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  1. #11
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    Default Re: Gerund or participle?

    Ah, I think I'm beginning to understand. Thanks.

    The point that threw me off was this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    Writing well is hard. <subject>
    Note, participles cannot function as subjects; gerunds can take adverbs; they are, after all, verbal; e.g., Eating well is important.
    Especially helpful is the line: "Gerunds can take adverbs; they are, after all, verbal". I got confused on that account. I see that now.

    Still, I'm not convinced, yet, even when looking at structure (as opposed to meaning). First, I disagree that "Writing" is the subject, here. "Writing well" is. Not a gerund, not participle, but a clause (whether you call it a gerundial clause or a participle clause or a gerund-participial clause). Dependant clauses can occupy the subject-slot:

    What I am trying to do is to write well.

    That I write well has been disputed.

    To write well is my ambition.

    I see no way to state that a participial clause cannot function as a subject without being circular. But that's probably not what they'd argue anyway. It's up to me to prove that "Writing well" cannot be a gerund.

    Above I tried to argue that "writing" in "writing well" functions as a participle, because it's modified by an adverb. My reasoning was that, because gerunds are nominal verbs they should be modified by adjective:

    Frequent writing will benefit your style. (Gerund)
    ?Frequently writing will benefit your style. (Participle)
    Writing frequently will benefit your style. (Participle)

    However, this is too simplistic:

    Their writing frequently is admirable. (Gerund? Participle?)
    (*Their frequently writing...)

    I could probably save my terminology by theoretical convolutions, but I'd probably cut myself on Occam's razor and bleed to death.

    Am I on the right track?

    You can access it on-line. Go to your search engine and type in the title.
    I've done that. I have to register and pay, either for a subscription I can't afford, or for the article only. The price for the article would afford me a train-ticket and an afternoon in a specialised library. I risk that they don't have the Journal of Linguistics (unlikely), but there'd be plenty of books and journals around to distract me.

    If you have a link for a free version, I'd be grateful, but I doubt there is one. (And if I talk too much just tell me to shut up. )

  2. #12
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    Default Re: Gerund or participle?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    I have to register and pay,....

    If you have a link for a free version, I'd be grateful, but I doubt there is one. (And if I talk too much just tell me to shut up. )
    Here's the link from Google:

    Seung-Ah Lee gerund-participle - Google Search

  3. #13
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    Default Re: Gerund or participle?

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post

    Hooray! I can access the article.

    (It's the same page my googling found, but I was redirected to a registration page. [I even had two near-identical links; both re-directed me.] Strange. What's going on? If I could find a workaround, I'd have a lot of interesting articles to read!)

    Thanks a lot. I appreciate your patience.

  4. #14
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    Default Re: Gerund or participle?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    First, I disagree that "Writing" is the subject, here. "Writing well" is.
    I agree with you. My focus at the time was on ing forms alone;i.e., that Working was part of the subject. I'll try be more careful next time.

    Note that, Writing well can be replaced by pronouns;e.g., It, What, and That, whereas participles cannot be replaced in that way, because they function as adjectives.

    Writing well is hard.
    It is hard.
    What is hard?
    That is hard.

    You could also add implied Doing:

    Writing well is hard.
    Doing it is hard.
    Doing what is hard?
    Doing that is hard.




    Adding in the word doing has this way of making the gerund seem like an action a participle would express, doesn't it? Well, it does, and it should, so don't second guess yourself, but keep in mind that it's not functioning as a participle. Ing words, participles and gerunds, have tense features, have voice features, can be modified by adverbs, and they also take objects, just like verbs - because, as you know, they are verbs lexically. Webster Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary,
    "the English verbal noun in -ing that has the function of a [noun] and at the same time shows the verbal features of tense, voice, and capacity to take adverbial qualifiers and to govern objects" cited here with the following example and explanation and "!" in brackets,


    "His writing all night long tired him." ("Writing" is the subject!)

    I assume '"Writing" is the subject' meant, what I had meant, that "Writing" is part of the subject. His writing as we know is the true subject.


    In the lexicon, writing is a under the category Verb and when that word hits the sentence, the syntax, it becomes nominal, either a noun = subject or object position or an adjective = nominal modifier. Its position in the syntax determines its function.
    words ending in -ing. If they are participles, then they must, like all adjectives, modify a noun or pronoun. If they are gerunds, then you must treat them as you would normal nouns. Notice, for example, the difference in meaning between the following two sentences.
    I saw him cooking in the kitchen yesterday.
    I saw his cooking in the kitchen yesterday.
    In the first sentence, the object of the verb saw is the pronoun him, and the word cooking is an adjective (i.e., a participle) describing him, so that the sentence means, in effect, "I saw him in the act of cooking yesterday." In the second sentence, the object of the verb saw is the gerund cooking, which here functions as a noun. The second sentence thus means that you saw the cooking which he was doing or had done; it does not assert anything about your having seen him.
    How's it coming so far, the mental gymnastics? I'll let it sit with you awhile. When you're ready, we can continue with the last two examples, below. I leave you with the four basic properties of gerunds (See below) and some food for thought. All the best.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    Frequent writing will benefit your style. (Gerund)

    Their writing frequently is admirable. (Gerund? Participle?)



