College Dorm Right-Node Wrapping
Posted by Neal on April 20, 2010
I was looking at an online photo history of college dorms, and saw this caption:
Until the 1830s, Harvard students were required to purchase, chop and haul their own firewood back to the dorms (while dodging the livestock and pigpens that crowded the university’s campus).
What do you know? Another right-node wrapping. For those new to the blog, these are a long-standing interest of mine. What we have is a coordination of transitive verbs, starting with purchase and chop. Their shared direct object is their own firewood. The complication comes with the third verb in the list: haul. If the coordination were simply
Until the 1830s, Harvard students were required to purchase, chop and haul their own firewood.
…there’d be nothing more to say. However, the verb haul comes with not only a direct object, but a directional prepositional phrase (PP): back to the dorms. This PP comes after their own firewood, the direct object that all the coordinated verbs share. Once you hit something that the coordinated verbs share, that usually means you’re done with the coordination, and everything further down the line is also shared. Going by that rule here, the sentence should mean the same as:
Until the 1830s, Harvard students were required to:
- purchase their own firewood back to the dorms,
- chop their own firewood back to the dorms, and
- haul their own firewood back to the dorms
But you can’t purchase something to someplace, or chop something to someplace. Even though the PP is in a syntactic position to go with all three verbs, semantically it only goes with the last one.