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Preposing. Preposing is a class of constructions sharing a common syntactic structure: The occurrence of a lexically-governed postverbal phrasal constituent occurring in preverbal position.

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preposing
Preposing
  • Preposing is a class of constructions sharing a common syntactic structure:
    • The occurrence of a lexically-governed postverbal phrasal constituent occurring in preverbal position.
  • Under this definition, subcategorized NPs, APs, VPs, and PPs are included; various adverbials and adjuncts are not.
np most common
NP (most common)
  • Colonel Bykov had delivered to Chambers in Washington six Bokhara rugs which he directed Chambers to present as gifts from him and the Soviet Government to the members of the ring who had been most co-operative. One of these rugs Chambers delivered to Harry Dexter White. Another he gave to Hiss – but not as a routine “payment on rent.” In the classic tradition of espionage operations, Hiss had parked his car on a street corner, and Chambers had driven to a point nearby.

[Nixon, R. Six Crisis. 1962:58]

slide3
PP
  • To back up Wattenberg’s contention that American women are getting what they wanted – with or without the ERA, there are statistics offered, statistics about how many married women are now in the labor force, statistics about the number of women in “good’’ jobs. “With better jobs and more education,” he writes, “women are also moving forward on the dollar front.” For that last bold assertion there are no statistics. That's because they wouldn't back up the argument, not even a little.

[Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/1/83]

slide4
VP
  • And the end of the term I took my first schools; it was necessary to pass, if I was to stay at Oxford, and pass I did, after a week in which I forbade Sebastian my rooms and sat up to a late hour, with iced black coffee and charcoal biscuits, cramming myself with the neglected texts. I remember no syllable of them now, but the other, more ancient, lore which I acquired that term will be with me in one shape or another to my last hour.

[Waugh E. Brideshead Revisited. 1945:45]

ap least common
AP (least common)
  • The plan is to purchase the quaint fishing village of Ferness and replace it with a giant new refinery. The villagers – who’ve been farming, fishing, raising families and pub crawling in splendid isolation for generations – offer amazingly little resistance. Humble they may be. But daft they ain’t. If the Americans are all that eager to turn a few industrious Scotsmen into instant millionaires, they should not be denied the privilege.

[PhiladelphiaInquirer movie review]

preposing general constraints
Preposing: General Constraints
  • All felicitous preposings require:
    • a salient set relation between the (evoked or inferrable) trigger in the prior context and the link of the proposing;
    • a salient open proposition (OP) whose instantiation represents the focus of the utterance.
  • Together, these constitute necessary and sufficient conditions for felicitous preposing. Other factors affect the observed distribution.
subcategorized pps vs adjunct pps
Subcategorized PPs vs. Adjunct PPs
  • Lexically governed/subcategorized PP:
    • #In a basket, I put your clothes.

[cf. I put your clothes in a basket.]

  • Adjunct PP:
    • In New York, there’s always something to do.

[cf. There’s always something to do in NY.]

some syntactic issues
Some Syntactic Issues
  • Doubly-filled TOP node (embedded)
    • He’s a man to whomliberty we must never grant.
  • Doubly-filled TOP node (matrix)
    • %That problemwhat are you going to do about?
  • Recursive preposing?
    • The fact that some aspects of my life I have no control over I find difficult to accept.
some syntactic issues9
Some Syntactic Issues
  • What is the relationship, if any, between a preposing and its canonical-word-order variant?
    • Related
      • Related by transformation
      • By lexical rule
    • Unrelated
      • Independent constructions
preposing and information structure the link
Preposing and Information Structure: The Link
  • The discourse entity corresponding to the preposed constituent (or a subconstituent contained therein) must be anaphorically linked to the trigger of the preceding discourse via a salient set relation; this set we call the anchoring set.
  • Although there need be no link in a canonical-word-order (CWO) utterance, preposing necessarily marks the preverbal constituent as a link to the prior discourse.
preposing and information structure the anchoring set
Preposing and Information Structure: The Anchoring Set
  • The notion of anchoring set subsumes both explicitly evoked and inferentially related links.
    • Customer: Can I get a bagel?

