3 sluicing puzzles: Number one
I don't actually know anything much about sluicing or ellipsis, but this past year I've learned a lot more than I had known, notably from a talk I heard at MIT in March by Sandy Chung, reporting one of the neatest observations I've heard in a long time, and now from a supercool seminar that Andy Barss is giving here at Arizona on the topic. Also, last year, a student in my fieldwork class at Harvard was interested in sluicing, and now this year I'm on the prelim committee of Dave Medeiros, one of our graduate students, and he's been thinking about it. Plus recently Rob Stainton sent me a paper, and then kindly invited me to come and kibitz at an ellipsis Erniefest he's organizing next year. So I'm gradually getting up to speed.
In the course of learning about it, I've run across a few related phenomena that (I think) are surprising or interesting. They may be discussed in the literature -- as I say, I'm no expert -- but so far I haven't seen 'em talked about. I don't have any immediate plans to investigate, but I'd like to tell about them, in case some one else might find them interesting.
The first one is a discovery from our fieldwork class on Finnish at Harvard last year, where undergrad Jeremy Hartman was interested in sluicing, and elicited some surprising things. The main surprise was that Finnish seems to violate Merchant's generalization concerning sluicing and preposition-stranding. This may have been noticed before, but this was the first I'd learned of it.
Merchant's generalization is this: A language L will allow preposition-stranding under sluicing iff L allows preposition stranding under regular wh-movement.
That is, in English, we can say
1. John talked to someone, but I don't remember who.
because we can say
2. Who did John talk to ?
... whereas in French, you can't say
3. *Marie a parlé à quelqu'un, mais je ne sais pas qui.
Marie has spoken to someone, but I neg know not who.
because you can't say
4. *Qui a Marie parlé à ?
Who has Marie spoken to?
In French, you can't strand a preposition when you wh-move the NP associated with it; rather, you have to pied-pipe the preposition along with the question word. That is, you have to say
5. a. À qui a Marie parlé?
To who has Marie spoken?
b. Marie a parlé à quelqu'un, mais je ne sais pas à qui.
Marie has spoken to someone, but I neg know not to who.
(Excuse any mistakes in my French, 'tis been a while. But the point about preposition stranding is true).
Anyway, the point is that the possibility of a sentence like 2 or 4 in a language is supposed to predict the possibility of a sentence like 1 or 3 (and vice versa). It's a very robust generalization, it seems. But Finnish, according to our consultant Santeri Palviainen and another Finnish friend of his, does not allow sentences like 2 or 4 but does allow sentences like 1 and 3.
Here's the illustrative examples, taken from Jeremy's paper for the course. First, examples which show you can't strand an adposition in a wh-question in Finnish:
6. a. Kene-n kaa sä leiki-t
who-gen with you.nom play-2sg
With who(m) are you playing?
b. *Kene-n sä leiki-t kaa
who-gen you.nom play-2sg with
Who are you playing with?
Because 6b is ill-formed, while 6a is ok, it's clear that the adposition cannot remain in its base position, but has to move to the front of the sentence with the wh-word.
And now, here is the sluice:
(7) Se leikki-i jonku-n kaa, mutt-en tiiä kenen (kaa)
He.nom play-3sg sb-gen with, but-neg.1sg know who-gen (with)
He’s playing with someone, but I don’t know (with) who.
The adposition kaa is perfectly omissible, indeed, Santeri suggested that the sluice is somewhat more natural without it.
Finnish is of course probably somewhat special in terms of its adposition inventory, since it's got a zillion nominal cases to play with, but it definitely has lexical items that qualify as adpositions (both pre- and postpositions, and some that are both), and they definitely can't strand in wh-questions.
Some, though, seem to do something funny when they pied-pipe along with their wh-NP. Compare (8) and (9):
(8) T tule-e ennen uu-ta
T come-3rdsg.pres before U-part
‘The T comes before the U.’
(9) Mi-tä ennen T tule-e
What-part before T come-3rdsg.pres
‘Before what does T come?’
That is, a preposition like ennen appears after the wh-phrase, rather than before it, when it pied-pipes in a wh-question. This might be the place to look in trying to reconcile Finnish with the generalization, I suspect -- it's maybe like Finnish does mandatory swiping in wh-questions, without the deletion part. (It's worth noting that in other respects, such as in exhibiting case-matching, Finnish sluicing is quite well behaved).
Anyway, that's the first thing. I'll post the other two (much less involved) observations sometime in the next week, but I'm not sure exactly when.
Update: Francophones -- check out this survey on sluicing posted by Chris over at Serendipity. How bad are those prepositionless wh-words?