see, this is the problem with syntax

Here I am, desperately scouring as many textbooks as I can lay my hands on, for tomorrow’s Sentence Processing lecture.

My eye falls on this sentence:

The fireman told the man that he had risked his life for to install a smoke detector.

And I scan the surrounding text for something to do with the “for to V” construction. Maybe the exposition is of the effect of nonstandard syntax on reading times? But that’s got nothing to do with it. It’s a garden path sentence, so you’re not even meant to be able to entertain the “for to V” option, because it’s meant to be an ungrammatical sequence making you reanalyse ([The fireman told [the man that he had risked his life for] to install a smoke detector]).

So, I have reanalysed. But since [The fireman told the man [that [he had risked his life for to install a smoke detector]]] is not “ungrammatical”, the sentence is only ambiguous, not a true garden path. I think.

And this is why phonology is so much better.

 

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