Server: No, sorry. We’re out of bagels.

A bran muffin I can give you.

[service encounter, Philadelphia diner]

  • Here, the link (a bran muffin) and the trigger (bagels) stand in a salient set relation as alternate members of the inferred anchoring set {breakfast baked goods}.
preposing and information structure the anchoring set12
Preposing and Information Structure: The Anchoring Set
  • The link itself can also be explicitly evoked in the prior discourse:

A: Can I get a bagel?

B: Sorry — all out.

A: How about a bran muffin?

B: A bran muffin I can give you.

  • Here, the link (a bran muffin) is coreferential with one of the triggers explicitly mentioned by A.
preposing and information structure the anchoring set13
Preposing and Information Structure: The Anchoring Set

Facts about the world thus come in twice on the road from meaning to truth: once to determine the interpretation, given the meaning, and then again to determine the truth value, given the interpretation. This insight we owe to David Kaplan’s important work on indexicals and demonstratives, and we believe it is absolutely crucial to semantics.

[Barwise & Perry 1983:11]

Here, the link exhausts the anchoring set, consisting of a singleton member; note the absence of any sense of contrast here.

preposing and information structure the anchoring set14
Preposing and Information Structure: The Anchoring Set
  • Another example of a link to an anchoring set with a single member is this token of ‘proposition affirmation’:
    • The other half of the double bill is “Sister Mary Ignatius”. Whereas Lohrmann has to overcome a poor script to be bright, Durang has handed Ginny Brown Graham, via Sister Mary Ignatius, a fantastic script, and all she has to do is shine. And shine she does. [AuCourant, 4/1/85]
  • Here, the link shine is explicitly mentioned in the preceding sentence.
  • The anchoring set consists of a singleton member, evoked by the trigger and referenced in the link.
preposing and information structure the form of the link
Preposing and Information Structure: The Form of the Link
  • However, unlike the earlier examples, the link of proposition affirmation is sensitive to the linguistic form of the trigger:
    • The other half of the double bill is “Sister Mary Ignatius”. Whereas Lohrmann has to overcome a poor script to be bright, Durang has handed Ginny Brown Graham, via Sister Mary Ignatius, a fantastic script, and all she has to do is glow. #And shine she does.
  • Here, although shine and glow could be seen as standing in a relation of semantic identity, infelicity results because the salient relation between the link and trigger is not one of morphological identity.
  • Thus, the relation between the link and trigger in proposition affirmation is more constrained than in other types of preposing.
preposing and information structure the op
Preposing and Information Structure: The OP
  • The second constraint on preposings is that they require a salient or inferable open proposition (OP) in the discourse.
  • Recall from last time that an OP is a sentence that contains one or more variables; in a felicitous preposing, this OP represents what is assumed by the speaker to be salient or inferrable at the time of the utterance.
  • The variable in the OP is instantiated with the focus, which constitutes the ‘new’ information of the utterance, and is constrained to be a member of a contextually licensed set. Prosodically, the focus is realized with a nuclear pitch accent.
preposing and information structure two major types
Preposing and Information Structure: Two Major Types
  • Our examination of NOD reveals that preposings can be classified into two major types based on their intonation and information structure (Prince 1981, Ward 1988):
    • focus preposing
    • ‘topicalization’
  • The preposed constituent of focus preposing contains the focus of the utterance, and bears nuclear accent; the rest of the clause is typically deaccented.
  • Topicalization, on the other hand, involves a preposed constituent other than the focus and bears multiple pitch accents: at least one on the preposed constituent and at least one on the (non-preposed) focus.
  • Nonetheless, both types of preposing require a salient or inferable OP at the time of utterance for felicity.
focus preposing
Focus Preposing

I made a lot of sweetbreads. A couple of pounds I think I made for her.

[C. Ward in conversation]

I: Are there black kids in that school now?

S: Not many. I had two really good friends. Damon and Jimmy their names were.

