Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Non-Stranded Preposition + Relative Who(m): Syntactic Discussion and Corpus-Related Problems (1). (Linguistics)

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Non-Stranded Preposition + Relative Who(m): Syntactic Discussion and Corpus-Related Problems (1). (Linguistics)

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Aarts (1994a) summarises the pronouncements on the "correct" use of the relative pronouns who and whom by three influential 18th and early 19th century grammarians (2) as follows:

1. Who should be used as subject only;

2. Whom should be used as direct object and as complement of a preposition, both in clauses where the preposition precedes the pronoun (to whom) and in clauses in which the preposition is stranded (whom ... to).

As is well known, actual linguistic behaviour does not conform to these prescriptions. This fact has been taken into account in modern grammars of the "descriptive" tradition such as e.g., Quirk et al. (1985) (=CGEL). Their authors, Aarts (1994a: 73) writes, "point out that it is necessary to distinguish between formal and informal style, and they regard who as grammatically correct in all contexts except when immediately preceded by a preposition." (3) In the present paper, I concentrate on the "odd" case, i.e. where the relative pronoun is the complement of a non-stranded preposition such as in the person to whom he spoke. I will discuss the generalisation that in this case "the choice of whom is obligatory" (CGEL: 1249) from the perspective of generative syntax and relate it to corpus linguistic findings which cast some doubt on its validity. As the question to be addressed concerns the inner structure of the relative clause rather than its relation to its syntactic environment, the distinction between res trictive and non-restrictive relative clauses can be and is ignored here.

2. Syntactic discussion of relative whom/who as complements of prepositions

The rule that relative whom is obligatory if governed and preceded by a prep position seems to be supported by a questionnaire based investigation and a corpus study mentioned by Aarts (1994a). In the questionnaire presented to Louisiana State University students by Walsh -- Walsh (1989), no student substituted who and all students substituted whom for the gap in

(1) That man to _____ you were speaking is my math teacher.

Indeed, Aarts (1994a: 74) correctly points out that the questionnaire technique does not test actual usage. But Aarts (1994a: 76 ff.) reports that Quirk's (1968) corpus of educated spoken English yields the same result as regards the aspect in focus here: There is no instance of who as complement of a non-stranded preposition in that corpus. (4)

From the point of view of a generative syntactician working in a more recent framework (as reflected by Culicover 1997, Roberts 1997, Radford 1997, Haegeman -- Gueron 1999), these results may seem disturbing. There appears to be no syntactic reason to account for the judgement that (2a) is grammatical and (2) ungrammatical given that (2) and (2) are grammatical, about which modern descriptive and didactic grammars as well as dictionaries seem to be unanimous: (5)

(2)  a.  That man to whom you were speaking is my math teacher.
     b.  That man to who you were speaking is my math teacher:
     c.  That man whom you were speaking to is my math teacher. (6)
     d.  That man who you were speaking to is my math teacher.

Indeed, there is the classic account in the framework of early transformational grammar by Klima (1964). He proposed two "styles" of English, the first allowing for Prep + whom and whom ... Prep, the second allowing for Prep + whom and who ... Prep. The two styles differ with respect to the sequence of application of two transformational rules, Case marking and Wh-attachment, which operate in that order in the first style and in the reversed order in the second.

In [G.sub.2] [i.e. the grammar of style 1], the rule of case marking depends on the position of the elements of the sentences as they occur after Wh-attachment. The difference in order of rules reflects the fact that while in [L.sub1] [i.e. style 1] case marking is dependent on function (namely on whether or not the element is a grammatical object), in [L. …

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