Non-parallel gaps

Return with me now to some “amazing coordinations” from 2005, here, in particular coordinations where a constituent fills a subject gap in one conjunct and an object gap in another. I gave three examples in that posting, including these two (with the position of the gaps indicated by underlines):

(1) … the “Control Panel” (which you presumably have to know ___ is there and how to get to ___) …

(2) … people who I’m not going to give ___ a cox-2 and ___ also have a history of ulcers …

(1) has a subject gap in the first conjunct and an object gap in the second, while (2) has the reverse configuration.

I observed in that posting that there is some question as to whether such examples should be treated as a violation of a constraint on coordination (as Gerald Gazdar once proposed), that is, as straightforwardly ungrammatical. The alternative would be to treat them as merely hard to process.

Actually, some examples don’t seem to me to be particularly hard to process. Here’s one that I nearly missed, from the episode “Teenage Wasteland” of the television show Law and Order (episode 12 of season 11, first aired in 2001):

(3) … [the defendant is] not old enough ___ to drink, but old enough to execute ___

(with subject gap + object gap).

These examples are different in their details, and the easiest “fixes” are different: a pronoun instead of a gap in the second conjunct of (1):

(1′) … the “Control Panel” (which you presumably have to know ___ is there and how to get to it) …

repeating the relativizer in (2):

(2′) … people who I’m not going to give ___ a cox-2 and who also have a history of ulcers …

and using an explicit is in (3), to give coordinated VPs (each with its own gap) rather than coordinated predicative AdjPs:

(3′) … [the defendant is] not old enough ___ to drink, but is old enough to execute ___

My collection of subject + object gaps is growing very slowly, so I welcome further examples.

3 Responses to “Non-parallel gaps”

  1. Rick S Says:

    I’m confused by example 3. What would go in the first gap? “for him” would fit with your description of this as a non-parallel coordination, but that wouldn’t be a constituent, would it? (That is, I sense the PP object would be “him to drink”, though the grammatical analysis is over my head.) Would it make sense to cast this as “… [the defendant is] not old enough [for] ___ to drink, but old enough to execute ___”?

    Another “fix” could be “… [the defendant is] not old enough ___ to drink, but old enough ___ to be executed.”

  2. Z. D. Smith Says:

    I wanted to ask about what is sort of the opposite kind of relative, which I am sure has a conventional name but which, not knowing that, I will call the superfluous relative; wherein a subject or object is inserted (repeated) where grammar demands a gap.

    EG, ‘And then there’s this guy, who I don’t even know who he is!’

    As far as I can see there is no way to express that sentiment without either restructuring the whole utterance or reinserting the ‘he’ and thus defying the spirit of the clause introduction ‘who’. The expected gap would produce ‘…who I don’t even know who is’, which is much more obviously ungrammatical.

    Is there any agreed-upon characterization of this construction? I find it hard to think of as totally ungrammatical, since its absence forces me into much stranger poses.

    Indeed, since I’ve started learning Yiddish I have almost taken delight in employing this particular construction, as it’s completely standard in that language and much more comfortable than whatever other syntactic contortions one might have to undergo.

  3. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To Z. D. Smith: I’ve looked at various sorts of “gapless relatives” in English, including those where a resumptive pronoun saves what would be an island violation if there were a gap (ResIsland cases). A start on the subject is here.

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