The family that fund-raises together

From a Gail Collins column “Everything’s Relative” in the NYT on the 14th, about political candidates engaging their families in their campaigns:

Remember Jeb? He was going to run as his own man, but people on the campaign mailing list are getting requests for donations from George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Barbara Bush, George P. Bush and Columba Bush [Jeb’s father, brother, mother, son, and wife, respectively]. The family that fund-raises together stays together.

Collins chose to use the 2-part back-formed V (2pbfV) fund-raises rather than the phrase raises funds, and (though a fair number of people, including some language critics, are deeply hostile to 2pbfVs, as unnecessary innovations) in my opinion that was an excellent choice: fund-raises describes an activity that is more unitary, and more specific, than raises funds. There’s a distinction here that’s come up on this blog several times, and there’s also a general principle at work, a principle I’ll call Structural Tightness.

Let’s start with the Collins example. A family that raises funds together could proceed in any number of ways: they could be putting their own money into the campaign, they could be taking out loans, they could be investing money in funds to generate interest, they could be holding money-making events (bake sales, raffles, whatever), or they could be soliciting campaign contributions by appealing to individuals (I’m sticking here only to legal ways of raising funds, not contemplating schemes like blackmail, holding hostages for ransom, embezzling funds, or the like). A family that fund-raises together will ordinarily be understood to be engaging in only one of these activities: soliciting campaign contributions from individuals. Which is what the Bush family is doing.

Where does this specificty of fund-raises (versus raises funds) come from? From the difference between a morphological combination (the compound in fund-raises) and a syntactic combination (the phrase in raises funds); morphological combinations are “tighter”, more unitary structurally, than syntactic combinations, and this tightness, this greater unity, is mirrored in the way morphological combinations are understood in use. As a general principle:

Structural Tightness: The tighter the structural relation between elements in an expression, the greater the unity (and specificity) of the situation the expression decribes.

(I’m not claiming any particular originality for this idea. No doubt it has been expressed in many other ways in the literature.)

The 2pbfV to fund-raise is already in my files, in a raft of examples I collected on 11/16/09, in #66 on my Page of 2pbfV examples and (under RAISE) on the index Page for them.

The history of the V involves the mediation of the synthetic compound fund-raising (which compacts V + direct object raise funds into a single word) and the generalization of this synthetic compound to a N + V compound with a full set of inflected forms.

The utility of 2pbfVs. I’ve posted a number of times on this blog about the specificity of 2pbfVs, which I view as a virtue of them and a force promoting their innovation. Most recently, in a 7/29/15 posting “What’s the matter with this verb?” giving due credit to an thoughtful ADS-L posting by Larry Horn on the innovative compound to drunk-drive vs. the syntactic combination to drive drunk. My contribution to the matter was to stress the tighter semantic/pragmatic associations, and the consequent greater specificity, in (compound) lexical items vs. syntactic constructions.

Beyond morphology vs. syntax. The Structural Tightness principle  goes beyond compounds vs. syntactic combinations, to take in at least one topic that’s gotten a lot of coverage on this blog, namely alternations between direct and oblique (P-marked) objects in syntax. The overarching generalization — blurred by a number of other considerations in particular cases, such as relatively crisp dialect distinctions — is that direct objects tend to convey more direct and specific action, while oblique objects convey more indirect associations and less specific actions. See, for example, discussions of approve (of) and protest (against) in a 5/15/08 LLog posting and of glimpse (at) in a 9/20/09 AZBlog posting.

And there’s more, having to do with hypotaxis vs. parataxis in syntax. In paratactic combinations of clauses, where clauses are simply juxtaposed, there’s no explicit connective, and the resulting sentence is compatible with a wide range of relationships between the clauses; but in hypotactic combinations, one clause is marked as dependent, and the connective that marks this provides (some) explicit information about the specific semantic/pragmatic relationship between the clauses. So, the paratactic

You broke that vase, you bought it.

covers a considerable range of relationships between the clauses, including some that can be made more explicit by a connective:

When you broke that vase, you bought it.

Since/Because you broke that vase, you bought it.

If you broke that vase, you bought it.

as well as coordination and temporal sequence:

You broke that vase, and you also bought it.

You broke that vase, and then you bought it.

 

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