Date: Sun, 19 Nov 1995 09:58:08 -0500

From: "Dennis R. Preston" preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PILOT.MSU.EDU

Subject: Re: Don Nelson puts behind


What you call 'my idea' about clause-mates is the standard, modern

syntactic treatment. The exceptions appear to be the following:

1) So-called hypercorrect reflexives:

'He gave it to John and myself.'

I say 'so-called' since there is historical precedent for these. That is,

they appear not to be uniquely the effort of people who were beat up for

saying stuff like 'John and me went to the store' (also historically

common) and decided that oblique forms were nonstandard in general

(sometimes using nominatives, e.g., 'He gave it to John and I,' but

sometimes sensing that that is not quite the ticket and resorting to the

reflexive as a 'compromise case.'

2) Emphatics:

Who went?

It was MYSELF. (i.e., not anybody else)

3) (Mock)-deferential (usually of a 'personage'):

Who came in?


All others seem to follow the clause-mate rule I cited earlier.

I saw myself in the mirror.

*I saw John see myself in the mirror.

So why not 'I put the glass behind myself'? I agreee that 'me' is better

(even in the coreferential sense, although I somehow feel that both are

ugly - a kind of hole in the language, or, better, a site of competing

norms, at least in my grammar).

One treatment of these forms in current theory is to call the troublesome

part a 'small clause,' a syntactic unit which carries some of the features

of big clauses. 'We considered the syntactician silly,' for example, has a

'small clause' complement to the verb 'concider' - 'the synbtactician [be]

silly.' From this point of view, 'me' is not a clause-mate of 'I' in 'I put

the glass behind me' because of the 'small clause' status of 'the glass

[be] behind me.' Those who want more excitement with small clauses, might

start on p. 324 of Radford's Transformational Grammar: A First Course, CUP,

1988 as a jump-off point. I find it interesting that the issue is not

resolved in theoretical grammar and is, at the same time, a troublesome

site for intuitions.

Dennis (himself) Preston



Perhaps clause-mates ought to trigger reflexives, but that's not how they

work. According to _The New Lexicon Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary_

(1992) the definition of reflexive reads: "denoting an action by the

subject upon itself, e.g. of a verb whose subject and direct object are

the same ('dressed' in 'he dressed himself'), or of a pronoun which is

the object of such a verb ('himself' in 'he dressed himself') . . . (837).

Therefore, your example doesn't quite seem to apply. In "John put the

skunk behind himself" himself is not called for. The more correct

pronoun, him, is the object of the preposition. It would seem to more

dative that accusitive, but besides worrying about the labels, it seems

to me that most readers would understand that "him" refers to John and

not the skunk. Why would he move the skunk behind itself?

Finally, John must be careful because if the skunk in question has not

been descented, John will end up washing himself in tomato juice. Not

that that particular remedy is all that effective.

While your ideas about clause-mates are interesting, I'm not quite ready

to buy them. I would enjoy a response, though.

Bob Haas

University of North Carolina at Greensboro


On Sat, 18 Nov 1995, Dennis R. Preston wrote:

Can't buy it. Clause-mates ought to trigger reflexives.

For example, in 'John moved the skunk away from himself,' the skunk is the

target of the moving (not John), and 'him' would not be coreferential.


John put the skunk behind himself


John put the argument behind him.