Elements of Control: Structure and Meaning in Infinitival Constructions

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1. THE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS OF CONTROL Imagine you are a child faced with the daunting task of acquiring the grammar of control in your language. You toddle around buoyantly (you should be past 3 by now), occasionally bumping into acoustic signals that miraculously map to "linguistic input". Some of them sound like this: (1) a. Robin, do you want _ to play with Kittie together? b. Come on, let me show you how _ to feed her. c. No Robin, Kittie doesn't like _ to be smacked. d. Robin, look what you've done! Bad boy! Time _ to go to bed. From your shelter under the kitchen table, you may draw the following conclusions: i) Mommy is very mad now; ii) Kittens make rotten toys; iii) My name must be Robin. Apart from the lesson in parental control, you also ought to learn something about grammatical control. In each of the sentences above, an element is missing (from the underlined position) that is nonetheless "filled-in" by your target grammar. This is what linguists term the "understood subject" of the infinitive. In order to be able to understand such sentences and produce similar ones yourself, you have to figure out the reference of the understood subject in every case. Thus, unless you are after some big trouble with Mommy, you had better conclude that the understood subject is Robin and Mommy in (la), Robin in (Ib), Kittie in (Ic) and everyone (especially Robin!) in (ld).
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDordrecht
PublisherKluwer Academic
Number of pages212
ISBN (Electronic)1402002939, 9401139431, 9789401139434
ISBN (Print)0792366204
StatePublished - 2000

Publication series

NameStudies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory
PublisherKluwer Academic
ISSN (Print)0924-4670
ISSN (Electronic)2215-0358


  • Grammar
  • Comparative and general -- Infinitival contructions
  • Control (Linguistics)
  • בקרה (בלשנות)
  • דקדוק השוואתי וכללי


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