Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

More RNWs

Posted by Neal on January 15, 2010

Right-node raisings (aka “Friends in Low Places” coordinations) continue to trickle in from my readers. Here’s one from Ben Zimmer, who has contributed several of the others in the growing collection:

This past spring semester I have been living and working in Washington, DC for a congressman. (link, via Wonkette)

Parsed in parallel manner, it would mean that she lives in Washington, DC for a congressman (the weird part), and that she works in Washington, DC for a congressman (the unremarkable part).

Now for the strangest RNW yet, sent my way by Blar:

A woman has taken out a temporary restraining order against Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, according to online court records. On Friday afternoon, a judge ordered that Suggs cannot abuse, contact or enter the woman’s home. (link)

Taken as a parallel coordination, it would mean:

  1. Suggs cannot abuse the woman’s home.
  2. Suggs cannot contact the woman’s home.
  3. Suggs cannot enter the woman’s home.

In context, though, the first two propositions don’t make sense. Clearly the writer means Suggs cannot abuse or contact the woman herself. So in this RNW, it’s not some adverbial phrase that wraps around the verbs’ shared direct object; it’s the possessive suffix ‘s plus the possessed noun that follows. I don’t know if my analysis will cover this one or not — I’ll have to reread my own paper to see if it will.

UPDATE, Jan. 15, 2010: Oops, I forgot one that I heard earlier this week, just before a commercial on a daytime talk show:

We’ll talk to Carnie Wilson about losing and then gaining weight again.

Now it may be that Wilson has been on a weight-loss roller coaster, so that again could apply to both losing and gaining. But the then is turning me toward the RNW analysis, such that again is intended to apply only to gaining.

6 Responses to “More RNWs”

  1. Nik said

    My guess is that no-one involved thinks this is standard, and that a sub-editor at the Sun altered “the home of the woman” to “the woman’s home” in error, presumably without reading the whole coordination.

  2. Faldone said

    I don’t see that using “the home of the woman” would help. It’s still saying that Suggs can’t abuse or contact the home. I suspect that RNW is considered by many to be a perfectly normal construction. “I know what I mean and you know what I mean so what’s the problem?”

    • Neal said

      Changing it to the home of the woman could theoretically make it parallel, turning it from a right-node wrapping to a more conventional case of right-node raising (RNR). That is, we’d be coordinating the verb-phrase-lacking-a-final-noun-phrase abuse, the verb-phrase-lacking-a-final-noun-phrase contact, and the verb-phrase-lacking-a-final-noun-phrase enter the home of. But to get this, you’d have to have an obvious and severe intonation break before the woman. It would be very marked, and most people would prefer just saying abusing or contacting the woman, or entering her home if it were a choice between that and RNR.

  3. Angus said

    The example in (1) need not be RNR… it could be “deep anaphora”.

    The example in (2) could be just VP coordination with resumptive pronouns…

    2) Suggs cannot abuse (her_i), contact (her_i) or enter the woman_i’s

    Sentence 3) does not need any prosodic contrast, and so I think it is very unlikely that it is RNR… rather: [[VP and VP]_VP [PP]] with the other PP extraposed out of the second conjunct.

    3)This past spring semester I have been living and working in Washington, DC for a congressman

    • Neal said

      Since I didn’t number my examples, I assume by (1) you mean the living and working example. What do you mean by “deep anaphora” in this example?

      In (2), there are no pronouns at all, much less resumptive ones.

      In (3), yes, I don’t think it’s RNR, either. I do think it should be parsed as you say, but devising a rule for extraposing the for a congressman out of the second conjunct is precisely the problem, isn’t it?

  4. Angus said

    Uuuugh, sorry, I must have written this half-drunk. Here’s a second attempt:

    In (3), the PP could be extraposed inside the second conjunct while the locative “in Washington” is deleted from the first conjunct.

    [[living (PP)] and [working PP PP]]

    I think the unstressed pronouns in (2′) can be dropped in sentence final position, just like they can be dropped in sentence initially: (you) wanna dance?

    2′) Suggs cannot abuse her_i, contact her_i or enter the woman_i’s

    As for “We’ll talk to Carnie Wilson about losing and then gaining weight again” I suspect that whatever licenses this is similar to what licences “I needed to read a book and Mary also needs []” and “The white horse is fast, and the black (one) also”.


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