two English grammatical questions! Thanks!

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romeo.alpha
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Re: two English grammatical questions! Thanks!

Postby romeo.alpha » Mon Mar 11, 2019 5:47 pm

languist wrote:With no other context, this sentence actually can't exist on its own. Only if we mentally fill in the gaps, "John had had sex (at some point in his life)", and in this case, I would never expect the intended meaning to be making fun of him for not having sex anymore, unless we had been provided with a lot more context.


No sentence with a proper noun can exist on its own without context. The moment you name someone, the context of who that person is becomes necessary. So there's really nothing significant that you're saying with this sentence not being able to exist on its own.
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Re: two English grammatical questions! Thanks!

Postby languist » Mon Mar 11, 2019 5:52 pm

romeo.alpha wrote:
languist wrote:With no other context, this sentence actually can't exist on its own. Only if we mentally fill in the gaps, "John had had sex (at some point in his life)", and in this case, I would never expect the intended meaning to be making fun of him for not having sex anymore, unless we had been provided with a lot more context.


No sentence with a proper noun can exist on its own without context. The moment you name someone, the context of who that person is becomes necessary. So there's really nothing significant that you're saying with this sentence not being able to exist on its own.


Sarah played football yesterday. <-- gives me all the context I need to know, it's a stand-alone sentence. I don't need to know who Sarah is for this to be a fully formed and meaningful sentence.

"John had had sex." does not have any real meaning without other context, and certainly doesn't express the idea which you mentioned, of making fun of someone for being celibate...

I think we're going to go round in circles here. The sentence doesn't mean what you think it means, but I'm not sure that I can explain that ad infinitum, so let's agree to disagree.
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Re: two English grammatical questions! Thanks!

Postby Cainntear » Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:30 pm

romeo.alpha wrote:
Cainntear wrote:Modern grammar references are written descriptively, i.e. based on reporting observed patterns. These are taken from massive corpora of genuine native language, so it's highly unlikely that they would repeat this if it was not the normal usage of the language, and one single solitary person angrily shouting otherwise on the internet is not going to have me change my mind.


You might need to question whether the sources you're referring to actually are descriptive, when they're operating on prescritptions. What I'm saying about "had" is descriptive. What you're arguing with it being something like Vorvergangenheit in German is a prescription.

If you can't find me an academic reference, then at least provide an example from real usage, not one you made up yourself specifically to justify your point.


You seem to be confused about what descriptive grammar is. I'm a native speaker of English. Anything I say in English is real usage.

That's not quite how descriptive grammar works.

First up, it's possible that you are a speaker of a minority dialect where the past perfect works that way -- if so, descriptive linguistics would describe your usage as valid, but rare. You did not criticise Iversen for using a dialectal form you didn't like, you went off on a borderline-racist rant saying that he was absolutely wrong, and that your way was the only way.

Secondly, what a native speaker says in English is real usage, when they are not giving conscious thought to the process of speaking. An example you invent expressly to describe a rule you believe is true is led by the rule, not your intuitive grasp of the language -- that makes it not real usage. This is why descriptive linguistics examines millions of words of language, rather than just the grammarian stating the rules as he believes them to be.
No, perfect aspect is from the perspective of the speaker. It's relative to the present, not to the past, unless you explicitly state the point on the timeline (which you can also move to the future).

... when you combine the perfect aspect with the past tense you are explicitly moving it to the past. You cannot move the present perfect or the past perfect to the future with a plain adverbial:
* I have done it tomorrow
* I had done it tomorrow
...you have to make it future through the verb:
* I'll have finished by the time you get here.
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Re: two English grammatical questions! Thanks!

Postby romeo.alpha » Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:58 am

Cainntear wrote:That's not quite how descriptive grammar works.


It absolutely is, and what you're arguing is descriptive grammar is absolutely nothing of the sort. Your argument that the past perfect does work the same way it does in German and other continental European languages is purely prescriptive grammar.

