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How to do away with the pronoun “it”

Home » Educational modules » The SAP » How to do away with the pronoun “it”

Pronominalization is the use of a pronoun instead of a noun.

Pronominalization is appropriate where “a noun or noun phrase in an embedded sentence is . . . identical to a constituent, or constituents, in the matrix noun phrase.” [1]Kendall, Marth B. “Relative Clause Formation and Topicalization in Yavapai.” International Journal of American Linguistics, vol. 40, no. 2, Apr. 1974, pp. 89–89., www.jstor.org/stable/1264343.

Below are some examples where a noun (bolded and italicized) in an embedded clause (a constituent part of another clause) is identical to the noun (bolded) in the matrix clause (which contains the embedded clause), and has therefore been pronominalized. Mind you, these sentences are not terribly grammatical, but they illustrate an alternative. These sentences will illustrate that pronominalization is an approach to relativization. This is the construction of relative clauses, which, according to an abstract by John Lawler from Constraints on Variables in Syntax by Haj Ross, contain “a noun head and a modifying clause.”

Mind you, these sentences are not terribly grammatical, but they illustrate an alternative.

  • He steered clear of the danger that manifested itself as the individual wanting more credit than he or she could afford to repay it.
  • This is way harder than I expected it to be.
  • He was suddenly worried that he’d allowed their silence to have made the situation worse than he had calculated it.
  • They had more in common than she had even thought it possible, she thought.
  • Not in that moment when he had felt more awkward than ever; more invaded than he had ever thought it humanly possible. (Interestingly, it has no antecedent; in fact, the sentence has no object. Instead, it features a subjective complement.)
  • He knew that the amount would be a hard thing for them to figure out. (The verb awkwardly sits at the most important position in a sentence, the end.)

With the exception of the last two sentences, the rest features an alternative relative-formation rule. John Lawler made the following observation in his abstract, the Real-life effect of Ross Constraints:

[They] are generated when, at the last minute, the speaker realizes what is going to result, and cancels the deletion, substituting an alternative relative-formation rule (called a Resumptive Pronoun in the trade), which merely pronominalizes the coreferential NP, instead of deleting it in the object position.

(Topic 5)

Note that the verbs, coloured, are transitive, or are being used transitively.

Here are the corrected and more grammatical versions of the above sentences

  • He steered clear of the danger that manifested itself as the individual wanting more credit than what he or she could afford to repay.
  • This is way harder than what I expected.
  • He was suddenly worried that he had allowed their silence to make the situation worse than what he would have calculated.
  • He knew that it would be a hard thing for them to figure out the amount. (The dummy it has been transposed to head of the clause to place the noun in the object position, the most important position in the sentence.)
  • They had more in common than what she had even thought possible, she thought.
  • Not in that moment when he had felt more awkward than ever; more invaded than he had ever thought was humanly possible. (Since no antecedent exist in the sentence, no anaphor (pronoun), can exit either.

The above sentence were taken from my novel, What’s in a Name.

References

References
1 Kendall, Marth B. “Relative Clause Formation and Topicalization in Yavapai.” International Journal of American Linguistics, vol. 40, no. 2, Apr. 1974, pp. 89–89., www.jstor.org/stable/1264343.
Garie McIntosh
Garie McIntosh
Garie started out in administration in the fields of healthcare, project management and database development. Since 2016, he has been working to further develop himself as a fiction writer while working on his grammatical and linguistic pursuits. He considers that storytelling is analogous to communication. Garie writes stories with strong, authentic characters that are defined by strong writing and themes, and he thereby reinforces the power of communication. He has written and published his first novel, What's in a Name. Garie has created and developed McIntoshLinguistics, an educational and grammatical editing business for manuscripts. It offers tools to provide grammatical editing that identifies and/or addresses errors, irregularities or ambiguities in manuscripts.

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