Prepositional small clauses in English: A dual-category analysis
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Prepositional small clauses in English: A dual-category analysis


This paper presents a comprehensive analysis of a hitherto understudied distinct class of subject-containing phrases apparently headed by a preposition, exemplified by sentences such as Try to imagine the pope in a bikini . Relying on standard kinds of evidence for phrasal status, it is argued that these are true prepositional small clauses (PrepSCs), i.e., subject-containing phrases lacking tense and auxiliaries and headed by a preposition, which differ in important ways from what has more commonly, and with considerably less motivation, been analyzed as a small clause consisting of a DP and a particle/preposition (e.g., Kayne 1985, Aarts 1989, Guéron 1990, Dikken 1995, Haegeman and Guéron 1999). It is further shown that true prepositional small clauses are profitably analyzed as mixed-category phrases whose head is a dual category word, as in Lapointe 1993. Under this analysis, their head belongs to the two categories D and P and therefore projects both a PP node containing the preposition and its complement and a higher DP node containing the subject phrase and the PP. This analysis is supported, in large part, by the same kind of evidence that has been used to argue for a mixed-category analysis of possessive gerund phrases, which have the internal syntax of VPs and the external syntax of nominal phrases (NPs or DPs). PrepSCs have the external syntax of DPs but the internal syntax of PPs. The prepositional character of these phrases is accounted for by the inner PP level; their DP-like distribution is accounted for by the outer DP level.

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