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Postposing:

Information Structure and


Word Order Variation
LSA.323
10 July 2007

Postposing
Preposing:

the marked constituent


represents information that is given in the
sense of being discourse-old.

Postposing:

the marked constituent


represents information that is new in some
sense, varying by type of postposing
construction.

Two

types of postposing constructions:

Existential there-sentences
Presentational there-sentences

The

felicity of there-sentences is sensitive to


the information status of the postverbal NP
(PVNP).

Previous Studies
Most

previous studies have focused on


there-sentences with be as the main
verb.

Some

have argued that there are two


(structurally distinct?) types of theresentences (Levin 1993):
Existential there, restricted to main-verb
be;
Presentational there, restricted to verbs of
appearance or emergence.

Existential there
I would like to concentrate on Florida
more than anything else to show you
what we see there now. Between 1981
and 1983, there were nine bombings
and seven attempted bombings and
one kidnapping carried out by terrorist
groups or alleged terrorist groups in
the Florida area. All 17 of these
incidents were in Miami, Florida.
[Challenger Commission transcripts,
2/7/86]

Presentational there
Daniel told me that shortly after
Grumman arrived at Wideview Chalet
there arrived also a man named
Sleeman.
[Upfield 1946:246]

Two Types of there


Constructions
Regardless

of any structural
differences between them, the two
types of there-sentences are
pragmatically distinct with respect
to the information status of the
PVNP.
That is, whether the information is
(taken to be) new to the discourse
or new to the hearer.

Right-Dislocation
Time

permitting, I will contrast


these two postposing constructions
with another one involving the
noncanonical placement of an NP in
postverbal position, namely rightdislocation (RD).

Right-Dislocation
Cant write much, as Ive been away from
here for a week and have to keep up
appearances, but did Diana mention the
desk drama? Dad took your old desk over
to her house to have it sent out, but he
didnt check to see what was in it, and
forgot that I had been keeping all my vital
documents in there like my tax returns
and paystubs and bank statements.
Luckily Diana thought that stuff looked
important so she took it out before
giving the desk over to the movers. Phew!
Shes a smart cookie, that Diana.

Right-Dislocation
The

marked NP in an RD represents
information that is familiar within
the discourse.

The

information-structural
difference between RD and theresentences is due to the presence of
the anaphoric pronoun with which
the marked constituent is
coreferential.

Existential there
Existential

there-sentences are
sensitive to hearer-familiarity as
opposed to discourse-familiarity.

The

PVNP in an existential theresentence is required to represent


information that the speaker believes
is not already familiar to the hearer.

Existential there
Theres

a warm relationship, a great


respect and trust between [United Air
Lines]s chairman, Stephen M. Wolf,
and Sir Colin Marshall, British Airs
chief executive officer, according to a
person familiar with both sides. [Wall
Street Journal, 8/23/89]

The

referent of the PVNP a warm


relationship... is being presented to the
reader as new information.

Existential there

What can happen is a hangup such as


Rocky Smith ran into, as the independent
hauler was traversing Chicago with a load
of machinery that just had to get to a
factory by morning. There was this truck in
front of me carrying giant steel coils, and
potholes all over the place, he remembers.
This guy swerves all of a sudden to avoid a
big hole. He hit it anyway. [Wall Street Journal,
8/30/89]

Similarly,

the truck mentioned in this PVNP is


new to the hearer; for this reason, despite the
fact that the PVNP is morphologically definite, it
is nonetheless felicitous in the existential.

Existential there
If

the PVNP represents hearer-old


information, on the other hand, the use of
existential there is infelicitous:
I have some interesting news for you. #At
todays press conference there was Hillary
Clinton.
President Bush appeared at the podium
accompanied by three senators and Tony Blair.
#Behind him there was the Vice President.

These

PVNPs represent entities that are


new to the discourse yet presumably
familiar to the hearer.

Existential there
Similarly,

there-sentences with discourseold PVNPs are infelicitous, given that


discourse old entities are necessarily also
hearer-old:
A: Hey, have you heard from Jim Alterman lately?
I havent seen him for years.
B: Yes, actually. #On the panel today there was
Jim Alterman.

