December 10, 2007

Dual VPE

Here at Language Log Plaza, we collect remarkable coordinations and we collect remarkable instances of Verb Phrase Ellipsis (VPE), and sometimes we get both in one package.  Back in May, Eric Bakovic produced one of these deliberately:

All completely unnecessary, if you ask me (though, of course, nobody did ___ or is ___).

Both of the coordinated ellipses (indicated by the underlines) have the same antecedent, the finite VP ask me, but the understood VPs have different verb forms in them: base-form ask me as the complement of did, present-participial asking me as the complement of is.  The conjuncts are in a sense not parallel.

And now John Lawler has pointed me to a somewhat more complex example of dual VPE -- non-parallelism of conjuncts just as in the Bakovic example (base-form ellipsis plus present-participial ellipsis), but with different antecedents for the ellipses -- in a Partially Clips cartoon:

That is: I did ___ and I am ___!, with elliptical jump (base form) and running away in terror (present participial), respectively.  This is probably over the line for some people, but Lawler and I are ok with it.

Here's another sort of dual VPE, with one of the antecedents contained within the other, from the television show Dante's Cove:

Corey: You don't want to leave the Cove.
Kevin: I do ___, and I will ___.

The elliptical VPs (both in base form) are want to leave the Cove and leave the cove, respectively.  Entirely comprehensible, I think, but I did notice it.

One final example.  This is a story -- I don't recall where I first heard or read it -- about a young man's first sexual encounter with another man.  As the young man tells it, in the version I remember:

I was holding his hard cock, staring at it, and he said to me, "You put your mouth on that and you're a cocksucker."  So I did ___ and then I was ___.

(with base-form VP put my mouth on it and predicative NP a cocksucker as the ellipses; remember that the ellipses in VPE are not always VPs, despite the name).  The only version of the story I've been able to find on the net is in the "queer quotes" section of the Queer Resources Directory, and it's less syntactically exciting than the dual VPE version I recall:

The first time I was naked in a bed with another boy for the express purpose of having sex, I paused, holding his erection, thinking "Put your mouth on that and you're a cocksucker!" And then I was. -- Ronald Ramage

(No, I don't know who the Ronald Ramage in question was or where he wrote this.)

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at December 10, 2007 01:32 PM