Syntax book done, syntax keeps coming

I’ve finally opened a file for “things to add to the Syntax Construction Kit, 2nd edition.”  Because syntax keeps happening. I’ll give you two examples, both of which come from my board.

Gapping with pronouns

Ser pointed out that you can say

I thought I could save you, and you me.

Now, this is an instance of Gapping (p. 305). The interesting bit is when you compare it to French, where you can’t do it:

*J’ai pensé que j’ai pu te sauver, et tu m’.

I think you can say “…et toi moi”, but that’s the point: je and te are no longer independent words, but clitics or even affixes on the verb. Ser also pointed out another fact leading to the same conclusion: you can’t coordinate the verb alone, as in

*Je t’écoute et aide.
I hear and help you.

You have to say Je t’écoute et je t’aide. Though Je t’écoute et t’aide is acceptable, suggesting that the object pronouns are more firmly fixed to the verb than the subjects.

(There is other evidence too, such as the difficulty of adding any other material within the French verbal complex. People often resist this concept, because the spaces in the written language make the morphemes feel like separate words!)

Can + aspects

I wrote a lot in the SCK about the English verbal complex, but Xwtek pointed out a restriction I wasn’t aware of, namely that can + perfect is disallowed:

The snakes should have coordinated with the city.
The snakes may have coordinated with the city.
The snakes could have coordinated with the city.
*The snakes can have coordinated with the city.

Your first thought might be that this is a semantic restriction. But the negative is fine:

The snakes can’t have coordinated with the city.

What about other aspects?  Can + passive is OK: I can be persuaded.

Can + progressive seems tricky:

?I can be going to Vyat right now.
While you sand that down, I can be thinking about the next step.

Why this should be, I have no idea! But it’s pretty neat that after sixty years of syntactic study, the English verbal complex holds a few more mysteries.