World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Syntactic expletive

Article Id: WHEBN0033634712
Reproduction Date:

Title: Syntactic expletive  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Subject (grammar), Theta role, Expletive attributive, Topic-prominent language, Expletive deleted
Collection: Parts of Speech, Syntactic Entities
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Syntactic expletive

Syntactic expletives are words that perform a syntactic role but contribute nothing to meaning.[1] Expletive subjects in the form of dummy pronouns are part of the grammar of many non-pro-drop languages such as English, whose clauses normally require overt provision of subject even when the subject can be pragmatically inferred. (For an alternative theory considering expletives like there as a dummy predicate rather than a dummy subject based on the analysis of the copula see Moro 1997[2]). Consider this example:

"It is important that you work hard for the exam."

Following the eighteenth-century conception of pronoun, Bishop Robert Lowth objected that since it is a pronoun, it should have an antecedent. Since it cannot function like that in Latin, Lowth said that the usage was incorrect in English. By this approach, the correct phrasing (with the omission of the syntactic expletive "it") would be:

"That you work hard for the exam is important."

Contrast it is necessary that you ... with its Latin equivalent oportet tibi, meaning more or less 'necessitates for you'. Since subject pronouns are not used in Latin except for emphasis, neither are expletive pronouns and the problem does not arise.

Whether or not it is a pronoun here (and linguists today would say that it is one), English is not Latin; and the sentence was and is fully acceptable to native speakers of English and thus was and is grammatical. It has no meaning here; it merely serves as a dummy subject. (It is sometimes called preparatory it or prep it, or a dummy pronoun.)

Bishop Lowth did not condemn sentences that use there as an expletive, even though it is one in many sentences, for example:

"There are ten desks here."

The nomenclature used for the constituents of sentences such as this is still a matter of some dispute, but there might be called subject, are copula, and ten desks predicate nominal. Meanwhile the word here in the example above shows the semantic emptiness of there.

There is some disagreement over whether the it in such sentences as

"It is raining now."

is an expletive. Whereas it makes no sense to ask what the it means in "It is important that you work hard for the exam", some people might say that the dummy it in "It is raining now" means the weather (even if the word weather has not previously been mentioned, and even though "The weather is raining now" is unidiomatic). Thus the it in such sentences is sometimes called expletive, sometimes a weather "it". Compare with weather verb.

References

  1. ^ "Expletive | Define Expletive at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2013-10-15. 
  2. ^ Moro, A. 1997 The Raising of Predicates. Predicative Noun Phrases and the Theory of Clause Structure, Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, 80, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Further reading

  • Everaert, M.; van Riemsdijk, H; Goedemans, R. (eds) 2006 The Blackwell Companion to Syntax, 5 volumes, Blackwell, London: see "existential sentences and expletive there" in Volume 2.

References

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.