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  1. #1

    A dirty place to sit

    Once again, could I ask your opinion on another difficult sentence ?

    ... She would sit under the acacia tree. It was a dirty place to sit.
    I wondered if the transitive use of "sit" (or the omission of the preposition) might not be nonstandard here (?). But my main difficulty was concerned with the adjective "dirty". I thought (perhaps wrongly) that the kind of adjective complementation found here was comparable to well-known cases like :

    John is easy to please / difficult to beat etc.,

    where the syntactic subject is not to be construed as the "true" subject of the sentence (*John is easy ; *John is difficult), but in which a *nominal clause* must be construed as the notional subject of the copular verb BE ("To please John is easy" etc.).

    I would reject an analysis which considered the above sentence as derived from This place is dirty

    Cf. (=> ??this place is dirty for one to sit => It was a dirty place to sit)

    Instead, I would be inclined to favour an analysis which saw it as derived from :

    1 Sitting (in) this place is dirty (dirty has a somewhat unusual meaning here - but isn't it the same in the original sentence, It was a dirty place to sit ?.)

    => 2 It is dirty to sit (in) this place (extraposition + -ING => TO+V, as is usual in the formation of extraposed sentences)

    => 3 This place is dirty to sit (in). (object-to-subject raising)

    => 4 It is a dirty place to sit (in) => It is a dirty place to sit

    A) First, can I ask you if you agree with this analysis ?

    B] And if you do, *how would ou describe what happens between 3 and 4* ?

    I think 4 is *not* a cleft sentence, although it bears a formal resemblance with cleft constructions - but again, I am at a loss to describe it.

    Many thanks in advance for whatever help you might provide me with.


    • Join Date: Mar 2006
    • Posts: 671

    Re: A dirty place to sit

    I think you are trying to over-elaborate your analysis. The sentence is not that complicated. The subject of the verb 'to be' is the pronoun 'it' (standing for 'under the acacia tree'), and the object is 'a dirty place'. "To sit" is is a relative clause, which is (legitimately) missing its relative pronoun.

    The sentence is a contraction of "Under the acacia tree was a dirty place in which to sit."

  2. #3

    Re: A dirty place to sit

    Thanks a lot, Coffa. You are 100% right. Somehow, I realised it yesterday when thinking of something totally different. I must have been befuddled by the "tough-movement" track -

    A great many thanks for taking the trouble to consider the sentence !!

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