December 11, 2006

Coordination of unlikes

Geoff Pullum's recent discussion of "grave and deteriorating" in the Iraq Study Group report returns us to the topic of the coordination of unlikes, which I last blogged about in a long posting about "failures of parallelism".  Geoff argues with some care that "grave" in this example is an adjective, while "deteriorating" is a verb form; "grave and deteriorating" is therefore a violation of the Category Likeness condition (requiring that conjuncts be of like category) that many people assume rigidly governs coordination.  Things aren't as simple as we'd like them to be.

For a while now, I've been collecting examples of coordinations that violate Category Likeness.  Here's a sampling of types that you can find in English.

I'll start with the ISG example:

(1) AdjP + Ving: The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.

Here the coordination is in the predicate complement of BE; it's a coordination of a predicate adjective and a progressive verb form.  Two famous examples from the syntax/semantics literature similarly have coordination in a predicate complement of BE:

(2) NP + Ving: The temperature is ninety (degrees) and rising.

(3) NP + AdjP: He is a Republican and proud of it.

(Example (2), with a predicate NP conjoined with a progressive verb form, became famous through the work of Barbara Partee, example (3), with a predicate NP conjoined with a predicate AdjP, in the HPSG literature.)

From (3), we might speculate that what allows coordination of unlikes there is at least in part semantic: the NP and AdjP there both denote properties that are predicated of the subject.  Now in English, PPs can also be used this way, and here's a coordination of predicate AdjP and PP:

(4) AdjP + PP: ... her colleague Steven Chillrud, who was both afraid of heights and on vacation ... (New Yorker Talk of the Town piece, 8/28/06, p. 22)

On the basis of (4), we can concoct PP versions of (1) and (2): first, with the PP in place of the progressive:

(5) AdjP + PP: The situation in Iraq is grave and in decline. [invented]

(6) NP + PP: The temperature is ninety (degrees) and on the rise. [invented]

and then with the PP in place of the AdjP/NP:

(7) PP + Ving: The situation in Iraq is in crisis and deteriorating. [invented]

(8) PP + Ving: The temperature is at a record high and rising. [invented]

There's a lot more to be said about these predicate examples, but I'll pass on to some of other types.

One fairly common type conjoins two different kinds of purpose expressions: infinitival VPs and PPs with the preposition for:

(9) VPinf + PP: These [recommendations] include the proposals to enlist the help of Iraq's neighbors and for bolder peacemaking in Palestine. (leader in the Economist, 12/9/06, p. 11)

(10) PP + VPinf: ... fighting for prisoners' rights and to change the system. (Mary Ambrose, announcing her "Your Call" radio program on KALW, 6/7/06)

(11) PP + VPinf: Her only visits to the hospital had been for a variety of broken bones and to deliver her two children. ("Diagnosis" column in NYT Magazine, 4/25/05, p. 36)

An earlier posting on astounding ccordinations had an example of this type:

(12) PP + VPinf: ... designed for closeness, comfort, and to clean itself automatically (Remington shaver commercial, heard 21/21/04)

A related type conjoins an infinitival VP of purpose with an adverbial subordinate clause of purpose:

(13) VPinf + so-Clause: The railroad magnate and future founder of Stanford University expanded it [the Leland Stanford Mansion in Sacramento] to 19,000 square feet to accommodate his growing family and so he could use the mansion for receptions and other official duties. (AP story printed in the Palo Alto Daily News, 7/4/05, p. 6)

Other sorts of adverbials of unlike category can be conjoined: an adverbial subordinate clause of reason (with because) plus a participial absolute expressing reason:

(14) because-Clause + AbsoluteClause: Because I had to stay overnight and this being New England, the only place to stay was a bed-and-breakfast. (Sarah Vowell, Assassination Vacation, p. 1)

or a temporal PP with a temporal participial adjunct:

(15) PP + VPing: After a tender love affair with the wife of an innkeeper, and having renamed himself for a short while with the eccentric pseudonym of 'Lesbonico Pegasio', he [Lorenzo Da Ponte] appears again in Vienna as 'poet' to the Burg theatre, and the favourite of Emperor Joseph II. (John Mortimer, Where There's a Will, pp. 10-11)

A final type has two kinds of verb complements in coordination: a PP (in both my recent examples, with the preposition about) and a that-clause:

(16) PP + that-Clause: Writing in Annals of Internal Medicine, the researchers reported that doctors often did not know about the results or even that a test had been ordered ... (NYT Science Times, 7/19/05, p. D6)

(17) PP + that-Clause: "Meantime," Carswell piped up, "I don't need to remind you about making that apology, or that you're still on suspension?" (Ian Rankin, A Question of Blood, p. 303)

An earlier posting on astounding coordinations cited a similar example in which the PP was in:

(18) PP + that-Clause: Kirk Arnott, assistant managing editor [of the Columbus Dispatch], is the language cop or watchdog of the Dispatch.  He believes in informal and conversational language, and that his paper should be as conversational as possible, to be accessible and clear to readers. (MacNeil & Cran, Do You Speak American?, p. 61)

There are four large groupings in this inventory: the predicate examples, the purpose complement examples, various coordinations of adverbials, and verb complements.  Overall, what we should conclude from these cases is that similarity in function and meaning can at least sometimes trump differences in syntactic category.  But, yes, there are a lot of details to work out.

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Posted by Arnold Zwicky at December 11, 2006 01:51 PM