Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

RNW Example from 1813

Posted by Neal on December 1, 2010

Karl Hagen of Polysyllabic sent me the following message…

All the examples I’ve seen for FLoP coordination on your site or Language Log have been fairly recent. I don’t know if the historical dimension of the construction is of interest to you, but I just ran across this example, probably from 1813 (from Eaton Stannard Barrett’s The Heroine), and thought you might be interested:

At midnight you will hear a tapping at your door. Open it, and two men in masks will appear outside. They will blindfold, and conduct you to her.

I say “probably” 1813 because I found it in a 1909 edition [p. 152], which claims to be taken from the first edition, but the 1814 edition that is in Google Books has a modified version this passage that doesn’t have the RNW construction, so I can’t be absolutely certain that it wasn’t added later, although that doesn’t seem too likely.

Thanks, Karl! This is a good one. RNWs (right-node wrappings) you’ll recall, have the form A conj B C D, where C belongs to both A and B, while D goes only with B. In this example, A = blindfold, B = conduct, and C = you. When we arrive at you, the shared direct object for both blindfold and conduct, it looks like the coordination is closed off and finished. But wait, there’s more! Along comes to her, which like you, should also belong to both blindfold and conduct–if we’re looking at a standard, parallel coordination. It would mean “they will blindfold you to her and conduct you to her.” Since you can’t blindfold one person to another, we have to conclude that to her is only intended to go with conduct. We have ourselves an RNW.

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2 Responses to “RNW Example from 1813”

  1. The Ridger said

    RNWs (right-node wrappings) you’ll recall, have the form A conj B C D, where C belongs to both A and B, while D goes only with C.

    I think this might be clearer if you said “… D only goes with B”

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