Thus,

whenever an NP represents a hearerold entity, regardless of its discourse


status, it may not be felicitously postposed
in an existential there-sentence.

Existential there
a. A: Im home. Anything interesting happen today?
B: Not really. Theres a dog running loose
somewhere in the neighborhood.
b. A: Have you seen the dog or the cat around?
B: Not lately. #Theres the dog running
loose somewhere in the neighborhood.
c. A: Have you seen the dog or the cat around?
B: Not lately. The dog is running loose somewhere
in the neighborhood.

When

the dog being referred to is hearernew, the use of the existential is acceptable
However, where the dog is hearer-old, the
use of the existential is infelicitous.

Constraints on the PVNP:


Syntactic or Pragmatic?
So,

is it really, as we have argued, the hearerold information status of the PVNP thats
responsible for the infelicity?
Or is it, as others have argued, the morphosyntactic definiteness of the PVNP?
A: Im home. Anything interesting happen today?
B: Not really. Theres the funniest-looking dog
running
loose somewhere in the neighborhood .
Here

a definite PVNP is being used to refer to an


entity that, is nonetheless hearer-new.

That

is, the funniest-looking dog is not used to


refer to a particular dog with which the hearer is
expected to be familiar.

Constraints on the PVNP:


Syntactic or Pragmatic?
We

would argue that it is not definiteness per se that is


responsible for the infelicity of sentences with definite
PVNPs, but rather the fact that definite PVNPs typically,
but not necessarily, represent hearer-old information.

It

is this tendency that has led to the illusion that


definite PVNPs are themselves disallowed in
existentials.

Note

that it is hearer-status, and not discourse-status,


that is relevant for the felicity of existential theresentences.

That

is, information that is new to the discourse is


nonetheless infelicitous as the PVNP of an existential
there-sentence if it is known to the hearer.

Constraints on the PVNP:


Syntactic or Pragmatic?
a. President Bush appeared at the podium accompanied by
three senators and Speaker Pelosi. #Behind him there
was the Vice President.
a. # At the New Hampshire town hall meeting last week
there was Hillary Clinton.
The

felicity of such hearer-old PVNPs in existentials


does not improve when they represent discourseold information; if anything, they become worse:
a. President Bush appeared at the podium accompanied by
three senators and Speaker Pelosi. #Behind him there
was Pelosi. [cf. Pelosi was behind him.]
a. Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama have been travelling
extensively over the past few months. #At the NAACP
convention last week there was Hillary Clinton.
[cf. Hillary Clinton was at the NAACP convention last
week.]

Summary
Both

hearer-old/discourse-new PVNPs
and hearer-old/discourse-old PVNPs
are infelicitous in existential theresentences.
Hearer-Old

Hearer-New

Discourse-Old

Infelicitous

Does not occur

Discourse-New

Infelicitous

Felicitous

Thus,

it is newness with respect to


the hearers knowledge that is
required for the felicitous use of
existential there-sentences.

Presentational theresentences
The

central difference between existential


there and presentational there is the verb:

Presentational there-sentences contain a main


verb other than be.

The

two sentence-types are also subject to


distinct pragmatic constraints on the
information status of the PVNP.

Presentational

there differs from existential


there in being sensitive to the discoursestatus, rather than the hearer-status, of the
PVNP.

Specifically, the felicitous use of a presentational


there-sentence requires that its PVNP represent
information that is new to the discourse.

Presentational theresentences

In the vast majority of cases, the PVNP in


a presentational there-sentence is both
hearer-new and discourse-new:
a. After they had travelled on for weeks and
weeks past more bays and headlands and
rivers and villages than Shasta could
remember, there came a moonlit night when
they started their journey at evening, having
slept during the day. They had left the
downs behind them and were crossing a
wide plain with a forest about half a mile
away on their left.
[Lewis 1954:23]

Presentational theresentences
b.

The volume of engine sound became louder and louder.