    Gerunds have four basic properties. They are summarized in http://bulba.sdsu.edu/~malouf/papers...verbal gerundsby Robert Maloff (Stanford University):
    a. A verbal gerund takes the same complements as the verb from which it is derived.
    b. Verbal gerunds are modified by adverbs and not by adjectives.
    c. The entire verbal gerund phrase has the external distribution of an NP.
    d. The subject of the gerund is optional and, if present, can be either a genitive or an accusative NP.
    Drawing from property a. above: A verbal gerund takes the same complements as the verb from which it is derived.

    Verb: Write (something) frequently
    Gerund: Writing (something) frequently will...

    The verb write takes an object (e.g., 'something') and that object can be stated or implied. The gerund(ival) form follows that pattern, too.

    Note that, adjectives, which is how participles function, cannot serve as subjects or objects, even a predicate adjective isn't privy to the position object; e.g., They are happy ('happy' is a predicate adjective, and never described as an object). Adjectives modify nouns, so if Writing is a participle in Writing well is hard what nominal does it modify?

    Food for thought
    Given the phrase swimming cap, how should the ing word be interpreted, as a gerund or as a participle, and why? Moreover, how would a Generative framework deal with it?

    All the best.
    Last edited by BobK; 21-Mar-2007 at 10:49. Reason: Malouf link fixed by BobK

  5. #15
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    Default Re: Gerund or participle?

    First, thanks again for pointing out and linking to Lee's article. This must be the best (translation: intuitively understandable for me) and most helpful thing I've read on the subject so far (I've read most of it and left some for later). :)

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    Writing well is hard.
    Doing it is hard.
    Doing what is hard?
    Doing that is hard.

    Adding in the word doing has this way of making the gerund seem like an action a participle would express, doesn't it? Well, it does, and it should, so don't second guess yourself, but keep in mind that it's not functioning as a participle.
    After reading Lee's article I'm a bit clearer about my position. Turns out, I do agree that, on the word-level, the distinction between "present participle" and "gerund" is meaningless, but that I used to be mired in the old terminology, and thus confusion (because my terminology didn't fit my position).

    I would have called gerunds only "verbal nouns" such as "Milton's writing of Paradise Lost"; and I would have confused some similar constructions ("Milton's writing Paradise Lost") with this constructions, whereas I would have referred to others as present participles ("Milton writing PL"; "Milton, writin PL, ..." etc.). [What I would have called "gerunds", Lee calls "derived nominals" as opposed to gerunds.] I would have confused (in Lee's terminology) "possessive gerunds" with "derived nominals", for example; my lense wasn't adjusted finely enough. On the other hand, I would have referred to (again Lee's terminology) "accusative gerunds" as "participial phrases" modifying a noun.

    "Functions as a participle" would have confused me (and might still do, but I'm quite confused anyway, right now, so I wouldn't know ), as I thought of the "participle" as a verb-derived form that can fill many function (modifying nouns, like adjectives; forming the progressive etc.), but the idea that participles have functions themselves would not have occured to me.

    Right now, I'd argue that the question is mostly terminological/conceptual. I see a subject, "writing well". I see the subject as a clause. The clause can be referred to as a "verbal" or "verbal noun phrase" or, perhpas even a "gerundive". But phrase-internal, I'd still argue that "writing" is a present participle; the word isn't used as a noun, but as a verb; what's used as a noun is the entire phrase.

    I draw analogies from other phrases/clauses: "To write well is imperative," for example. Here "write" is clearly a to-infinitive (I really should stop using the word "clearly", hehe). Both "to write" in subject position and "writing" in subject position are, the way I see them, non-finite verb-clauses that function nominally, but both "write" and "writing" are still verbs; "write" the infinitive (part 2 of the to-infinitive; say that out loud ), "writing" the present-participle.

    I have the hypothesis that for non-finite verb clauses in subject position the subject is not expressed.

    To err is human. (Not that although "to err" expresses the infinitive, only "err" is actually a verb; the entire phrase is a verb-phrase, though, and it can be used in a nominal function.)

    The participles, in my usage, don't function much differently.

