Monday, June 9, 2014

Double objects

A theoretical possibility had occurred to me and then an actual case arose.  The theory is this: 'ken' takes whole VPs as complements, that is verb plus object plus prepositional phrases: "He can hunt birds in the forest": 'ona li ken (alasa e waso lon ma pi kasi suli)'.  'ken' is also a transitive verb meaning "enable" with DO for what is enabled and a complement for what it is enabled to do "Bill allowed Joe to hunt on his land" 'jan Pili li ken alasa lon ma sama e jan So' (or is it 'li ken e jan So alasa lon ma sama'?  It certainly is not 'li ken alasa e jan So lon ma sama', which clearly means that Bill can hunt Joe).  Clearly something has happened to the structure here.  In this case, the PP actually helps matters, since, if we drop it we get 'li ken alasa e jan So' immediately, which tends toward the non-transitive 'ken' reading, though keeps the grammar clear -- for both readings.  On the other hand, 'li ken e jan So alasa'  is clear but more difficult to fit into the grammar, where VP ends with the DO in the absence of a PP.

Now, suppose what is allowed involves an object as well, bird hunting again, say.  We end with
jan Pili li ken alasa e waso e jan So (so Joe is still a possible target on one natural reading) or
jan Pili li ken e jan So alasa e waso.

Once actual cases are laid out, the conclusion seems clear: the second option is to be taken.  Thus, the slot "Modal" becomes more complex than it seemed; it is not just the modal word plus possibly modifiers of manner and negation but also a possible direct object.  After all that the VP comes in.  I think that some examples of this use of 'ken' (and I suppose 'wile' and maybe others) have dealt with the situation otherwise, but I can't find any cases to check.

And then, I note that, if the DO of the modal is not a name, we get another structural ambiguity ' ona li ken e waso laso pona e tomo'  "He allows the bird to paint his nest a nice blue"  or "he allows the blue bird to fix his nest".  So, no solution really works and we have to rely on context (as usual).

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