The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by H&P says (Page 1394):

(d) Infinitival extensions

[11] i a. A few replies are still to come. b. There are still a few replies to come.

ii a. One letter is (for you) to sign. b. There’s one letter (for you) to sign.

In [i] a few replies is understood as subject of the infinitival, while in [ii] one letter is understood as object of the infinitival – see Ch. 14, §6.3.

CGEL analyzes that [ia] and [ib] mean the same thing, and that [iia] and [iib] mean the same thing. But isn't one letter (for you) to sign in [iib] normally analyzed as an NP (especially when for you is omitted)?

Assuming that there are two possible analyses of [iib], one according to CGEL and the other treating one letter (for you) to sign as an NP, is [iib] inherently ambiguous?

In general, is the existential construction inherently ambiguous when accompanied by an added component such as a non-finite VP, an adjective phrase, or a preposition phrase at the end of the construction?

  • 1
    Different sources are likely to say different things. Are you asking about how CGEL views this collection of words, or are you asking how other grammatical authorities (or possibly some kind of folk grammar) might view them? And, are you assuming that "to sign" is a prepositional phrase modifying the noun phrase "one letter"?
    – Stuart F
    Sep 13, 2022 at 12:14
  • 1
    @Araucaria That sounds almost coherent, but why does one need two? And how do relative infinitives work? They hafta be related to relative clauses, but they're bloody mysterious. Sep 13, 2022 at 17:30
  • 1
    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. Another confounding factor, if you will, is that the existence of a corresponding canonical form as in [a] examples of CGEL may not be a prerequisite for the two-complement analysis. For example, There was a problem with my car cannot correspond to ? A problem was with my car, but with my car is most likely to be a separate complement of was, at least in my view.
    – JK2
    Sep 14, 2022 at 9:27
  • 1
    What confuses me most is that they give as ungrammatical: "*Those people going to be disadvantaged by the new tax system will have to be compensated in some way" <--That seems perfectly grammatical to me! Sep 14, 2022 at 9:42
  • 1
    It's a theory, and a problematic one at that, prima facie. How could it be "true"? You'd hafta demonstrate it with data, not arguments. Like I said, I'm unconcerned with the opinions of CGEL authors, just as I am with Chomsky's. Sep 14, 2022 at 14:09


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.