August 16, 2004

That's Where You'll Find Me

In very interesting comments to this very interesting post, Delia Graff points out that "here" doesn't act much like a referring expression, and opines that this sentence

(1) Here is where the pilgrims landed

is an inverted pseudo-cleft construction, like:

(2) Unusual is what John is. (3) Before you is when I said I’d be there. (4) In the front row is where you’ll find him.

These correspond to

(2a) John is unusual (3a) I said I’d be there before you (4a) You’ll find him in the front row (1a) The pilgrims landed here.

Delia comments that "The phrases in subject position [in 2-4] are not referring expressions, but are allowed because they’re of the right syntactic type to form a clause with the material complementing the wh-phrase" and that "the verb phrases in the inverted pseudo-clefts are not normal predicates"; hence the acceptability of (1) doesn't show that "here" is being used as a referring expression.

For what it's worth (I really don't know if it's significant), similar constructions that don't contain wh-phrases seem somewhat acceptable in some cases:

(1b) Here is the place the Pilgrims landed (2b) ?Unusual is the way John is (3b) ??Before you is the time I said I'd be there (4b) In the front row is the place you'll find him (5b) Down Lake Drive is the way to Bayview

Now sometimes these noun phrases look like they act like wh-phrases; "knowing the way to San Jose" seems to behave like "knowing how to get to San Jose" every which way but syntactically. Perhaps that's what's going on here. Or perhaps not.

And now for an important question--can you tell me why so many of the top hits for the Google lyrics to "Over the Rainbow" refer to this guy?

Posted by Matt Weiner at August 16, 2004 12:56 PM