- For Teachers
I'm doing some grammatical analysis for uni, and I have come across this utterance which has thrown me of a little bit: "The lady gave them something to eat". So far I have analysed:
The lady gave them something to eat
Clause: S V Oi Od
Phrase: D N v Pron(p) Pron(o)
(Apologies in advance if that doesn't format correcly)
My problem is the 'to eat' part. I think the 'to' is a prepostion, but the presence of the verb makes me think it might be the particle. Can you just have a verb sitting on its own like that?
Someone shed some light on it, please.
'To' here is etymologically a preposition but since, in real functional terms, it lacks any of the normal attributes of a preposition (governing a verbal rather than a nominal form), we generally reckon the combination [to V] simply an 'infinitive' (sometimes a 'to-infinitive'), and distinguish it from the one-word nonfinite form [V] by referring to the latter as a 'plain' or 'bare' infinitive.
The infinitive marker, 'to', is an oblique preposition, right? If I get Philo right, he says 'to V' is not subdivided to 'to' plus 'V' anymore. However, we have 'V' that is distinguished from 'to V' by a different name-label.
That is correct in my view. The to-infinitive functions virtually as a hyphenated compound.
Biber's SGSWE says 'to' is a function word and within the family of function words it comprises one of the three single-word classes, the other two being the existential 'there' and the negator 'not'.
The infinitive marker 'to' is another unique word (not to be confused with the common preposition 'to'). Its chief use is as a complementizer preceding the base form of verbs. In addition, it occurs as part of two complex subordinators (in order to, so as to) expressing purpose.
Philo, would you please look at this :
Well, you can always invent new categories for words that are difficult to label under the old, and this use of 'to' is certainly unique. I have no objections to calling it an "infinitive-marker", a "complementizer", a "pre-complementizer" (or even an "I-have-no-idea-what-to-call-this-wordizer") if linguists wish to do so. I still maintain, however, that, in practical terms, it differs little from a hyphenated verbal compound.
I do, however - as you've raised the subject - disagree with taking this practice to the extent of needlessly reclassifying words that are perfectly well served by the conventional form-class system: 'there' (whether as in There is a book on the table or as in The book is there on the table) and 'not' are adverbs, plain and simple!
Philo, I am not trying to pick holes in what you say and I hope you can see that. We are talking about the English language. A pro linguist (you) and someone who deals with grammar in his free time just for fun (me). I am saying this because I detected slight resentment in the tone of your previous message.
And I think that 'not' is an adverb, but it is unique in itself, as Kondorosi said. I don't know about all Germanic languages, but I believe German has 'nein' for no, and 'nicht' for negation. Whereas Latin languages (except French, I'd say) just use their 'no' equivalent.
This would lead me to say that 'not' is at least a unique adverb.
Also, thank you for answering my original post. I generally thought it was a verb particle + the bare infinitive. My main reason for doubting it was because I didn't realise you could have a verb at the end like that. But that leads me to ask, how can the sentence "The lady gave them something to eat" be split up into phrases; noun phrase, verb phrase etc..
Last edited by Linguist__; 12-Dec-2009 at 12:57.