Plurals and Deferred Ostension
I was trying to use some other examples of deferred ostension in order to put some constraints on what might be happening with the ‘we’ in “We won 4-2 last night”. The canonical example is (1)
(1) The ham sandwich is getting impatient.
This manages to communicate that the person who ordered the ham sandwich is getting impatient. That is, “the ham sandwich” somehow manages to pick out the person who ordered the ham sandwich.
Both the explicit term “the ham sandwich” and the intended referent, its orderer, are singular. I was wondering what happened when we made either plural. First, imagine that the person ordering hadn’t ordered a ham sandwich, but had instead ordered the olives. Then I think (2a) would be more or less appropriate, but (2b) would be infelicitous.
(2a) ?The olives are getting impatient.
(2b) #The olives is getting impatient.
Second, imagine that the intended referent is plural, but the phrase used is singular. So a table of people ordered the paella, and they are getting impatient. I think (3a) is a little better than (3b).
(3a) ?The paella are getting impatient.
(3b) ??The paella is getting impatient.
Do others agree with those judgments? If they’re right, they suggest that plurality ‘trumps’. That is, if either the noun phrase used, or the intended referent, is plural, then the verb should be plural as well.
Posted by Brian Weatherson in Uncategorized