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Seminar support sheet – seminar 5: The Distribution of That-Complements

A.1. Extraposition - a very frequent structure in English; not only with
that-clauses, but also with infinitival ones.>> a construction where the
expletive (empty) pronoun “it” appears in
front position, followed by the complement clause in peripheral position
(i.e. the clause is extraposed to the right)
• Subject Clause
unextraposed: That Dorothy flew from Kansas was a surprise to everybody.
extraposed: It was a surprise to everybody that Dorothy flew from Kansas.
• Direct Object Clause
unextraposed: The plumber wrongly figured out that the pipe needed
replacing.
extraposed: The plumber wrongly figured it out that the pipe needed
replacing.
• Prepositional Object
unextraposed:Can you swear that the accused spent the evening with
you?
extraposed: Can you swear to it that the accused spent the evening with
you?
>> Explain the asymmetry of Extraposition from Subject vs. Extraposition from Object
(Why is the former more frequent and more ‘marked’ than the latter?)
A.2. Instances of Obligatory Extraposition:
1. with cases of SAI (Subject-Aux. Inversion), when the subject is a clause (not a DP!)
The story is surprising. >> Is the story surprising? (SAI)
That he came late is surprising >> * Is that he came late surprising?
OK Is it surprising that he came late? (extraposed)
2. with unaccusative verbs such as seem, appear, happen, etc.
* That he came late seems. > It seems that he came late.
* That she is smart appears > It seems that she is smart.
* That he came late so happens > It so happens that he came late.
BUT ok That he came late seems unlikely / ok That she is smart appears as obvious to
many people.
3. with quasi-idiomatic expression that require the expletive “it” in their structure:
 consider it + adj + that complement/wh-complement/infinitive:
 find it + adj + that complement/wh-complement/infinitive
 rumour has it that……
 take it from me that…
I consider it strange that he came early/when people stare at me /to have seminars with 40
people
I always find funny that people pick their noses/ when people pick their noses// I find it
difficult to learn syntax
B. Topicalization: the reverse of extraposition (i.e., movement of the
clause to the left periphery, with no expletive” it”); a subject clause which
is initially placed in the sentence is said to be topicalized.
That my horse is the best in the world is absolutely evident. (topicalized
Subject Clause)

>> * he will ever come back is a question still. >> Mary said quietly that she wanted to drive. When Can We Delete ‘That’? 1. Because Extraposition appears much more frequently in English we consider it the unmarked case. The rule of Heavy NP Shift stipulates that the heavy NP should be moved to the right end of the sentence for semantic reasons. I cannot deny. etc) . *They wrote that the firm was going bankrupt to the lawyers. (extraposed Subject Clause) !! direct object clauses can equally appear topicalized: That Freddie likes to appear in kids’ nightmares.is preposterous 2. >> *The idea she is……. >> *I like it he was here. Compare: He threw the letter which he had just decoded into the basket. Clause Shift – similar to HNPS >> allows for the clausal structure to be moved to the right end of the sentence. according to which a verb should not be normally separated from its obligatory complement. !! Extraposition vs. to He threw into the basket the letter which he had just decoded.if the verb/adjective/noun requiring the complement clause is a frequently used item (think. it is possible to delete that: .It is absolutely evident that my horse is the best in the world.(the clausal constituent is moved over an adverb phrase or a prepositional phrase): *Mary said [that she wanted to drive] quietly. I like it that he was here. The idea that she is cheating on him is preposterous. >> They wrote ti to the lawyers [that the firm was going bankrupt]i D. Clause Shift > they both involve movement of a clause to the right BUT > with Clause Shift there is no expletive pronoun left behind and it operates only on object clauses. topicalization appears mostly when a writer/speaker wishes to create a special effect of emphasis >> the marked case C. tell. 2.. guess. Heavy NP Shift: an NP is said to be heavy when it has a large stretch of modifiers accompanying it: the NPs the letter or the red letter are much lighter than the NP the letter which he had just read. it challenges the fixed word order rules in English. say. Clause Shift & Heavy NP Shift 1. if an object clause has been extraposed or if it introduces a that-complement attributive: That he will ever come back is a question still. impossible to delete that in topicalized clauses.

which is ungrammatical in English .. >> Who do you think t *that likes syntax? I think John hates syntax. vs *He objected it was already too late to leave. but it is usually required if the complement clause is separated from the main verb by intervening material: He said (that) he didn’t want to come vs. The presence of that can lead to a double subject construction. He said in a very low voice *(that) he didn’t want. 3. >> What do you think (that) John hates t? Why? >> who is the subject of the that-clause. it is obligatory to delete that when the subject of the complement clause is questioned or relativized. that is optional] – the that-trace effect I think John likes syntax.He said (that) he had borrowed her money. [When the object is questioned/relativized. .if it follows the main verb/adjective/noun directly.