    What I'm trying to come to terms now is usage like this:

    Note that, adjectives, which is how participles function, cannot serve as subjects or objects, even a predicate adjective isn't privy to the position object; e.g., They are happy ('happy' is a predicate adjective, and never described as an object). Adjectives modify nouns, so if Writing is a participle in Writing well is hard what nominal does it modify?
    Again, I'm not sure how much of my objection to this kind of usage is terminological, and how much is conceptual. (My head's swimming, and 's is a contraction for "is" and I'm not referring to "my head's metaphoric swimming" but rather to the action of "swimming" that my head performs. Metaphorically. )

    Food for thought
    Given the phrase swimming cap, how should the ing word be interpreted, as a gerund or as a participle, and why? Moreover, how would a Generative framework deal with it?
    Swimming = nominal verb (gerund), or "derived nominal" in Lee's terms.
    Function = nominal modifier of cap.

    Generative framework:

    cap for swimming --> for-swimming cap (fronting: "for swimming"); --> swimming cap (deletion: "for")

    (The problem I have with generative grammar is that the researchers seem to shine a torch into a blackbox and find a mirror. It's hard to correct for researcher bias. It's a great approach for creative writers, though. )

    Cheers,

    Eddie

  6. #16
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    Default Re: Gerund or participle?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    ...phrase-internal, I'd still argue that "writing" is a present participle; the word isn't used as a noun, but as a verb
    I understand. However, three problems arise with the view that Writing functions as a verb or as a participle in Writing well is hard, given that

    1. In English, a verb requires a subject; the subject can be stated or implied.
    Problem: What is the subject of Writing?

    2. In English, there can be only one tense-carrying verb per simplex sentence.
    Problem: Our example sentence appears to have two tense-carrying verbs.

    3. In English, subjects and objects are nouns.
    Problem: Can we find sentences that house adjectives or verbs as subjects? Note, as subjects and as objects to-infinitives function as nouns. In fact, to-infinitives are gerunds iff, that is, you omit the "ing form" of the definition.



    Note that, moreover,
    Participles and participial phrases must be placed as close to the nouns or pronouns they modify as possible, and those nouns or pronouns must be clearly stated.

    A participial phrase is set off with commas when it: a) comes at the beginning of a sentence, b) interrupts a sentence as a nonessential element, or c) comes at the end of a sentence and is separated from the word it modifies.
    Given our example, Writing well is hard, what does Writing well modify? Where's its noun?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    I draw analogies from other phrases/clauses: "To write well is imperative," for example. Here "write" is clearly a to-infinitive (I really should stop using the word "clearly", hehe). Both "to write" in subject position and "writing" in subject position are, the way I see them, non-finite verb-clauses that function nominally, but both "write" and "writing" are still verbs; "write" the infinitive (part 2 of the to-infinitive; say that out loud ), "writing" the present-participle.
    OK. So, in the lexicon, which is another way of saying, the Grammar's dictionary, write and writing are described as verbs. Right. But, in the syntax they can have different functions.

    Every word has a form and a function. The word book, for example, is a noun in form, but put it before the noun fair and it becomes an adjective in function: book fair. It's still a noun but it functions as an adjective. It tells us what kind of fair. Make book the nucleus of the sentence and it becomes a verb: Let's book our holiday. Similarly, writing is a verb in form, but put it after a possessive pronoun and it becomes a noun in function, a gerund: Her writing is good. Use it to modify a noun and it becomes an adjective, a participle:

    Writing quickly, Mags finished her email.
    Mags writing quickly finished her email.
    Mags finished her email, writing quickly.

    Now compare,

    Writing quickly is hard.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    I have the hypothesis that for non-finite verb clauses in subject position the subject is not expressed.

    To err is human. (Not that although "to err" expresses the infinitive, only "err" is actually a verb; the entire phrase is a verb-phrase, though, and it can be used in a nominal function.)
    It is a verb lexically, but not structurally. And it could in fact have an unstated subject, or at least it's been argued before (i.e., in the literature look under pro and PRO). If that's the case, then 1. above (provided here below) is accounted for, but that still leaves problems 2. and 3.

    1. In English, a verb requires a subject; the subject can be stated or implied.
    Problem: What is the subject of Writing?

    I like your take on swimming cap. As for my take, well, I'm still thinking it over.
    Last edited by Casiopea; 20-Mar-2007 at 15:12.

  7. #17
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    Default Re: Gerund or participle?

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    1. In English, a verb requires a subject; the subject can be stated or implied.
    Problem: What is the subject of Writing?
    Answer: "Writing" has no subject; it's a non-finite verb in a non-finite clause.

    2. In English, there can be only one tense-carrying verb per simplex sentence.
    Problem: Our example sentence appears to have two tense-carrying verbs.
    Again, "writing" isn't tensed; it's a non-finite verb.

