SAI survey

As background for another discussion, I give an outline survey (originally prepared for introductory syntax classes) of Subject-Auxiliary Inversion (SAI) in English.

English has several ways of putting together a subject and a predicate VP to make a clause:

Subject+VP (SVP): the two constituents in that order (Kim will come)

SAI, for a VP of the form auxiliary + complement (A+C): A+C wrapped around the subject (Will Kim come?)

various “main verb inversions”, for a VP of the form main V + complement: the two constituents in the order VP subject (Around the corner will come Kim) [not discussed below]

On to the survey:

1. SAI without fronting

1.1. Yes-no questions

Will you eat sushi? (cf. I wonder whether you will eat sushi.)

1.2. Exclamations

Boy, will you ever eat sushi! (cf. It really amazes me how you will eat sushi.)

1.3. Conditionals

1.3.1. IF-less conterfactual conditionals

Had I seen more people, I would have stayed. (cf. If I had seen more people, I would have stayed.)

1.3.2. IF-less simple conditionals

Should you need an answer, you should ask. (cf. If you (should) need an answer, you should ask.)

1.4. Exhortations

May I never make this trip again! (cf. I wish I may never make this trip again.)

2. SAI plus fronting (esp. of WH, NEG, S-, DH constituents)

2.1. WH: WH questions

When will you leave? (cf. I wonder when you will leave.)

2.2. NEG: Fronted negatives

2.2.1. Fronted XP

Not a bite would I eat. (cf. I would eat not a bite.)

Not only would I eat sushi; I would eat sashimi. (cf. I not only would eat sushi; I would eat sashimi.)

2.2.2. NEITHER/NOR clauses (full and reduced)

I can’t swim; neither can I play tennis. (cf. I can’t swim; I can’t play tennis either.)

I can’t swim, and neither can you. (cf. I can’t swim, and Pat can’t either.)

I can’t swim, nor can I play tennis.

I can’t swim, nor can Pat.

2.3. Fronted implicit negatives (e.g., rarely, seldom, hardly, little, scarcely a, only)

Rarely do I go there without meeting a friend. (cf. I rarely go there without meeting a friend.)

Only then will I let you enter. (cf. I will let you enter only then.)

2.4. S-: Fronted S-intensifiers (SO, SUCH)

So happy was I that I jumped for joy. (cf. I was so happy that I jumped for joy.)

Such a fool was I that I believed everything they said. (cf. I was such a fool that I believed everything they said.)

2.5. DH: Fronted deictics (very formal style; SAI in alternation with SVP)

Thus will we be able to succeed. (OR… Thus we will be able to succeed.)

By such means will we be able to succeed. (OR… By such means we will be able to succeed.

2.6. other fronted adverbs (very formal style (poetic, literary, or archaizing in tone), SAI in alternation with SVP)

Slowly but surely did I appreciate her point. (OR… Slowly but surely I appreciated her point.)

3. SAI in tags (the tags are elliptical in one way or another)

3.1. SO tags

I can swim, and so can you. (cf. I thought you could swim, and so you can; I can swim, and you can too.)

3.2. AS/THAN tags (SAI in alternation with SVP)

I can swim, as can all my friends. (OR… as all my friends can.)

We will see as many birds as will our friends from Chicago. (OR… as our friends from Chicago will.)

We will see more birds than will our friends from Chicago. (OR… than our friends from Chicago will.)

I will become more exultant than will anyone else there. (OR… than anyone else there will.)

3.3/4. Switched tag questions (two types, with rising vs. falling intonation)

They have eaten sushi, haven’t they? (cf. They have eaten sushi, they have.)

3.5. Echo tag questions (rising intonation)

They have eaten sushi, have they?

3 Responses to “SAI survey”

  1. as would’ve « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] fact is that the third instance seems to be in an occurrence of Subject-Auxiliary Inversion (SAI); the other two are instances of Subject+VP (SVP), which (while they might set the scene for the […]

  2. than stuff « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] (On the choice between the clause constructions SVP and SVI, see this posting.) […]

  3. Excrescent ‘s « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] (This last case isn’t covered in my survey of SAI vs. SVP, here.) […]

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