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R: Re: Degrees of volitioninactivelanguages(wasRe:Chevraqis: asketch)

From:J Matthew Pearson <pearson@...>
Date:Monday, August 14, 2000, 4:01
Nik Taylor wrote:

> "Thomas R. Wier" wrote: > > > > There's this one truly wretched line in _Much ado > > > > about Nothing_ during the trial scene where the Judge goes "What > > > > heard you him say else?" > > > > > > That's English? ;-) > > > > Well, it's part of the text. > > Actually, now that I think about it, it's not so odd. Lack of > do-support and unusual placement of "else" are the only differences from > the usual Modern English phrasing. Was the placement of "else" an > example of Shakespeare fitting the text to the meter, or was that a > normal placement in the English of the period?
The passage in question is in prose rather than metre, so Shakespeare's placement of "else" (cf. Modern English "besides, besides that") probably reflects common usage of the time. Also, I concur with Nik on the matter of do-support: Absence of do-support in wh-questions is quite widespread in Shakespeare. Perhaps what makes the sentence jarring to modern ears is that, because we expect do-support, there's a temptation to interpret "what" as questioning the subject of the sentence (rather than the object of "say"), which would lead to confusion about the "him say else" tacked on after "you". This is reminiscent of what parsing experts call 'garden path' sentences--sentences which are perfectly grammatical, but hard to interpret, because the way the sentence unfolds defies our expectations. A classic example of a garden path sentence is "The horse raced past the barn fell down". Matt.