. Kirkpatrick, “Judge’s Mentor: Part Guide, Part Foil”, NYT 6/22/09, p. 1)

José and I here is an instance of a nominative conjoined object (NomConjObj, for short) — from a decidedly educated speaker. Indeed, I have many examples of NomConjObjs from family, friends, and academic colleagues, mostly in speech but sometimes in informal writing as well.

A particularly likely context for them is in objects functioning as the notional subject of a following constituent (marked infinitival VP, bare VP, or predicative phrase) — as in the Sotomayor example, where José and I functions as the notional subject of the bare VP dissect the Puerto Rican colonial spirit. The conjoined NP “feels” subject-like to many speakers.

But a substantial number of the examples I’ve collected are not in this especially favorable context, but are just ordinary objects:

This is going to require the cooperation of Sali and I. (NWAV speaker, 10/22/05)

He came to my husband and I at M. D. Anderson [Cancer Center in Houston] and we treated him with radiation. (M.D. interviewed in NYT Science Times, 8/2/05)

For you and I, that’s not a very exciting diet… (British biologist on PBS program Origins, seen 8/30/05)

NomConjObjs have been savaged by usage critics as one of the worst offenses against grammar in modern English. James Cochrane, for instance, chose to honor them in the title of his sour little book of criticism Between You and I: A Little Book of Bad English (2004). But look at the Between you and I entry in MWDEU and the Language Log discussions by me in 2005 and Geoff Pullum in 2006.

Geoff’s discussion makes the important points (a) that people who use NomConjObjs are not confused about the distinction between subjects and objects, but are using pronoun case in coordination according to a somewhat different system from the grammar-book prescriptions; and (b) that whether this system should be accounted as acceptable in standard English is a separate (and much more difficult) question from how the system works.

5 Responses to “Sotomayoral NomConjObj”

  1. The Ridger Says:

    It drives me crazy how much this bothers people. They have no trouble understanding “they spent all day listening to José discussing …” when José isn’t marked, and they totally understand what’s meant.

    Object raising just isn’t that hard to understand in a word-order language like English. Why all the ire over this “error”?

    I just read a sentence in the translation of Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book that strikes me as much worse, yet I don’t see campaigns mounted against it. (“Celal’s mother – she had married a lawyer only to die young – had recently accepted the invitation” – the mother is still alive, it’s the lawyer who’s dead.)

  2. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To The Ridger, who asks: Why all the ire over this “error”?

    I have some possible answers to this excellent question, which I’ll turn into a separate posting (in a while); it’s a bit much for a comment.

    Thanks for the wretched sentence from the Pamuk translation.

  3. NomConjObs « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] *AZBlog, 6/23/09, Sotomayoral NomConjObj (link) […]

  4. More notional-subject NomConjObs « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] All of these involve (coordinate) objects functioning as the notional subject of a following VP — a likely context for nominative case, since the cooordinate NP “feels” subject-like to many speakers, even more likely in a coordinate object, where nominative case is now widespread. (See brief discussion in connection with (5) here.) […]

  5. Idiolect or style level? « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] These examples involve (coordinate) objects functioning as the notional subject of a following VP — a likely context for nominative case, since the cooordinate NP “feels” subject-like to many speakers, even more likely in a coordinate object, where nominative case is now widespread. (See brief discussion in connection with [one example] here.) […]

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