[Temple University undergraduate in sociolinguistic interview]

A: Where can I get the reading packet?

B: In Steinberg. [Gives directions] Six dollars it costs.

[two students in conversation]

The FP marks the utterance as a focus-presupposition construction, with the preposed constituent, six dollars, containing the nuclear accent, representing the focus of the utterance.

focus preposing19
Focus Preposing

To construct the relevant OP, the preposed constituent containing the focus is first returned to its canonical argument position. The focus is then replaced with a variable, which is restricted to be a member of some contextually licensed set. The focus instantiates the variable in the OP and represents a member of that set.

OP = It costs X, where X is a member of the set {prices}.

It costs some amount of money.

Focus = six dollars

focus preposing20
Focus Preposing

Here, six dollars serves as the link to the preceding discourse

Its referent is a member of the set {prices}, which is part of the inferrable OP. In this example, the OP can be inferred on the basis of the prior context; from mention of a reading packet, one is licensed to infer that the packet costs some amount of money.

While the anchoring set {prices} is discourse-old, the preposed constituent itself represents information that has not itself been explicitly evoked in the prior discourse.

In the case of focus preposing, then, since the anchoring set must be discourse-old yet the link is the focus (and therefore new), it follows that the set must contain at least one other member in addition to the link.

other focus preposing constructions
Other Focus Preposing Constructions
  • Other types of focus preposing constructions includes repairs and echoings:
    • I think she was Japanese. No – Korean she was.

[M. Pollack in conversation]

    • C: Cheeseburger, large fries, and a large Coke.

[5 minutes elapse]

E: Large Coke you ordered?

[cf. #You ordered large Coke?]

[Burger King employee to customer]

other focus preposing constructions22
Other Focus Preposing Constructions
  • The link need not be explicitly evoked:
    • A: There isn’t a winter sport that Andy doesn’t like.

B: Hockey he likes?

    • A: Diane gets along with all her colleagues.

B: David she gets along with?

    • A: I’ve been everywhere in the Mideast.

B: Iraq you’ve been to?

other focus preposing constructions23
Other Focus Preposing Constructions
  • Preposings of this type are used by speakers to convey their lack of commitment as to whether the link constitutes an appropriate instantiation of the focus variable within the OP. A speaker may wish to convey such a lack of commitment either because he or she is uncertain about the appropriateness of the link or because he or she believes it to be inappropriate.
  • Uncertainty can be paraphrased as “It is not the case that the speaker believes the link is an appropriate instantiation of the focus variable”.
  • Disbelief can be paraphrased as “It is the case that the speaker believes the link is an inappropriate instantiation”.
  • The notion ‘lack of commitment’ subsumes these two possibilities.
topicalization
Topicalization
  • The focus in a topicalization, on the other hand, is not contained in the preposed constituent but occurs elsewhere in the utterance.
  • Intonationally, preposings of this type contain multiple accented syllables:
    • (at least) one occurs within the constituent that contains the focus
    • (at least) one occurs within the preposed constituent, which typically occurs in a separate ‘intonational phrase’ (Pierrehumbert 1980)
    • G: Do you watch football?

E: Yeah. Baseball I like a lot better.

[G. McKenna to E. Perkins in conversation]

topicalization25
Topicalization
  • Here, the preposed constituent is not the focus; better is. The preposed constituent baseball serves as the link to the inferred set {sports}.
  • This anchoring set can be inferred on the basis of the link (baseball) and the trigger (football), explicitly evoked by G in the prior utterance.
    • Note that baseball is accented not because it is the focus but because it occurs in a separate intonational phrase in sentence-initial position.
    • While all foci are accented, not all accented items are foci; typically a single utterance contains a variety of pitch accents, each making a distinct contribution to utterance interpretation (see Ladd 1980, Pierrehumbert & Hirschberg 1990, Zacharski 1993, inter alia).
topicalization26
Topicalization
  • The OP of Topicalization is formed in much the same way as in the case of focus preposing, except that the anchoring set member represented by the preposed constituent is replaced in the OP by the anchoring set itself.
  • OP = I like-to-X-degree {sports}, where X is a member of the set {degrees}.
  • I like sports to some degree.
  • Focus = better
topicalization27
Topicalization
  • Here, the OP includes the variable corresponding to the focus, but note that the link baseball has been replaced by its anchoring set {sports}, i.e. the set that includes both the trigger and the link.
  • The OP that is salient here is not that the speaker likes baseballper se, but rather that he likes sports to some degree. This OP is salient given the prior context in which E is asked if he watches football, from which it can be inferred that G is asking more generally about E’s interest in sports.
topicalization28
Topicalization