First up, it's possible that you are a speaker of a minority dialect where the past perfect works that way -- if so, descriptive linguistics would describe your usage as valid, but rare. You did not criticise Iversen for using a dialectal form you didn't like, you went off on a borderline-racist rant saying that he was absolutely wrong, and that your way was the only way.


The dialect spoken on the West Coast isn't a minority dialect in any sense of the word. If anything it's the unmarked form of General American.

Secondly, what a native speaker says in English is real usage, when they are not giving conscious thought to the process of speaking. An example you invent expressly to describe a rule you believe is true is led by the rule, not your intuitive grasp of the language -- that makes it not real usage. This is why descriptive linguistics examines millions of words of language, rather than just the grammarian stating the rules as he believes them to be.


I'm providing further examples of the exact same type of construction that came up in OP's question, which is real usage even if you try to weasel out of it with your argument you're making right now.

... when you combine the perfect aspect with the past tense you are explicitly moving it to the past. You cannot move the present perfect or the past perfect to the future with a plain adverbial:


But when you combine perfect aspect with past tense it doesn't become a past perfect tense, it's a past tense with perfect aspect. It doesn't stop being aspect and start being tense because you combined aspect with tense.
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Re: two English grammatical questions! Thanks!

Postby Iversen » Thu Mar 21, 2019 10:26 am

Just a warning to Romeo-alpha: you may have your own ideas about how grammar works and how the English language works, and you may think that anyone who has other ideas is plainly wrong. You could get away from telling me off because I didn't want to misuse my position and you could play out the 'foreigner' card and claim that only natives are right. But with Cainntear you can't do that. He is a native speaker, he knows as much about the tenses in English as you do and probably more about grammar so if you don't moderate your argumentation habits from now on then you will be history on this forum.
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Re: two English grammatical questions! Thanks!

Postby Lianne » Thu Mar 21, 2019 1:40 pm

romeo.alpha wrote:The dialect spoken on the West Coast isn't a minority dialect in any sense of the word. If anything it's the unmarked form of General American.


You'd be surprised by the weird quirks that can pop up in places with seemingly standard English. I have a favourite example of this! Consider an area consisting of western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia, and central Indiana. I would generally think that people living there have English that sounds very "normal" to me. (For context, I'm a western Canadian, and western/mid-western Americans sound "normal" to me.)

But! People in this area say "The car needs washed." :o I know one person who says this, and for the longest time I always thought it was this weird grammatical error she was really stuck on. But it turns out it's just a local dialect thing that sounds incredibly wrong to everyone else, lol.
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Re: two English grammatical questions! Thanks!

Postby languist » Thu Mar 21, 2019 2:31 pm

Lianne wrote:You'd be surprised by the weird quirks that can pop up in places with seemingly standard English. I have a favourite example of this! Consider an area consisting of western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia, and central Indiana. I would generally think that people living there have English that sounds very "normal" to me. (For context, I'm a western Canadian, and western/mid-western Americans sound "normal" to me.)

But! People in this area say "The car needs washed." :o I know one person who says this, and for the longest time I always thought it was this weird grammatical error she was really stuck on. But it turns out it's just a local dialect thing that sounds incredibly wrong to everyone else, lol.


I live in the UK and everyone in my area would say this, I didn't realise it was considered weird by any English speaker ! :o
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Re: two English grammatical questions! Thanks!

Postby Lianne » Thu Mar 21, 2019 2:47 pm

languist wrote:
Lianne wrote:You'd be surprised by the weird quirks that can pop up in places with seemingly standard English. I have a favourite example of this! Consider an area consisting of western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia, and central Indiana. I would generally think that people living there have English that sounds very "normal" to me. (For context, I'm a western Canadian, and western/mid-western Americans sound "normal" to me.)

But! People in this area say "The car needs washed." :o I know one person who says this, and for the longest time I always thought it was this weird grammatical error she was really stuck on. But it turns out it's just a local dialect thing that sounds incredibly wrong to everyone else, lol.