Motorcycle police, a whole battalion (or whatever unit
they come in) neared took over the road there must
have been twenty of them. Behind them there appeared
police vans and police buses, one, two, four, six, eight of
each. And then, at last, behind these, the American
military vehicles began to appear. [Wakefield 1991:94]

c.

Why would Honda locate in Alliston? Why did Toyota


pick Cambridge? Why did GM-Suzuki pick Ingersoll?
The answer is, first, that the Canadian labour force is
well educated and capable of operating the
sophisticated equipment of modern industry. Second, in
the Province of Ontario and in the communities of
Alliston, in Waterloo Region and Oxford County, there
exists a tremendous work ethic. We recognize it. The
workers recognize it. More important, industry
recognizes it, too.
[token provided by D. Yarowsky, AT&T Bell Laboratories]

Presentational theresentences
The

main verbs in these examples came,


appeared, and exists are prototypical verbs
of appearance and emergence (Levin 1993),
and thus are also prototypical in
presentational there-sentences.

Moreover,

in each case the PVNP represents


information that is new to the discourse.

However,

in each of these examples the


entity represented by the PVNP is new to the
hearer as well as to the discourse -- i.e., it is
hearer-new as well as discourse-new.

Presentational theresentences
So,

we need to look at examples that


distinguish between the two, specifically those
tokens involving information that is new to the
discourse yet presumably known to the hearer:
a. There only lacked the moon; but a growing
pallor in the sky suggested the moon might
soon be coming.
[adapted from Erdmann 1976:138]

b. Famous men came --- engineers, scientists,


industrialists; and eventually, in their turn,
there came Jimmy the Screwsman and
Napoleon Bonaparte.
[Upfield 1950:2]

Presentational theresentences

While

both types of there-sentences


allow hearer-new, discourse-new PVNPs,
they do so for different reasons:
Existential there-sentences, being
sensitive to hearer-status, require the
PVNP to represent hearer-new information.
Presentational there-sentences, being
sensitive to discourse-status, require the PVNP
to represent discourse-new information.

Presentational theresentences

If the PVNP in a presentational there-sentence


represents information that is discourse-old (and
therefore also hearer-old), the utterance is
infelicitous:

a.

b.

For a brief moment we could see among the trees a man


and a woman picking flowers. #Suddenly there ran out
of the woods the man we had seen.
[cf. The man we had seen suddenly ran out of the
woods.]
Suddenly there ran out of the woods the man we had
seen at the picnic.
[=Aissen 1975:2, ex. 12]

Thus, it is the referents status as discourse-old


information that renders the utterance infelicitous (a),
not its status as hearer-old information, since the
corresponding example of a hearer-old but discoursenew entity is felicitous (b). Note that CWO in (a) is
fine.

Presentational theresentences
While

both constructions permit hearer-new PVNP,


both disallow discourse-old PVNPs
A: Hey, have you heard from Jim Alterman lately?
I havent seen him for years.
B: Yes, actually. #Before the committee today there
was/appeared Jim Alterman.
President Bush appeared at the podium accompanied
by three senators and Tony Blair. #Behind him there
was/stood Blair.

The

PVNPs in these examples represent


information that is discourse-old, and therefore
also hearer-old, and hence are infelicitous in either
presentational or existential there-sentences.

Presentational theresentences
Where

discourse-status and hearer-status


diverge, however, different distributions
are found for existential and
presentational there-sentences:

Discourse-new,

hearer-old PVNPs
disallowed in existential there, but not
presentational there:
I have some interesting news for you. At
todays press conference there appeared
President Bush.
I have some interesting news for you. #At
todays press conference there was
President Bush.

Presentational theresentences

President Bush appeared at the podium


accompanied by three senators and Tony Blair.
Behind him there stood the Vice President.
President Bush appeared at the podium
accompanied by three senators and Tony Blair.
#Behind him there was the Vice President.

Here,

the PVNPs represent hearer-old,


discourse new information.

As

such, they are felicitous in presentational


there-sentences but disallowed in existential
there-sentences.