Thus, the focus of a preposing may appear either in preposed or canonical position. However, in both cases the preposed constituent – be it focus or not – serves as a discourse-old link to the preceding discourse.

evidence for the notion link
Evidence for the Notion ‘Link’
    • Someone broke into the garage last night. #My father I need to talk to.
    • I’m really tired tonight. #Maybe a movie I’ll rent.
  • Here, there is no plausible set relation between the preposed constituent and anything evoked in the prior context.
  • Indeed, an examination of 747 tokens reveals that in all cases there is a salient set relation between the link of the preposed constituent and something in the prior discourse.
proposition assessment
Proposition Assessment
  • A more constrained type of topicalization involves the epistemic assessment of a salient proposition in discourse.
  • There are three types of proposition assessment:
    • The first two, proposition affirmation and proposition suspension, require an explicitly evoked trigger with which the link is coreferential.
    • The third type of proposition assessment, propositiondenial, involves an inferrable attribute that has not been explicitly evoked in the prior context; this type of preposing is generally used for ironic effect.
proposition affirmation
Proposition Affirmation
  • A preposing may be used to affirm a speaker's belief in a proposition explicitly evoked in the discourse. A speaker can be said to affirm a proposition when he or she explicitly commits him- or herself to its truth.
    • At the end of the term I took my first schools; it was necessary to pass, if I was to stay at Oxford, and pass I did….
  • As with CWO, such propositions are affirmed via the auxiliary element tense. If no tense-bearing modal or auxiliary verb is present, then periphrastic do supports tense in these environments.
proposition affirmation32
Proposition Affirmation

Trigger: it was necessary to pass

Link: pass

OP: I {affirm/deny} the proposition ‘I passed’.

Focus: AFFIRM

CWO variant: I did pass.

proposition affirmation33
Proposition Affirmation
  • In all of the tokens in the corpus, the preposed constituent of proposition affirmation – like preposing in general – serves as a link to the previous discourse.
  • What distinguishes proposition affirmation (and suspension) from the other types of preposing is the explicit nature of the anaphoric relation that must obtain.
    • While other types of preposing allow the link to be only implicitly related to the trigger, proposition affirmation and suspension require that the link be explicitly evoked in the preceding discourse.
proposition suspension
Proposition Suspension
  • Proposition suspension involves the suspension of a speaker’s commitment to an explicitly evoked proposition, that either entails or presupposes the proposition expressed in the preposing.
  • Crucial is the presence of the connective if, which serves both to introduce and to conditionalize the preposing.
    • Mark submitted his report late, if submit it he did.
    • It’s odd that Diane said that, if say it she did,
proposition suspension35
Proposition Suspension
  • Following Horn (1972), ‘a presupposition may be suspended only if the resulting sentence may be true in a wider range of cases than is the initial sentence with its presupposition intact.’ This principle can be straightforwardly extended to cover cases of proposition suspension.
  • Reformulating the conditional along these lines, we arrive at:
    • If Mark submitted his report, then he submitted it late.
proposition suspension36
Proposition Suspension

This conditional is true if the antecedent is false, irrespective of the truth of the consequent. Therefore, even if p is false – that is, if Mark did not submit his report – the entire conditional is still true.

