April 14, 2007

WTF small clauses

Mark Liberman, following up a tip from Barbara Partee, has just posted about a stunning coordination from today's New York Times:

While Mr. Umarov has kept a low profile and his business running, thousands of immigrant market workers have closed their stalls across Russia.

What we have here is a noun phrase (a low profile) coordinated with a "small clause" (his business running, with a subject and a predicate, but no finite verb) -- that is, an instance of coordination of unlikes -- and also an example, as Mark points out, of syllepsis:

Syllepsis...--use of a word understood differently in relation to two or more other words... (Edward P.J. Corbett and Robert J. Connors, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, 4th ed., p. 399)

(In the Umarov sentence, kept is understood one way in kept a low profile and another way in kept his business running.)

The usual examples of coordination of unlikes (as in my last posting on the subject) involve only a mismatch of syntactic categories, with no semantic hang-ups.  The Umarov sentence takes things to a new level.  You don't come across WTF small clauses very often, but I have a small collection of them.

First, from right here in Language Log, there's the racy headline (with the conjunction and omitted) that Ben Zimmer reported on a while back:

Teacher who starred in porn movie a decade ago wants forgiveness, it harder, faster...

Unlike the Umarov sentence (which I take to be an inadvertent error), this one was surely committed deliberately, for humorous effect.  But they're both NP + SC; the Umarov sentence has a (present) participial predicate, Zimmer's headline an adjectival predicate.

Next, three from my non-parallelism collection:

... you'll get the [traffic] ticket and your car searched. (Ruth Wajnryb, Expletive Deleted, p. 234)

Probably a deliberate play on words.  NP + SC, with a (past) participial predicate in the SC.

I better get some clothes folded and off to bed.  Morning comes early! (on a blog; contributed by Tyler Schnoebelen)

This one has SC + an adverbial complement (rather than a NP), with the order of the conjuncts reflecting the order of the events.  Might be deliberate.

While Foley had a vote in Congress and President Bush on speed dial, disgraced evangelical minister Ted Haggard had more direct influence on how conservative Americans viewed gays... (Frank Mok, "A 2006 Outspoken", The Advocate 1/16/07, p. 28)

Back to NP + SC, but now with a PP predicate in the SC.

Finally, one unearthed by Chris Potts:

But when he pictured it -- as he would a dozen times a day in the ensuing weeks -- he did not visualize them standing on a blackened wall throwing flowers where once there'd been a long veranda and Festa sleeping. (David Crace, Being Dead, p. 166)

NP + SC, with a (present) participial predicate in the SC, the whole thing in an existential clause.

Slowly the examples come in, with maybe half of them deliberate.  I suspect that I miss a fair number of routine coordinations of unlikes, but these SC cases really stand out for me.

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Posted by Arnold Zwicky at April 14, 2007 03:30 PM