I live in the UK and everyone in my area would say this, I didn't realise it was considered weird by any English speaker ! :o


Really?? That's interesting! Maybe the articles I've read on this grammar point (this one for example) have all been American, and just focused on areas of the US. Because within the US it's a very specific area where people say this. And in Canada (at least in my experience) I've never heard it. It sounds very strange to me. I want to correct it to "The car needs to be washed."

I did find this discussion that gets more into places in the UK that use this construction too. Learn something new every day! :)
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Re: two English grammatical questions! Thanks!

Postby Cainntear » Thu Mar 21, 2019 5:12 pm

romeo.alpha wrote:
Cainntear wrote:That's not quite how descriptive grammar works.


It absolutely is, and what you're arguing is descriptive grammar is absolutely nothing of the sort. Your argument that the past perfect does work the same way it does in German and other continental European languages is purely prescriptive grammar.

You'll need to explain to me how it can be prescriptive of me to believe that all the major descriptive reference grammars of English and all the English course books I've used in my teaching informed by descriptive grammars and corpora are correct about the majority usage of the language.

First up, it's possible that you are a speaker of a minority dialect where the past perfect works that way -- if so, descriptive linguistics would describe your usage as valid, but rare. You did not criticise Iversen for using a dialectal form you didn't like, you went off on a borderline-racist rant saying that he was absolutely wrong, and that your way was the only way.


The dialect spoken on the West Coast isn't a minority dialect in any sense of the word. If anything it's the unmarked form of General American.

A: there are many west coasts. To me, "the west coast" means Glasgow but I wouldn't presume to use it that way here, as this is an international forum.
B: if the rule as you describe it was something that occurred across the whole US west coast, not only would it be noted in the English teaching literature, but all English-speakers would be comfortable with it, because a whole pile of our modern media content comes from California, and we'd all be exposed to it. But there is not a single native speaker here who has defended your rule as natural, and there are several of us who have said that it just sounds wrong to us.

So while it is possible that in your particular region, there is a pattern that matches what you claim, but it is neither "West Coast US English" or "General US English", and it would be very much a minority usage.

Secondly, what a native speaker says in English is real usage, when they are not giving conscious thought to the process of speaking. An example you invent expressly to describe a rule you believe is true is led by the rule, not your intuitive grasp of the language -- that makes it not real usage. This is why descriptive linguistics examines millions of words of language, rather than just the grammarian stating the rules as he believes them to be.


I'm providing further examples of the exact same type of construction that came up in OP's question, which is real usage even if you try to weasel out of it with your argument you're making right now.

The explanation for the sentence in the OP's message is exactly what everyone but you has said:
saw the joy -- past
my face had radiated last spring -- past perfect, indicating that this occurred prior to seeing.

You invented your own sentences to support your own alternative analysis of this. You're allowed to do that, but you'll need to supply some kind of evidence that your analysis (which everyone thinks is wrong) is right.

... when you combine the perfect aspect with the past tense you are explicitly moving it to the past. You cannot move the present perfect or the past perfect to the future with a plain adverbial:


But when you combine perfect aspect with past tense it doesn't become a past perfect tense, it's a past tense with perfect aspect. It doesn't stop being aspect and start being tense because you combined aspect with tense.

Yes, and perfect aspect denotes "completed before". Add the past tense to the perfect aspect and you get "completed before a particular point in the past".

It doesn't matter whether you call these tense and aspect or cabbages and peas -- past perfect (or past+perfect if you prefer) indicates that an action took place before a point in the past.
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Re: two English grammatical questions! Thanks!

Postby Cainntear » Sat Mar 23, 2019 11:40 am

And just to add, with the hope of making things clearer:
romeo.alpha wrote:No, perfect aspect is from the perspective of the speaker. It's relative to the present, not to the past, unless you explicitly state the point on the timeline (which you can also move to the future).

Aspect is relative to the tense of the verb phrase.
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