More notional-subject NomConjObs

Recently collected instances of NomConjObjs (nominative conjoined objects — see the brief summary of the topic, bibliography, and list of blog postings here):

(1) Seer: Don’t be naive. I told you of my vision. Of you and I doing great things together. [episode of the tv show Charmed] (link)

(2) “I think it raises, at a very bottom line, real serious questions about government interfering with the ability of you and I to talk to each other,” Policinski [Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center] says. “How far does that go? How far will the courts permit it?” [about Twitter blocking on BART in San Francisco] (link)

Add to these:

(3) You’re getting everything that you’ve heard Norm and I talk about…  (Greg Sherwood, in KQED begathon, 5/22/06)

(4) Michele Obama: “I think it was important for Jill and I to come now because we’re at the point where the relief efforts are underway but the attention of the world starts to wane a bit. And as we enter the rainy season and the hurricane season, you know, the issues are just going to become more compounded. And I think it was important for us to come and shed a light.” (link) [e-mail from Ben Zimmer 4/14/10 under header “FLOTUS NomConjObj”)

(5) “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]

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.)

The status of the coordinate NPs in question:

(1) object of a P (of), notional subject of a PRP (gerundive) VP

(2) object of a P (of), notional subject of an infinitival VP

(3) object of a V (heard), notional subject of a BSE (bare) VP

(4) object of a P (for), notional subject of an infinitival VP (in “for-to complementation”)

(5) object of a P (to), notional subject of a PRP (gerundive) VP

Go back to (1) and (2). Inspired by (1), I searched on {“of you and I doing”} and got a large number of (raw) ghits, for instance:

Kevin: Helen? What do you think the odds are of you and I doing it? (link)

A picture of you and I doing a high five! (link)

But there are also a huge number of hits for {“of you and me doing”}, outnumbering the nominative counterpart by a ratio of 4.4 to 1; for {“about you and I/me doing”} the acc:nom ratio is even higher (7 to 1).

As for (2), for {“the ability of you and I/me to”} the numbers are quite small: 5 nominatives and 2 accusatives. Examples:

[nom] The ability of you and I to communicate about gold, for example, may not require that we have the same concepts, but rather only that we have similar mental contents, … (link)

[nom] They’re just very frightened people who are deluded that somehow the ability of you and I to defend ourselves or shoot fun toys threatens them. (link)

[acc] Now money is worth solely what people think it might be worth – modern currencies are printed in vast quantities essentially to cover future debts and its the ability of you and me to pay that is being gambled on – … (link)

[acc] It is sad that Newsom, city staff and Dennis Herrera’s City Attorney’s are doing everything they can to prevent the ability of you and me to easily monitor the discussions and decisions which happen every day in City Hall. (link)

General conclusion: notional-subject NomConjObjs are common these days, and occur in formal speech and writing as well as informal (indeed, some people have come to feel that NomConjObjs in general are formal in style and are to be preferred in careful speech and writing — a full reversal of the attitudes in the advice literature). It might even be that notional-subject NomConjObjs are more frequent (vis-a-vis AccConjObjs) as notional subjects than otherwise, though this woud be hard to determine (and some non-subject NomConjObjs would have to be excluded — notably between you and I, which now has the status of a fixed expression).

In at least one context — for-to complementation, as in (4) — there seems to be some drive for nominatives in notional subjects even when these are not coordinate, as in the following example from a schoolteacher:

I truly disagree with you Margaret. It’s hard for I to see your point with little research from your end. You need to place the facts about GE type foods and what the causes-and-effects are! (link)

Many more examples of this sort, too many to dismiss as nothing but inadvertent errors or intrusions from non-standard varieties with other patterns of case-marking.

So in cases like (4), and possibly others, we have two contributing factors: a pattern of nominative case-marking in coordination and a pattern of nominative case-marking for notional subjects.

7 Responses to “More notional-subject NomConjObs”

  1. John Lawler Says:

    And the order in nominative conjoined NPs is always First Person Last — you and I, but *I and you. me and you sounds better, but not as polite as you and me, and much less polite than you and I.
    I’ve thought for ages that it was this labyrinthic confusion among folk notions of pronoun order, pronoun case usage, and “politeness” that caused the problem in the first place.
    I.e, “Don’t say ‘me and him’ — say ‘he and I’!”

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      See the material in the bibliography and list of postings. Whatever the historical origins of the usage — and they are clearly complex, involving all the factors you list and several others (including emphasis) — the NomConjObj pattern is long established, now just one of the options available to speakers, with various sociolinguistic values.

  2. Haefeli on NomConjObjs « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] recent NomConjObj posting here; most informative one here.) As I’ve noted before, (just) between you and I has become a […]

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

    […] several of my postings, some occurrences of NomConjObjs have some syntactic motivation, namely in what I’ve called “notional-subject NomConjObjs”, as in You’re getting everything that you’ve heard […]

  4. On the NomConjObj watch « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] see this posting, which has links to other postings. Then on notional-subject NomConjObjs, look here, where I gave examples involving (coordinate) objects functioning as the notional subject of a […]

  5. blue sky Says:

    What surprises me is that you found examples by googling a specific string, rather than a general pattern. Naively, I would have thought that by now some computational linguist must have set up a script to parse English sentences and identify NomConjObjs. You could scoop a hundred out of the Google News feed every day. Is this actually something machines still can’t do, after 60 years of trying?

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      We’re very far away from parsing and identification programs that would pick out NomConjObjs (and only them), but there are tools that allow for searching on pretty complex patterns. (The English corpora at BYU come with these tools.) But for many purposes, much simpler searches will provide what’s needed for some particular purposes, as was the case here.

      I’m not in need of large numbers of examples for most of my work on NomConjObjs; instead, I need examples in very specific syntactic contexts and in very specific kinds of texts.

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