Friday, July 15, 2005

Trevelyan II

Here's another one of the promised series of posts on Trevelyan's History of England. This one, from p. 282, is just a sentence that caught my eye, mainly because it seems like a kind of wild example of reference to the temporal properties of groups of individuals, but also just because it's a pretty amazing sentence, preposed appositive nominal modifer and all (what is up with those, anyway?). I post it in honor of my temporally-minded friends, such as BC, and also RM, who spent a lot of time in our grad school days thinking about professors in the 50s who were children in the 30s and so on. It's about the emergence of an independent English middle class out of old feudal society.
In the Fifteenth Century great founders of chantries to save their own souls and perpetuate their own fame, with a strong tendency to anti-clericalism in early Tudor times, they became Bible-readers and Reformation men for the most part as the Sixteenth Centruy drew on.

(...It seemed temporally interesting to me because of course it's not the same individuals who are founding chantries in the Fifteenth Century and reading the bible in the Sixteenth, although both properties are predicated of the single pronoun 'they', which I guess must then refer to the abstract individuals making up a constant subpart of English society, identifiable as the same abstract individuals across time, although the particular individuals instantiating these abstract archetypes must be changing. Or something.)

Actually, maybe you need the whole preceding paragraph. It might be that in that context, the whole temporal reference thing isn't quite as weird; at least it makes clear who the abstract individuals are (cloth merchants, weavers and sheep farmers). The paragraph is independently interesting; it's about the tremendous importance of the wool trade to the development of an independent moneyed class in England, which in turn had enormous ramifications (hyuk, ramifications, get it?) for English political structure. In it Trevelyan expresses a firm belief in capitalism, which is interesting when one considers the historical backdrop against which he was writing, in the early 1920s: the Russian Revolution has just occurred. He's also contrasting the development of independent and national allegiance with the feudal allegiance to 'corporations' — the Church, aristocratic class, and professional guild — which had previously transcended national boundaries. I have found it interesting to think about the relationship of this notion of what a corporation is with the modern version.
The influence of the cloth trade was national and individualist, not cosmopolitain or corporate. All through the Wars of the Roses, through the changes and violences of Henry's Reformation and Mary's Counter-Reformation, in the golden days of Elizabeth, on through the civil wars of King and Parliament, enterprising cloth merchants, weavers and sheep-farmers were making and spreading wealth among many classes high and low, by their own individual initiative, subject only to State protection and control. They were at once more individualist and more nationalist than the mediaeval churchmen and nobles whose place they were slowly taking as leaders of the English, for they had no corporate sense of belongingi to a cosmopolitan order, like the mediaeval Bishop, monk, noble and burgher. They had therefore no jealousy of the Tudor national monarchy , until the House of Commons engendered in them a new sentiment of democratic co-operation on a purely national basis.
The Protestant religion, setting up the domestic and individual forum for conscience and Bible study, suited these men and their character well. In the Fifteenth Century great founders of chantries to save their own souls and perpetuate their own fame, with a strong tendency to anti-clericalism in early Tudor times, they became Bible-readers and Reformation men for the most part as the Sixteenth Centruy drew on.

(It's important to keep in mind that during much of the transitional period under discussion, bible-reading ('Lollardry') was a radical, anti-establishment activity, punishable by any number of horrible torments, up to and including being burned alive.)

That preposed appositive is interesting, isn't it? I think it's an appositive, anyway. Compare (i) and (ii):

(i) Candace, a skilled doctor even in her youth, once saved the life of a child.
(ii) A skilled doctor even in her youth, Candace once saved the life of a child.

But with a pronoun instead of a proper name, in (iii) and (iv), I think only the preposed version is good:

(iii) *She, a skilled doctor even in her youth, once saved the life of a child.
(iv) A skilled doctor even in her youth, she once saved the life of a child.

And, as Trevelyan's sentence shows, the appositive in such cases can be *really* preposed, across other preposed? nonrestrictive modifiers (the 'with' clause). If I replace the 'they' in T's sentence with 'cloth merchants,' and try to put the various modifiers after the subject, the appositive cannot be separated from its modifiee by the 'with' clause:

(v) The cloth merchants, great founders of chantries to save their own souls in the Fifteenth century, with a strong tendency to anti-clericalism, became Bible-readers...
(vi) *The cloth merchants, with a strong tendency to anti-clericalism, great founders of chantries to save their own souls, became Bible-readers.

So the 'with'-clause can't intervene between the head noun and its appositive in the noun-appositive order...but in my judgment in the preposed order, the 'with'-clause must intervene, i.e. come second:

(vii) *With a strong tendency to anti-clericalism, great founders of chantries to save their own souls, they became Bible-readers.

Certainly the order chosen by T is better than (vii), no? Probably we need better examples; the temporal order of the chantries and the anti-clericalism might be getting in the way. But anyway, seems like there's some interesting things to find out about these constructions!

2 Comments:

Blogger Lance said...

Non-preposed appositives of this sort aren't impossible with pronouns. Maybe they just need focus:

(i) Emily was pleased when the department hired Adam. She, a phonologist with a background in focus, very much hoped that he, a semanticist with experience in phonetics, would be willing to collaborate.

Especially in that embedded clause, I don't think you're going to easily get a preposed appositive:

(ii) *Emily very much hoped that, a semanticist with experience in phonetics, {he/Adam} would be willing to collaborate.

(And don't even think of preposing it all the way to the beginning of the sentence, or you'll have the Etiquette Mavens at Language Log come down on you like a ton of bricks.)

Not that I have the brain for this sort of thing right now. Get back to me in a few months.

8:32 PM  
Blogger hh said...

Hey, didn't notice your comment till just now! I agree that they're possible when the pronoun is stressed, probably contrastivelyfocussed... but that's the point, no? When a pronoun is focussed, it behaves more like a regular DP/NP, and less like its real pronominal self.
...and you're absolutely right about the embedded context being completely awful in (ii). Wonder if it's related to the situation with parentheticals like 'I think', which seem to be restricted in similar ways, (I think). :)

9:35 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home