The so-called Definiteness


Effect
Definiteness:

A morpho-syntactic property of determiners/


DPs/NPs (a formal property)?
Or a pragmatic/IS property of referents (a
conceptual category)?
We

assume the latter and argue that any


limitations on the appearance of definite
PVNPs in there-sentences is epiphenomenal,
the result of an imperfect correlation
between the cognitive status to which
definiteness is sensitive and that to which
postverbal position in there-sentences is
sensitive.

The so-called Definiteness


Effect
Our

analysis of definiteness and theresentences is based on a corpus of several


hundred tokens of existential there-sentences
with definite PVNPs.

We

found that, indeed, the entity represented


by the PVNP in an existential there-sentence
always constitutes hearer-new information.

However,

in certain circumstances this entity


may nonetheless be realized by a definite,
due to a mismatch between hearer-new
status and the constraint on felicitous use of
the definite.

Our View of Definiteness


Under

many accounts of definiteness, a


speakers choice of definite description must
render the intended refer uniquely identifiable
for the hearer.

The

term uniquely identifiable, however, is


misleading, suggesting that a hearer must be
able to identify the actual object in the world.

Instead,

we argue that what is required for


felicitous use of the definite article is that the
speaker must believe that the hearer is able
to individuate the referent in question from all
others within the discourse model, or
individuable within the discourse model.

Definiteness: An Example
the man sitting next to me on the train
For

this NP to be felicitous in context,


what is required is not that the hearer be
able to actually identify this man (e.g.,
provide his name, or pick him out of a
lineup), but rather that the hearer be
able, on the basis of this NP, to
individuate this man from all other
entities in the discourse model.

That

is, the utterance of this NP in context


must provide enough information for the
hearer to distinguish this individual from
all others in the discourse model.

Our View of Definiteness


Thus,

an empirical study of existential theresentences in context not only provides


evidence against the notion of a definiteness
effect, but also helps to clarify the pragmatic
constraints on both definiteness and
existentials.

We

have identified five distinct cases in


which formally definite yet hearer-new
PVNPs may felicitously occur in theresentences.

In

each case, the definiteness of the NP is


licensed by the individuability of the
referent, while the existential is licensed by
its status as hearer-new information.

Our View of Definiteness

We have identified five classes of definite PVNPs,


categorized by the relationship holding between the
referent of the PVNP and its context (Ward & Birner
1995):
I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.

Hearer-old entities treated as hearer-new


Hearer-new tokens of hearer-old types
Hearer-old entities newly instantiating a variable
Hearer-new entities with individuating descriptions
False definites

These classes, while not necessarily exhaustive,


illustrate the variety of ways in which a definite NP
may represent a hearer-new entity and thus satisfy
the constraint on existentials.
In the interest of time, well discuss only two of
them.

Hearer-Old Entities Treated


as Hearer-New
Certain

entities that have been evoked


earlier in the discourse may nonetheless
be treated by a speaker as hearer-new if
the speaker has grounds to believe the
entity may have been forgotten.
Almanzo liked haying-time. From dawn
till long after dark every day he was
busy, always doing different things. It
was like play, and morning and
afternoon there was the cold egg-nog.
[Wilder 1933:232]

Hearer-Old Entities Treated


as Hearer-New
Although

the cold egg-nog is evoked two


pages earlier, there are sufficient grounds
for the writer to believe that the entity
has been (temporarily) forgotten by the
reader, thus licensing her to reintroduce it
and treat it as hearer-new.

Hearer-Old Entities Treated


as Hearer-New
Like

voters everywhere, Montanans are in a


resentful mood, and Marlenee is adept at
exploiting that resentment... To add to his
troubles, Williams used to be chairman of the
subcommittee overseeing grants to the
National Endowment for the Arts, and he
firmly defended the agency against charges
that it funded obscene art works. Thats what
won him the support of Keillor, who said, Its
a measure of the man when hes courageous
when its not absolutely required of him. But
it has inspired the opposition of national
conservatives, including Pat Robertson, who
referred to Williams as Pornography Pat.
Then there is that resentment.

