Unfortunate P-drop

From the “Sic!” section of World Wide Words #731 (5/9/11):

Aoife Bairead saw a headline in the Sunday Business Post of Ireland dated 3 April: “Bishops agree sex abuse rules”.

The crucial bit of syntax — “transitivizing P-drop” (see here) for ‘agree on/to’ — is widespread in British and Irish English, but it can result in risible ambiguities, specifically when what follows agree can be understood as an object clause, as it can here, thanks to the existence of both a noun rule (what was intended in the headline) and a verb rule and to the existence of both a transitive and an intransitive verb rule. All these factors combine to yield a possible, but unwanted, interpretation ‘agree that sex abuse rules’: a fine crash blossom (see here).

A few words on agree with direct object NP. It came to my attention in 2008, when Alison Murie reported on ADS-L on 1/29/08 that she’d heard this usage from a British speaker on The World (BBC/WGBH) news program. I then googled (on 1/30/08) some specific examples, all from British sources:

Iraqi leaders finally agree a draft constitution – World – Times … Aug 22, 2005 … A draft of Iraq’s constitution has been agreed and includes the key word. (link)

Reuters AlertNet – UN climate talks agree blueprint for action … Many countries hope that Bali will agree a two-year roadmap to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the main UN plan for fighting warming until 2012 … (link)

Trades Union Congress – TUC urges Government to agree new deal for … (Monday) calling on Gordon Brown to break a longstanding European deadlock and agree a new deal for agency workers at a crucial EU meeting on Wednesday. (link)

International: SFA agree Burley compensation – Setanta Sports … All that was left for The SFA to do was agree a compensation package with Southampton for Burley, something they have now done. (link)

{“agreed a budget”} got 535 (reduced, with dupes removed) Google webhits on 8/1/08; a few are irrelevant, but most are clear examples, and virtually all are from UK sources.

Then two more from NewScientist::

UN climate chief Yvo De Boer worries that the global financial crisis could derail efforts to agree a new UN climate treaty by the end of 2009 (Reuters, 6 October). [10/11/08, p. 8]

Until recently. the government has also been stubborn on agreeing tax credits that would facilitate renewal energy investments … [10/18/08, p. 14]

More can easily be collected from British and Irish sources, largely from news reporting.

One Response to “Unfortunate P-drop”

  1. Argument structure in porn « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] ‘agree with’](esp. in journalistic, administrative, business contexts, as in the Economist) (link to discussion on this […]

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