March 08, 2005

Don't expect this post to make sense or any help from me

It's amazing the things you find when you're not really looking. While working on some paper revisions today, I had this extraordinary urge to clean up the pile of books and papers that had gathered around my feet over the past week (of working on paper revisions, of course). Somehow, a three-year-old note to myself found its way into this pile. It's a sentence that I wrote down, from an old book on Mac OS X. On p. 206, Gene Steinberg wrote:

If you have an older Mac and upgraded the processor, don't expect it to work or support from Apple.

I can see what this sentence means, and I can understand how Steinberg may have reasoned that it was better than the alternative:

... don't expect it to work, and don't expect support from Apple.

Problem is, the sentence Steinberg wrote does not satisfy (what I think are) my syntactic correctness conditions. It's just bad. The problem, as I see it, is that Steinberg has attempted to conjoin an infinitival sentence (it to work) with a noun phrase (support from Apple).

Now I'm sure that CGEL has some more accurate analysis of the relevant facts (perhaps even a better term than infinitival sentence?) but I'm too tired and lazy to walk all the way across Language Log Plaza to Geoff's office to see what it is. Anyway, I know there are some patterned exceptions to the generalization I'm about to make, but typically, only syntactic phrases of the same type can be conjoined. So it should be perfectly fine to conjoin two noun phrases as complements of expect, and indeed it is:

Don't expect my everlasting love or a bouquet of roses.

It should also be perfectly fine to conjoin two infinitival sentences as complements of expect, and it is -- but for me, if the subject of the second infinitival sentence is a pronoun, a for is (mildly) required before that pronoun. On the other hand, for is absolutely forbidden before the first infinitival sentence (whether or not its subject is a pronoun), and it's completely optional otherwise:

Don't expect (*for) the car to drive itself or (for) the sky not to fall on your head.

Don't expect (*for) it to work or *?(for) them to help you.

Well, that kept me occupied for a full half hour or so. Then it was back to work ... cleaning up the mess on the floor. Then the revisions. Now bed.

Update, Mar. 9: Neal Whitman writes:

Your latest post on Language Log was of special interest to me, since I have a collection going of utterances such as, "It makes it hard for him to get [his stuff done] and [to bed on time]," and "She wants [an engagement ring] and [her boyfriend to stop dragging his feet]," and "Don't eat [fast food], or [at restaurants, food-service companies, or caterers]." In case you're interested, I discuss coordinations like these in a paper that appeared in the Sept. 2004 issue of Language. It covers adjunct-with-adjunct, complement-with-complement, and adjunct-with-complement coordinations.

The "She wants ..." example is OK for me, but only with "for" before the second conjunct; the "Don't eat ..." example is perfect. I look forward to reading Neal's paper.

[ Comments? ]

Posted by Eric Bakovic at March 8, 2005 03:41 AM