Hearer-Old Entities Treated


as Hearer-New

Mr. Rummel: Well, didnt the designer of the


orbiter, the manufacturer, develop maintenance
requirements and documentation as part of the
design obligation?
Mr. Collins: Yes, sir. And that is what we showed
in the very first part, before the Pan Am study.
There were those other orbiter maintenance and
requirement specifications, which not only did
processing of the vehicle, but in flow testing, pad
testing, and what have you, but also
accomplished or was in lieu of an inspection plan.
[Challenger Commission transcripts, 3/31/86]

Hearer-Old Entities Treated


as Hearer-New
Thus,

the use of the existential in conjunction


with the definite reflects the treatment of the
referent as simultaneously hearer-new and
individuable.

It

is this mixed marking that leads the hearer


to interpret the utterance as a reminder, i.e.,
to infer that even though the entity appears
to be hearer-new, it nonetheless constitutes
assumed shared knowledge.

Note

that an indefinite in this context would


misleadingly instruct the hearer to construct
a brand-new discourse entity for what is in
fact a previously evoked referent.

Hearer-New Entities with


Individuating Descriptions
Unlike

definite PVNPs that serve as


reminders, those containing individuating
descriptions do not depend on the prior
context for their felicity.

In

fact, such NPs are equally felicitous outside


of there-sentences in first-mention contexts:
The current stock market fluctuations give rise
to the added risk that when interest rates fall,
mortgages will be prepaid, thereby reducing
the Portfolios future income stream.
Postponing the investigation will increase the
chance that well uncover something additional
that is significant.

Hearer-New Entities with


Individuating Descriptions
Although

the referents of the added risk


that... and the chance that... may be new
to the hearer, the description provided by
the NP in each case is sufficient to fully
and uniquely individuate the chance or
risk in question, licensing the use of the
definite.

Since

such NPs may felicitously represent


hearer-new entities in non-existential
sentences, we correctly predict that they
may also appear felicitously as the PVNP
in an existential.

Hearer-New Entities with


Individuating Descriptions
In addition to interest-rate risk, there is the
added risk that when interest rates fall,
mortgages will be prepaid, thereby reducing the
Portfolios future income stream. [Vanguard Financial
Center Newsletter]

In addition, as the review continues, there is


always the chance that well uncover something
additional that is significant. [Challenger Commission
transcripts, 3/18/86]

Although

the particular risk/chance is assumed


to constitute new information for the hearer,
the description provided in the NP is sufficient
to completely individuate the risk in question,
hence the felicity of the definite.

More Evidence for


Individuation

In Kittredges latest book there is the claim


that syntactic structure is inferrable from
pragmatic principles.
# In Kittredges latest book there is the claim
about the interaction of syntax and
pragmatics.

Since

there are many possible claims that


could be made about the interaction of
syntax and pragmatics, the PVNP in the first
example does not represent an individuable
claim, and therefore is infelicitous as a
definite.

More Evidence for


Individuation

Other

cases in which a PVNP represents


an entity that is both hearer-new and
individuated by this NP include
superlatives, deictics, and cataphora:
There was the tallest boy in my history class at the
party last night.
You can see the runway and the HUD that overlays
the Edwards runway, and then there is this line
which comes out to the outer glide slope aim point.
It is hard to see the PAPIs there because of the lights
that are here.
There are the following reasons for this bizarre
effect...

More Evidence for


Individuation
The

superlative NP the tallest boy in my


history class is sufficient to individuate a
new entity that the hearer is being
instructed to add to his or her discourse
model.

With

the deictic, the speaker refers to a


line while gesturing toward it; the
gesture serves to individuate the new
entity represented by the PVNP.

The

following reasons individuates the


hearer-new set of reasons in question;
its the set of reasons about to be
presented.

A Final Example of
Individuation

There are those who would claim that computers


will take over the earth within the next decade.

Again,

the individuation licenses the


definite, while the hearer-new status of
the PVNP licenses the existential.

That

is, although the hearer is being


instructed to add a new entity to his or
her model, that entity is provided with
a sufficiently rich description to render
it individuable within the model.

Right-Dislocation
Like

existential and presentational theresentences, right-dislocation (RD) involves the


noncanonical placement of an argument of the
verb in postverbal position.

