Saturday, June 18, 2011

[N + V-ing]

As I was reading an article in today's NYT, the following sentence got me thinking about constituents of the structure [N+V-ing]: "Women driving remains a sensitive issue in Saudi Arabia." In true N+V nominal compounds in Germanic languages, as far as I'm aware, the noun is (nearly?) always an object; SUBJ+V compounds sound odd (almost certainly due to subject-object asymmetry and the structure of the VP). Prosody is helpful here to show that apparent compounds like "women driving" are in fact not compounds at all; cf. ['women 'driving] (two phonological words) vs. ['truck driving] (one). So the -ing form in a constituent like "women driving" must be a complement or adjunct modifying the head noun (as in this very sentence). It's cool when a subtle clue from outside syntax sheds light on a syntactic structure. Image is from here.


Matt said...

I see this as an example of a structure with two main variants: NP-gen VP-ing and NP-obj VP, as in "I don't like his/him using my bike".

Mark said...

Good point. The first variant seems somewhat more restricted; "women's driving" and "children's playing" sound odd to me. But "women driving cars" and "children playing games" are fine and might just be analyzed as simple VPs, with the subject in spec. The case question -- "them driving cars/playing games" -- is probably a matter of using the objective as a default case, since "women" and "children" wouldn't be in a case-marked position. So the NPs would be marked with the objective, but not true objects.