Under the same circumstances, the nonsuspended ‘Mark submitted his report late’ would be truth-valueless in light of the failed presupposition.

proposition suspension37
Proposition Suspension
  • Proposition suspension thus serves to suspend a proposition such that the resulting conditional is true in a wider range of circumstances than (the proposition corresponding to) the trigger alone with the presupposition intact.
  • When the trigger contains no propositional content distinct from that of the preposing, infelicity results:
    • OJ killed his wife, #if kill her he did.
    • John drinks, #if drink he does.
    • Barbara stole the money, #if steal it she did.
proposition suspension38
Proposition Suspension
  • When the trigger and link are nondistinct, there is nothing for the preposing to suspend that would not also include all that is asserted by the trigger.
  • Thus, these examples constitute logical tautologies and, as such, are uninformative.
  • We may conclude that proposition suspension is sensitive to Horn’s (1972) principle of felicitous suspension, i.e. that presuppositions are suspended only in the direction of increased universality.
proposition denial
Proposition Denial
  • Proposition denial, used by speakers to deny a salient proposition in the discourse for ironic effect, is the most constrained type of proposition assessment.
  • In cases of proposition denial involving understatement, or meiosis, an ironic interpretation results, in part, from the use of the preposed word order itself. That is, such preposing induces an ironic interpretation which would not necessarily be induced by the corresponding non-preposed utterance.
    • The average American family of four they are not. But for one week the Secretary of Agriculture tried to live like one. [ABC World News Tonight]
proposition denial examples
Proposition Denial, examples
  • An Eagle Scout he ain’t.

[M*A*S*H; Trapper John is trying to return a Korean girl to her family, which keeps selling her to American soldiers. He arranges to meet with her ‘manager’, who turns out to be her twelve-year-old brother. Trapper John's first glimpse of him is one in which he is smoking a cigar, sipping a martini, and cursing.]

  • The NBA’s new collective-bargaining agreement sounds as though it was written by the same people who put together the Internal Revenue Service’s long form. Simple it is not.

[The Arizona Republic, 4/3/83]

proposition denial41
Proposition Denial
    • Light as a feather this bird is not. The small rock hopper, being weighed by a keeper at the zoo in Duisburg, W. Germany, tips the scales at more than a pound. Standing in the, er, wings, is a group of penguins waiting their turn. Various birds and animals were weighed for record-keeping purposes.

[Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/21/83; caption]

  • Proposition denial is used by speakers to evaluate a salient entity in the discourse with respect to some evoked or inferable attribute represented by the link.
proposition denial42
Proposition Denial
  • It is with respect to this attribute that the speaker is evaluating the referent of the subject NP with proposition denial.
  • The evaluation associated with this construction is typically negative; speakers generally use proposition denial to convey a critical or saracastic attitude about the topic of the utterance.
proposition denial43
Proposition Denial

Indeed, informants tend to characterize preposings of this type as ‘colorful’, and some even comment that they sound ‘Yiddish’.

The humorous tone or ‘colorful quality’ usually associated with proposition denial derives from the implicit relationship that holds between the link and the prior context.

proposition denial44
Proposition Denial
    • I shall also long cherish Mickey Rooney's appearance to receive a special Oscar in recognition of his 60 years as a performer. Humble he wasn’t, but why should he be? As he told us rather curtly, he'd been the world's biggest box office star at 19 and, at 40, unable to get work. As he accepted the award as his due, he also named all of the other awards he'd received recently, just in case the academy members thought they were doing him a favor.

[New York Times, 4/17/83]

  • We can assume that the speaker believes that recipients of special Oscars generally possess the attribute ‘humility’. The link humble thus represents one of the inferable attributes associated with such individuals.
proposition denial45
Proposition Denial
  • Without an inferrable attribute, proposition denial is infelicitous:
    • A: I don’t think the TV repairman knows what he’s doing.

B1: #Handsome he’s not.

B2: #A sex symbol he’s not.

B3: #Brad Pitt he’s not.

    • A: The TV repairman keeps looking in the mirror. 

B1: Handsome he’s not.

B2: A sex symbol he’s not.

