I'm on my way to Pittsburgh for the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. And while I'm waiting for my plane, I think I have just about enough time for a question, even if I fluff it out a bit by giving you the train of thought that led up to it.
Germany's Transport Minister claimed to have struck an important blow for the preservation of the German language yesterday after enforcing a strict ban on the use of all English words and phrases within his ministry.
Peter Ramsauer stopped his staff from using more than 150 English words and expressions that have crept into everyday German shortly after being appointed in late 2009.
What caught my attention in Paterson's article wasn't the silly idea that Germans should be forbidden to use words like handy (meaning "cell phone") and laptop (meaning "laptop"). Rather, it was the final clause in the second sentence ("shortly after being appointed in late 2009"), which I first read as modifying the object of the first clause ("more than 150 English words and expression").
"Wait," I said to myself, "the Germans appoint words? Who did it?" Of course, I quickly retraced my syntactic steps and realized that it's Ramsauer who was appointed, not the words and expressions.
Idly re-arranging the clauses, I was reminded of the anaphoric asymmetry that I first learned about in an undergraduate syntax course many years ago. Roughly, a pronoun in a subordinate clause can precede its antecedent, while a pronoun in a main clause can't:
(a) After [Peter Ramsauer]1 took office as Transport Minister, [he]1 proscribed Denglish.
(b) After [he]1 took office as Transport Minister, [Peter Ramsauer]1 proscribed Denglish.
(c) [Peter Ramsauer]1 proscribed Denglish after [he]1 took office as Transport Minister.
(d) [He]1 proscribed Denglish after [Peter Ramsauer]2 took office as Transport Minister.
There's been a lot theorizing over the decades about how to describe and explain structural constraints on anaphoric relations, which of course are substantially more complex than this simple example suggests. But what I'm wondering now is who first described the basic facts. Did Otto Jespersen write about constraints on cataphora, for example? Or was this a discovery of the first generation of generative grammarians in the 1960s?
I could look it up, but it's almost time for my plane, and an airport waiting room is not the ideal place for such research anyhow. So I'll appeal to the implicit reference library of Language Log readers, several of whom no doubt know the answer.