However,

in contrast to both existential and


presentational there-sentences, RD does not
require the PVNP to represent new information:
Below the waterfall (and this was the most
astonishing sight of all), a whole mass of enormous
glass pipes were dangling down into the river from
somewhere high up in the ceiling! They really were
ENORMOUS, those pipes. There must have been a
dozen of them at least, and they were sucking up
the brownish muddy water from the river and
carrying it away to goodness knows where.

Right-Dislocation
The

sentence-final dislocated constituent


represents information that has been
evoked, either explicitly or implicitly, in the
prior discourse.

For

example, those pipes represent entities


that have been explicitly evoked in the
immediately prior discourse.

Since

the relevant information is both


hearer-old and discourse-old, rightdislocation cannot be viewed as marking
information that is new, either to the
discourse or to the hearer, and thus differs
crucially from existential and presentation
there-sentences on IS grounds.

Right-Dislocation
An

examination of naturally occurring data


indicates that right-dislocation not only permits, but
in fact requires, the dislocated NP to represent
information that is given in some sense.

RD

disallows new information in dislocated position:

Below the waterfall (and this was the most


astonishing sight of all), a whole mass of
enormous glass pipes were dangling down into
the river from somewhere high up in the ceiling!
#They really were ENORMOUS, some of the
boulders in the river. Nonetheless, they were
sucked up into the pipes along with the brownish
muddy water.
vs.
[...] Some of the boulders in the river really were
enormous. Nonetheless, they were sucked up into
the pipes along with the brownish muddy water.

Right-Dislocation
It

is not sufficient for felicitous RD that the


dislocated NP represent hearer-old information.

Information

that is hearer-old yet discoursenew is disallowed in right-dislocated position:


I hear that the Art Institute has a new exhibit on
19th Century post-Impressionism. #He was a
genius, that Van Gogh.
[cf. That Van Gogh was a genius.]
A: What would you like to do for lunch?
B: Im not sure. #Its really awful, Pizza Hut.
Lets not go there.
[cf. Pizza Hut is really awful.]

Right-Dislocation
When

the dislocated constituent represent


discourse-old information, however, RD
becomes felicitous:
I just saw the newly discovered Van Gogh
painting at the Art Institute; apparently he
painted it when he was only 11 years old. He
was a genius, that Van Gogh.

Here,

the dislocated constituents represent


information that has been explicitly evoked in
the discourse, and the RD is felicitous.

Thus,

what is required for felicitous RD is not


simply that the dislocated constituent
represent hearer-old information, but that it
represent information that is discourse-old.

A Comparison of RightDislocation and Postposing


Existential

there-sentences, presentational theresentences, and RD are subject to distinct constraints


on the information status of their respective PVNPs.

However,

the pragmatic constraints to which these


constructions are sensitive do show a significant
pattern

RD

and there-sentences differ crucially in the


referential status of the lexical item occupying the
canonical-word-order position of the noncanonically
positioned constituent.

In

RD, that position is occupied by a referential


pronoun, whereas in both types of there-sentences,
it is occupied by non-referential expletive there.

A Comparison of RightDislocation and Postposing


Corresponding

to this morpho-syntactic
difference between RD and there-sentences is
a functional difference; RD is subject to an
entirely different pragmatic constraint:

In both types of there-sentences, where no


element coreferential with the logical subject
appears in syntactic subject position, the
postposed subject is constrained to represent
unfamiliar information.

However, in RD, containing a pronoun


coreferential with the dislocated constituent in
its canonical position, the dislocated
constituent is constrained to represent familiar,
and in fact discourse-old, information.

A Comparison of RightDislocation and Postposing


Moreover,

it is precisely the presence of this


pronoun that motivates the functional distinction
between there-sentences and RD.

In

RD, the pronoun is required to represent a


discourse-old entity, as do referential pronouns in
general.

Since

it is coreferential with the dislocated NP,


that NP must also represent discourse-old
information.

Thus,

it is not accidental that RD does not serve


to keep unfamiliar information out of subject
position; the presence of the pronoun actually
rules out such a function.