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Seminar support sheet seminar 5: The Distribution of That-Complements

A.1. Extraposition - a very frequent structure in English; not only with


that-clauses, but also with infinitival ones.>> a construction where the
expletive (empty) pronoun it appears in
front position, followed by the complement clause in peripheral position
(i.e. the clause is extraposed to the right)
Subject Clause
unextraposed: That Dorothy flew from Kansas was a surprise to everybody.
extraposed: It was a surprise to everybody that Dorothy flew from Kansas.
Direct Object Clause
unextraposed: The plumber wrongly figured out that the pipe needed
replacing.
extraposed: The plumber wrongly figured it out that the pipe needed
replacing.
Prepositional Object
unextraposed:Can you swear that the accused spent the evening with
you?
extraposed: Can you swear to it that the accused spent the evening with
you?
>> Explain the asymmetry of Extraposition from Subject vs. Extraposition from Object
(Why is the former more frequent and more marked than the latter?)
A.2. Instances of Obligatory Extraposition:
1. with cases of SAI (Subject-Aux. Inversion), when the subject is a clause (not a DP!)
The story is surprising. >> Is the story surprising? (SAI)
That he came late is surprising >> * Is that he came late surprising?
OK Is it surprising that he came late? (extraposed)
2. with unaccusative verbs such as seem, appear, happen, etc.
* That he came late seems. > It seems that he came late.
* That she is smart appears > It seems that she is smart.
* That he came late so happens > It so happens that he came late.
BUT ok That he came late seems unlikely / ok That she is smart appears as obvious to
many people.
3. with quasi-idiomatic expression that require the expletive it in their structure:
consider it + adj + that complement/wh-complement/infinitive:
find it + adj + that complement/wh-complement/infinitive
rumour has it that
take it from me that
I consider it strange that he came early/when people stare at me /to have seminars with 40
people
I always find funny that people pick their noses/ when people pick their noses// I find it
difficult to learn syntax
B. Topicalization: the reverse of extraposition (i.e., movement of the
clause to the left periphery, with no expletive it); a subject clause which
is initially placed in the sentence is said to be topicalized.
That my horse is the best in the world is absolutely evident. (topicalized
Subject Clause)

It is absolutely evident that my horse is the best in the world. (extraposed


Subject Clause)
!! direct object clauses can equally appear topicalized:
That Freddie likes to appear in kids nightmares, I cannot deny.
Because Extraposition appears much more frequently in English we
consider it the unmarked case; topicalization appears mostly when a
writer/speaker wishes to create a special effect of
emphasis >> the marked case
C. Clause Shift & Heavy NP Shift
1. Heavy NP Shift: an NP is said to be heavy when it has a large stretch of
modifiers
accompanying it: the NPs the letter or the red letter are much lighter than
the NP the letter which he had just read.
The rule of Heavy NP Shift stipulates that the heavy NP should be
moved to the right end of the sentence for semantic reasons; it
challenges the fixed word order rules in English, according to which a
verb should not be normally separated from its obligatory
complement.
Compare:
He threw the letter which he had just decoded into the basket.
to
He threw into the basket the letter which he had just decoded.
2. Clause Shift similar to HNPS >> allows for the clausal structure to
be moved to the right end of the sentence.
!! Extraposition vs. Clause Shift
> they both involve movement of a clause to the right BUT
> with Clause Shift there is no expletive pronoun left behind and it
operates only on object clauses.(the clausal constituent is moved over
an adverb phrase or a prepositional phrase):
*Mary said [that she wanted to drive] quietly. >> Mary said quietly that
she wanted to drive.
*They wrote that the firm was going bankrupt to the lawyers. >> They
wrote ti to the lawyers [that the firm was going bankrupt]i
D. When Can We Delete That?
1. impossible to delete that in topicalized clauses, if an object clause
has been extraposed or if it introduces a that-complement attributive:
That he will ever come back is a question still. >> * he will ever come
back is a question still.
I like it that he was here. >> *I like it he was here.
The idea that she is cheating on him is preposterous. >> *The idea she
is..is preposterous
2. it is possible to delete that:
- if the verb/adjective/noun requiring the complement clause is a
frequently used item
(think, say, tell, guess, etc)

He said (that) he had borrowed her money. vs *He objected it was


already too late to leave.
- if it follows the main verb/adjective/noun directly, but it is usually
required if the
complement clause is separated from the main verb by intervening
material:
He said (that) he didnt want to come vs. He said in a very low voice
*(that) he didnt want..
3. it is obligatory to delete that when the subject of the complement
clause is questioned or relativized. [When the object is
questioned/relativized, that is optional] the that-trace effect
I think John likes syntax. >> Who do you think t *that likes syntax?
I think John hates syntax. >> What do you think (that) John hates t?
Why? >> who is the subject of the that-clause. The presence of that can
lead to a double subject construction, which is ungrammatical in English