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Seminar on Information Structure and Word Order Variation Argument Reversal (Inversion & Passivization)

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Seminar on Information Structure and Word Order Variation Argument Reversal (Inversion & Passivization). Gregory Ward Northwestern University Universidade de Santiago de Compostela Departamento de Filoloxía Inglesa 19 Xuño 2008. Argument Reversal Type #1: Inversion.

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slide1

Seminar on Information Structure and Word Order Variation

Argument Reversal (Inversion & Passivization)

Gregory Ward

Northwestern University

Universidade de Santiago de Compostela

Departamento de Filoloxía Inglesa

19 Xuño 2008

argument reversal type 1 inversion
Argument Reversal Type #1:Inversion

(1) They have a great big tank in the kitchen, and in the tank are sitting all of these pots. [Jeff Smith, Frugal Gourmet, 6/17/89]

inversion
Inversion

Like preposing, inversion requires a salient OP — unless its preposed constituent is locative.

(2) The Chief of Police has developed a viral infection and may need to take an extended sick leave. In even worse condition is the mayor, who has been out for the past several days with a very high fever.

non locative inversion
Non-Locative Inversion

Since the preposed PP is non-locative, an OP is required:

(3) The Chief of Police has developed a viral infection and may need to take an extended sick leave. #In a complete rage is the mayor, who will have to cover for his absence.

locative inversion
Locative Inversion

Locative inversion requires no OP, but it does require a link (as with preposing):

(4) There are three ways to look at East State Street Village, a low-income apartment complex in Camden. None of them are pretty views. To the west of the 23 brightly colored buildings flows the Cooper River, a fetid waterway considered one of the most polluted in New Jersey.

[Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/7/84]

inversion6
Inversion

What about the discourse-status and hearer-status of the constituents of an inversion?

noncanonical word order
Noncanonical-Word-Order
  • Two types:
    • a single noncanonically positioned constituent
    • two noncanonically positioned constituents.
number of constituents
Number of Constituents

Inversions contain two noncanonically positioned constituents:

(1) They have a great big tank in the kitchen, and in the tank are sitting all of these pots.

Recall that preposings contain one noncanonically positioned constitutent:

In that tank, you will find all of the lobsters Ø.

birner ward 1998
Birner & Ward 1998
  • Preposing moves familiar information to the front of the sentence.
  • Postposing (there-sentences) moves unfamiliar information to the end of the sentence.
  • When a single constituent is involved, the relevant information status constraint is absolute; when two arguments are reversed, the information status constraint is relative.
inversion11
Inversion

(1)a. They have a great big tank in the kitchen, and

in the tank are sitting all of these pots.

b. They have all of these pots in the kitchen, and #in a great big tank are sitting all of the pots.

inversion12
Inversion
  • For inversion, two questions arise:
  • Is it discourse-status or hearer-status that is relevant?
  • How do we know the constraint is relative as opposed to absolute?
birner 1994
Birner 1994
  • Corpus study:
    • 1778 tokens of inversion
    • 1290 with sufficient prior context to determine information status
    • 714 tokens if inferrables are excluded
table 2
Table 2

Initial

H-old/D-old H-old/D-new H-new/D-new

Final

H-oldD-old

H-oldD-new

H-newD-new

inversion15
Inversion

The only two cells that have no tokens are those in which Discourse-New information precedes Discourse-Old information.

inversion16
Inversion

In contrast, H-new information followed by H-old information is felicitous:

(6) I had lunch at Macy’s yesterday, and you wouldn\'t believe who was there. Behind a cluster of microphones was Hillary Clinton, holding another press conference.

table 3
Table 3

This becomes even clearer when you look only at discourse-status:

Initial

Final

D-old D-new

D-old

D-new

inversion18
Inversion

The vast majority of the tokens contain discourse-old information followed by discourse-new information:

(7) “What’s Hot,” a magazine published by General Foods for children aged 4 to 14, is sent to households that are known to be responsive to ad promotions. The “message from the sponsor” is subtle, with brand names worked into activities such as games and quizzes. Accompanying the magazine are cents-off coupons.

[Consumer Reports, 6/89]

inversion19
Inversion

Putting discourse-new information before discourse-old information results in infelicity:

A: Hey, Bill, where’s the coffee grinder? Our guests will probably want some cappuccino after dinner.

B: #On the kitchen counter is the coffee grinder.

inversion20
Inversion

Notice that you also get D-old/D-old and D-new/D-new tokens.

