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Hello, David and Gustavo,

While my following question has been unanswered for about 2 years, could I ask you, masters to kindly share your time to find/answer it? For your reference the last thread is on https://thegrammarexchange.inf...c/seems-like-as-if-1

Since I'm not in a hurry, please feel free to answer it when you're free.

My reference;

1.  The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Rodney Huddleston,  p.960-961

2. John Lawler's (retired professor from Michigan University) post in https://english.stackexchange....ike-seems-that-seems

Thanking in advance,

Best RGDS,

Last edited by deepcosmos
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Hi, Deepcosmos,

Let's remember what you wrote in your long-forgotten post:

1. He seems to be  happy.
2. It seems that  he is happy. (formal style)
3. It seems like (as if)  he is happy. (informal style)

In sentence 2 and 3, I assume that;

1) the conjunctions - that and like, as if in informal style - lead not a subjective complement but an extra-posed subject clause (that is, preparatory it + complete intransitive verb - seem + extra-posed subject clause).

2) seems is justified to function as a complete intransitive verb, which leads an extra-posed subject clause.

According to Huddleston and Pullum (CGEL, pages 960/961), in sentence (2) "it" does not introduce an extraposed subject (we cannot say *That he is happy seems) but is the subject of an impersonal structure. I also find sentence (3) to be an impersonal structure.

As regards (1), "seems" is a raising-to-subject verb (reference) by means of which the subject of the content clause (It seems that he is happy) becomes the subject of the main clause (He seems to be happy).

I don't think there is a difference of register but instead a slight difference of meaning between (2) and (3) — "like" and "as if" only make the statement about his being happy slightly more uncertain.

Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator


According to Huddleston and Pullum (CGEL, pages 960/961), in sentence (2) "it" does not introduce an extraposed subject (we cannot say *That he is happy seems) but is the subject of an impersonal structure. I also find sentence (3) to be an impersonal structure.

As regards (1), "seems" is a raising-to-subject verb (reference) by means of which the subject of the content clause (It seems that he is happy) becomes the subject of the main clause (He seems to be happy).

I don't think there is a difference of register but instead a slight difference of meaning between (2) and (3) — "like" and "as if" only make the statement about his being happy slightly more uncertain.

Hi, Thanks for your comments.

When I found two different opinions about above 'it' jointed with 'seems', I personally feel that John Lawler's own one in above thread is also persuasive and interesting to me, who especially defined 'it' as 'a dummy it subject' in following description;

Quote

Seem’ originally meant ‘think’, and in Middle English dialects both had cliticized first person dative-subject constructions marking the experiencer subject as me:

- Methinks the truth should live from age to age. (Richard III: III.i)

- Mee seemes hee makes it something more excellent then Faith it self (Sclater, 1629)

. . . . .

Seem’, on the other hand, became a intransitive flip verb with the experienced phenomenon as the subject, not the object; and a deletable dative experiencer, expressed if necessary as a prepositional phrase with to. It thus takes a subject complement, not object.

- That I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree seems (to me).

Of course, this is a terrible sentence because the verb, which means practically nothing, is the last word in the sentence (since to me is usually understood), in the place where the most important word belongs. English fixes this by extraposing the whole subject clause at the cost of leaving behind a dummy it subject.

- It seems (to me) that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.

Unquote

Thus, I would have wanted to know your opinions first, and also would be advised about which theory is currently predominant in American English.

Best RGDS,

@deepcosmos posted:


Thus, I would have wanted to know your opinions first, and also would be advised about which theory is currently predominant in American English.

Hi, Deepcosmos—I do not wish to pass judgment John Lawler's theory, in part because I don't have time to study it and have little desire to. What I will do give you my own understanding of the syntax, as I learned it from mainstream generative syntacticians in the U.S. (of the highest caliber the world over).

Quote: https://thegrammarexchange.inf...c/seems-like-as-if-1

1. He seems to be  happy.
2. It seems that  he is happy. (formal style)
3. It seems like (as if)  he is happy. (informal style)

In sentence 2 and 3, I assume that;

1) the conjunctions - that and like, as if in informal style - lead not a subjective complement but an extra-posed subject clause (that is, preparatory it + complete intransitive verb - seem + extra-posed subject clause).

2) seems is justified to function as a complete intransitive verb, which leads an extra-posed subject clause.

I disagree with both your assumptions and will concentrate my discussion on the syntactic distinction between (1) and (2). First, in mainstream generative grammar, seem is a verb that only takes one argument in underlying structure.

The underlying structure of "He seems to be happy" is "__seems for him to be happy," and the underlying structure of "It seems that he is happy" is "__seems that he is happy."

As you can see, in each case, there is no subject in underlying structure. But English is a language in which clauses are required to have subjects. So something must occur in each case to supply the clauses with subjects.

What happens in "__seems for him to be happy" is that the complementizer "for" deletes and the singular masculine personal pronoun "raises" from the subject of "be happy" to become the subject of "seems" in surface structure.

What happens in "__seems that he is happy" is that dummy "it" gets inserted in surface structure.  Nothing is extraposed. "That he is happy seems" is ungrammatical. The insertion of it has been called  "It-Intraposition."

Of course, we also have sentences like "He seems happy." In most grammar books, and for almost every ESL teacher, "seems" is just a linking verb there. In advanced grammar, however, an embedded "small clause" is involved.

Last edited by David, Moderator


I disagree with both your assumptions and will concentrate my discussion on the syntactic distinction between (1) and (2). First, in mainstream generative grammar, seem is a verb that only takes one argument in underlying structure.

The underlying structure of "He seems to be happy" is "__seems for him to be happy," and the underlying structure of "It seems that he is happy" is "__seems that he is happy."

As you can see, in each case, there is no subject in underlying structure. But English is a language in which clauses are required to have subjects. So something must occur in each case to supply the clauses with subjects.

What happens in "__seems for him to be happy" is that the complementizer "for" deletes and the singular masculine personal pronoun "raises" from the subject of "be happy" to become the subject of "seems" in surface structure.

What happens in "__seems that he is happy" is that dummy "it" gets inserted in surface structure.  Nothing is extraposed. "That he is happy seems" is ungrammatical. The insertion of it has been called  "It-Intraposition."

Of course, we also have sentences like "He seems happy." In most grammar books, and for almost every ESL teacher, "seems" is just a linking verb there. In advanced grammar, however, an embedded "small clause" is involved.

Hello, David,

Sincerely appreciate that you have broaden my view.

RGDS

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