Re: Languages, "modern" and otherwise

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Fri, 23 Aug 1996 12:56:52 -0400

In message <> Iain Walker

> If you translate correctly the "is" doesn't come out in English either:
> Est-ce que le chat noir est sur le canape?
> Is it that the black cat is on the couch?

This is a bit stilted for everyday English, though. In English, the <is>
normally moves to the front:

The black cat is on the couch. ---> Is the black cat on the couch?

> However, using the inversion form of the question:
> Est-il le chat noir sur le canape?
> Is the black cat on the couch?
> In english the extra "he" (il) comes out.

Of course, there is no "extra" <he> in English to be taken out; I know you mean
in terms of translating literally from one to the other, but I wanted to make
that clear for others on the list. Believe it or not, there are people (maybe
not on this particular list) who think that French is the right way to speak
English, and vice versa!

> (Although I'm not sure I see the point of the argument here)

The point seems to be (Ithink, although I'm not a francologist) that French does
not allow the fronted verb <est> to be stranded without a subject in the same
constituent, so a subject is attached as a post clitic (-il, -ce). If the
complementizer <que> is present a sentence, containing subject and verb, must
follow it. Without <que> we have simple movement as in English, except for the
attached pronoun. Relatively minor variations, really, on an overall theme.

Ron Kephart