    3. In English, subjects and objects are nouns.
    Problem: Can we find sentences that house adjectives or verbs as subjects? Note, as subjects and as objects to-infinitives function as nouns. In fact, to-infinitives are gerunds iff, that is, you omit the "ing form" of the definition.
    Hehe. Yes, we can: some non-finite verbs (present-participles and to-infinitives) can appear in subject position. If you're arguing that this is not possible because "In English, subjects and objects are nouns" and therefore participles and to-infinitives have to function like nouns, you're argument is circular. In other words, no, I can't find such sentences, as you reject them by your definitions. It's a problem of terminology.

    I'm not fond of the idea of assigning functions like that. It's confusing has no benefits I've ever been able to discern. I like my terminology neat (as I'm a messy thinker): verb, noun, adjective... = form; subject, object, complement, adjunct... = function. (If I'm missing something here, tell me.)

    So:

    Subject[Writing well] + predicate[is hard.] -- legend: Function[form]

    Why is "writing" a verb? Because it's modified by an adverb. How do I know that "well" is an adverb? Because of it's form. Why can't I determine whether "writing" is a verb or a noun from its form? Because the forms are identical:

    Subject[Writing] + predicate[is enjoyable].

    This is ambiguous; I can modify it with both adjectives and adverbs:

    Subject[Good writing/Writing well] + predicate[is enjoyable].

    In "Writing is enjoyable," "writing" does not function as a noun; it functions as a subject. The intermediary step of assigning inherent functions to forms isn't something I've ever felt the need to do. It's often been a source of confusion, though.

    Similarly:

    The word book, for example, is a noun in form, but put it before the noun fair and it becomes an adjective in function: book fair. It's still a noun but it functions as an adjective.
    I'd argue it functions as a "modifier", not as an adjective. To use "modifier of nouns/pronouns" synonymous with "adjective" and "modifier of verbs/adjectives/adverbs" as synonymous with "adverbs" causes confusion and has never me served me well. (I have no problem saying that "adverbs" can function as "modifyers" to other adverbs. I have no problem saying that nouns can function as "modifyers" for adjectives ["trigger happy", "stone cold"].)

    "To err" is a verb phrase in the infinitive. It can function as subject. That's about it. To say "In English, subjects are nouns," isn't wrong; it's just a different way of putting things, and, for me, semantic quicksand. I do speak the language, but - left to my own devices - I prefer not to. (Can you tell I tend towards structuralist grammars? )

    OK. So, in the lexicon, which is another way of saying, the Grammar's dictionary, write and writing are described as verbs. Right. But, in the syntax they can have different functions.
    See, this is where I have difficulties with the language of traditional grammar. Why does it conflate form with function? What is gained by assigning inherent function to a form, before assigning syntactic function in context? Is it a desire to fill "lexical entries" with indepedent (non-relational) meaning? Does it have a practical advantage?

    Writing quickly is hard.

    It is a verb lexically, but not structurally.
    Well, in my preferred terminology it is syntactically a verb, because it's post-modified by an adjective. I'm applying relationship rules:

    Lexicon: writing: can be a verb or noun (derived from a verb).
    quickly: is an adverb (derived from adjective "quick" + suffix "-ly")

    Relationship rule: Adverbs can function as modifyers for: verbs, adjectives, advers

    Logic: Writing can either be a verb or a noun. Of the two, only the verb can be modified by an adverb.

    So far, I haven't talked about function; just about form and structure (as a set of relations).

    Functionally, "writing" serves as the head of a verbal phrase "writing quickly", which in turn functions as the sentence subject.

    That's how I'd describe it.

    (Is this going off-topic? Becoming too broad? What are the forum rules?)

  8. #18
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    Default Re: Gerund or participle?

    Excuse me.

    I'm trying to keep up, but I take an unfair shortcut with Gs and Ps. I know it's unhelpful, misleading and irrelevant to impose one language's grammar on another, but I can't prevent my knowledge of Latin from clouding the issue: if I'd use a Latin gerund[/participle] to translate it, it's a gerund[/participle].

    Casi - I edited http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/as...tml#post161192 to fix the Malouf link. It works now, but doesn't look as pretty.

    Back to the topic....

    b

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    Default Re: Gerund or participle?

    Thank you, everybody.

    At last I’ve been able to get round to reading the thread closely.
    The bottom line: sometimes gerund and participle overlap. In this case I don’t mind calling them GPs.
    Dawnstorm:
    See, this is where I have difficulties with the language of traditional grammar. Why does it conflate form with function? What is gained by assigning inherent function to a form, before assigning syntactic function in context? Is it a desire to fill "lexical entries" with indepedent (non-relational) meaning? Does it have a practical advantage?
    Dawnstorm, I am happy I’ve met somebody more articulate than I am to express the idea. I’ve tried many times and it has always fallen on deaf ears. By the way that’s what I’ve been doing in another thread.
    http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/an...entence-2.html

    Why not join in, Dawnstorm?

    Regards

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