Is this to a complementizer?


“I don’t think what to name them,” Adam said.
(John Steinbeck, East of Eden)

Is the to a complementizer leading the object of think; and what, the object of name?


Posted 2013-06-09T01:02:28.807

Reputation: 25 811



‘There is no consensus regarding the application of the word “complementizer” to makers of subordinate status that are inflectional (the genitive marker, -ing, and possibly to)’ says McCawley (1998, Ch. 5).

But the non-finite clause what to name them is certainly a complement (the direct object) of the verb think. Its subject “I” is deleted because it is identical with the subject of the main clause.

And what is one of the objects of the verb name. Name here is a bitransitive verb with two arguments in addition to the subject. There are two ways of thinking about those two arguments:

  • You may think of what as the direct object (the name which is given) and of them as the indirect object (the recipient of the name). This interprets the clause as "I give them the name 'what'".

  • You may think of what as a resultative object complement attributed to the object them. This interprets the clause as "I cause them to bear the name 'what'".

Use whichever analysis is most useful to whatever you want to do with the result.

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2013-06-09T01:02:28.807

Reputation: 176 469