But in the case of D-old/D-old tokens,

the more recently mentioned (i.e., more familiar) information appears first.

examples
Examples

D-O/D-O:

(8) Yes, this is no ordinary general election. ‘Evans is a Democrat; Daley is a Democrat. Different Democrats have different points of view about the city of Chicago and its politics,’ Jackson noted. ‘The war between forces within the party continues, and within our coalition.’

Standing in the middle of it all is Jesse Jackson.

[Chicago Tribune, 3/6/89]

examples22
Examples

D-O/D-O:

(9)a. Each of the characters is the centerpiece of a book, doll and clothing collection. The story of each character is told in a series of six slim books, each $12.95 hardcover and $5.95 in paperback, and in bookstores and libraries across the country. More than 1 million copies have been sold; and in late 1989 a series of activity kits was introduced for retail sale. Complementing the relatively affordable books are the dolls, one for each fictional heroine and each with a comparably pricey historically accurate wardrobe and accessories…

[Chicago Tribune, 1/4/90]

examples23
Examples

(9)b. Each of the characters is the centerpiece of a book, doll and clothing collection. The story of each character is told in a series of six slim books, each $12.95 hardcover and $5.95 in paperback, and in bookstores and libraries across the country.... #Complementing the relatively affordable dolls are

the books, one for each fictional heroine...

inversion24
Inversion

Thus, inversion – an argument-reversing construction – imposes a relative, rather than an absolute, requirement on the information status of its constituents:

The preposed constituent may not represent information that is newer within the discourse than that represented by the postposed constituent.

birner ward 1998 revisited
Birner & Ward 1998, revisited
  • Preposing moves familiar information to the front of the sentence.
  • Postposing moves unfamiliar information to the end of the sentence.
  • When a single constituent is affected, the constraint is absolute; when two arguments are reversed, it’s their relative information status that determines the ordering.
related constructions
Related Constructions?

What about other argument-reversing constructions in English?

passives with by phrases
Passives with by-phrases

The ball was hit by Sally. [CWO: Sally hit the ball.]

 an argument-reversing construction

Passives without by-phrases:

The ball was hit.

 no argument reversal

passives with by phrases28
Passives with by-phrases

Passives with by-phrases are subject to the same constraint as inversion:

The initial element must represent information that is at least as familiar within the discourse as that represented by the final element.

passives with by phrases29
Passives with by-phrases

In other words, the subject NP must represent information that is at least as familiar within the discourse as that represented by the NP within the by-phrase.

passives with by phrases30
Passives with by-phrases

(10)a. The mayor’s present term of office expires Jan. 1. He will be succeeded by Ivan Allen Jr....

[Brown Corpus]

b. Ivan Allen Jr. will take office Jan. 1. #The mayor will be succeeded by him.

passives with by phrases31
Passives with by-phrases

Again, it’s discourse-status, rather than hearer-status, that is relevant; consider a passive with

H-N/H-O status:

(11) A formula to supply players for the new Minneapolis Vikings and the problem of increasing the 1961 schedule to fourteen games will be discussed by National Football League owners at a meeting at the Hotel Warwick today.

[Brown Corpus, discourse-initial]

table 4
Table 4

The discourse-status results for passives (excluding inferrables):

Initial

Final

D-old D-new

D-old

D-new

inversion passivization a common constraint
Inversion + Passivization:A Common Constraint

Inversion and passivization share a pragmatic constraint: The initial constituent must not represent information that is less familiar within the discourse than that represented by the final constituent.

inversion vs passivization
Inversion vs. Passivization
  • Syntactically, the two constructions are in complementary distribution:
  • Passivization applies to transitives, while inversion does not.
  • Inversion applies to intransitives and copular clauses, while passivization does not.
inversion vs passivization35
Inversion vs. Passivization

Passivization and inversion represent distinct mechanisms for performing a single information-packaging function in different syntactic environments.

inferential relations in discourse
Inferential relations in discourse

So, what about those inferrables?

inferrable information
Inferrable Information

So far we’ve dealt with information that is either clearly discourse-old or clearly discourse-new, but along with Prince 1992, we’ve left unresolved the issue of information that is “inferrable”.

inferrable information38
Inferrable Information

That information which has not been explicitly evoked from the prior discourse but which can be inferred from previously evoked information.

inferrable information as discourse old information
Inferrable Information as Discourse-Old Information?

In inversion and passivization, inferrable information has the same distribution as discourse-old information.

examples40
Examples

(12)a. She got married recently, and at the wedding was the mother, the stepmother and Debbie.

[conversation, 6/29/89]

b. Booked into the lounge at the Fremont Hotel, Wayne and Larry did six shows a night, six nights a week for five years. It was an education that has “lasted up to this day.” In the audience were hecklers and brawlers.

[Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/16/83]

examples41
Examples

(13)a. After being closed for seven months, the Garden of the Gods Club will have its gala summer opening Saturday, June 3. Music for dancing will be furnished by Allen Uhles and his orchestra, who will play each Saturday during June.

[Brown Corpus]

examples42
Examples

b. California Democrats this weekend will take the wraps off a 1962 model statewide campaign vehicle which they have been quietly assembling in a thousand district headquarters, party clubrooms and workers’ backyards. They seem darned proud of it. And they’re confident that the GOP, currently assailed by dissensions within the ranks, will be impressed by the purring power beneath the hood of this grassroots- fueled machine.

[Brown Corpus]

table 5 inversion
Table 5: Inversion

Inferrables vs. discourse-old:

Initial

Final

Evoked Inferrable

Evoked

Inferrable

table 6 inversion
Table 6: Inversion

Collapsing discourse-old and inferrable:

Initial

Final

D-old D-new

D-old

D-new

table 7 passivization
Table 7: Passivization

Collapsing discourse-old and inferrable:

Initial

Final

D-old D-new

D-old

D-new

inferrable information46
Inferrable Information

So, we can now classify inferrable information as discourse-old with great confidence.

But what about hearer-status?

Is inferrable information hearer-new or hearer-old?

inferrable information47
Inferrable Information

We have a diagnostic to help us decide: the post-verbal position of existential there-sentences is reserved for hearer-new information.

(14)a. There weren’t the funds necessary for the project. [=Abbott 1992, ex. 31a]

inferrable information48
Inferrable Information

b. The audience did not think much of the new pastor, and what the new pastor thought of the audience he did not dare at the time to say. During the next weeks he looked over the situation. First of all there was the parsonage, an utterly impossible place for civilized people to live in, originally poorly conceived, apparently not repaired for years, with no plumbing or sewage, with rat-holes and rot.[Brown Corpus]

inferrable information49
Inferrable Information

c. If the farm is rented, the rent must be paid. If it is owned, taxes must be paid, and if the place is not free of mortgage, there will be interest and payments on the principal to take care of.[Brown Corpus]

inferrable information50
Inferrable Information

In a study of 149 existentials taken from the Brown A Reportage Subcorpus, a trained coder judged that in 38 (25.5%) of the tokens the postverbal NP represented inferrable information.

inferrable information51
Inferrable Information

Let’s recap where we are:

In preposing, inversion, and passivization, inferrable information patterns like discourse-old information.

However, in existential there-sentences, it patterns like hearer-new information.

inferrable information52
Inferrable Information

This suggests inferrable information is discourse-old and hearer-new.

But this is exactly the “empty cell” in Prince’s framework (which didn’t consider inferrables)!

redefining discourse old
Redefining Discourse-Old

We can account for inferrable information and solve the “empty cell” problem by extending our notion of discourse-old information to include information that is linked to information in the prior discourse.

identity as an inferential relation
Identity as an Inferential Relation

The link may be one of simple identity, which also requires an inference of sorts:

(15)a. I told the guy at the door to watch out, but the idiot wouldn’t listen. [=Evans 1981, ex. 6]

b. With a degree in Physical Education, Terri Lewis could be coaching a high school volleyball team. Instead, this ranch wife and mother has spent the last three years riding and roping with three other women.... [“Cowgirl Up!”, America’s Horse, 2005]

redefining discourse old56
Redefining Discourse-Old

So, in summary, the class of discourse-old information is defined as information that is inferentially linked to information in the prior discourse.

The inferential relation may or may not be one of identity.

redefining discourse old57
Redefining Discourse-Old

Inferrables are discourse-old (linked to prior discourse) but hearer-new (not previously known to hearer).

some inferential relations
Some Inferential Relations
  • Part/whole
  • Type/subtype
  • Temporal precedence
  • Possession
  • Entity/attribute
  • Spatial proximity
inducing inferences
Inducing Inferences

For a bridging inferrable, which is hearer-new, how does the hearer know to look for the inferential relation (rather than taking the entity to be brand-new)?

inducing inferences61
Inducing Inferences

The bridging inferrable may serve to induce the inference, via either its form (e.g. a definite) or its position (noncanonical word order).

inducing inferences62
Inducing Inferences

Use of a definite NP to induce the inference:

(16) Mary took the picnic supplies out of the trunk. The beer was warm.

inducing inferences63
Inducing Inferences

(17) Last night I went out to buy the picnic supplies.

a. I decided to get beer first.

b. Beer I decided to get first.

c. I decided to get the beer first.

d. The beer I decided to get first.

Only (a) is ambiguous as to whether the beer is part of the picnic supplies.

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