B3: Brad Pitt he’s not.

proposition denial46
Proposition Denial
  • In the context of A’s statement regarding the TV repairman’s technical skill (or lack thereof), one is hard-pressed to see how the repairman’s physical appearance is relevant.
  • But if A makes a reference to the TV repairman’s vanity, then the relevant attribute becomes inferable and proposition denial is correspondingly felicitous.
  • Another way in which the link itself may license the inference to the anchoring set is through the use of a definite NP (typically a proper name) whose referent can be seen as the epitome of the relevant attribute. Following Ward 1983, we call this type ‘epitomization’.
proposition denial47
Proposition Denial
    • The triumphant mood is broken when an usher from the movie theater next door strolls over. “You're blocking our marquee” he bellows in my ear, making it clear that I should move on – hastily. Carnegie Hall it isn't, but for an amateur musician, a bustling sidewalk can be as good a place as any to begin.

[Wall Street Journal, 10/7/83]

  • Scale: degrees of prestige associated with music venue
  • The link of epitomization represents the highest value on a scale defined by that attribute. By asserting that the referent does not occupy the high end of the scale, a negative inference is licensed.
left dislocation
Left-Dislocation
  • What distinguishes left-dislocation (LD) from preposing is the presence of a referential pronoun in the initial constituent’s canonical position.
    • I bet she had a nervous breakdown. That’s not a good thing. Gallstones, you have them out and they’re out. But a nervous breakdown, it’s very bad. [Roth 1969:162]
  • Here, the direct object pronoun them is coreferential with the ‘dislocated’ NP gallstones.
left dislocation49
Left-Dislocation

Moreover, LD is not only syntactically distinct from preposing, but is functionally distinct as well.

The preposed constituent of preposing consistently represents information standing in a contextually licensed set relationship with information evoked in or inferrable from the prior context.

left dislocation50
Left-Dislocation
  • No such requirement holds for LD. Thus, the formal distinction between the two types of construction corresponds to a functional distinction, while the formal similarity within the class of preposing constructions corresponds to a functional similarity.
left dislocation51
Left-Dislocation
  • Prince (1997) argues that there are in fact three types of LD, distinguishable on functional grounds. Of relevance here is the type of LD that Prince calls ‘simplifying LDs’:
    • A ‘simplifying’ [LD] serves to simplify the discourse processing of discourse-new entities by removing them from a syntactic position disfavored for discourse-new entities and creating a separate processing unit for them. Once that unit is processed and they have become discourse-old, they may comfortably occur in their positions within the clause as pronouns (1997:124).
left dislocation52
Left-Dislocation
  • That is, LDs of this type are reserved for entities that are new to the discourse and that are being introduced in a dispreferred (i.e. subject) position.
  • This stands in stark contrast to true preposing constructions, in which the preposed constituent must represent a discourse-old link to the prior discourse.
summary
Summary
  • Thus far, we have examined a broad range of sentence-types in which a lexically governed phrasal constituent appears in a marked preverbal position.
  • Our corpus-based study has revealed that such preposing, like other marked syntactic constructions, serves an information-structuring function.
summary54
Summary

First, preposing effects the instantiation of a salient or inferable open proposition; second, the preposed constituent represents a discourse-old link that serves to situate the information presented in the current utterance with respect to the prior context.

We have argued that such links are related to previously evoked information via a salient set relationship.

summary55
Summary
  • In addition, we have identified and analyzed two major types of preposing in English:
    • Focus preposing
    • Topicalization
  • These are distinguishable on the basis of whether or not the focused constituent appears in preposed position.
    • In the case of focus preposing, the preposed focus constitutes the link to the prior discourse, while in the case of topicalization the focus remains in canonical position, with the (non-focused) preposed constituent providing the link.
summary56
Summary

On the other hand, these properties do not hold for left-dislocation, in which a pronoun that is coreferential with the marked constituent appears in that constituent’s canonical position.

This formal difference was shown to correspond to a functional difference, while the formal similarity found within the class of preposing constructions was shown to correspond to a functional similarity.

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