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Friday, June 17, 2005

more on "send to"

A few more thoughts continuing our recent discussion of "send to":

"I sent to find out about your faith" is acceptable to a little more than half of poll respondents, so far.

"I was sent to find out about your faith" should be acceptable to everyone, at least syntactically. This sentence has a different syntactic configuration from the poll test sentence (the first example sentence of this blog post). This second example is a passive sentence. The first person "I/me" is semantically the person ("object") that was sent by someone. This passive sentence could have been derived ("transformed") from an active sentence such as "Paul sent me to find out how you are doing."

Notice that some verbs work just fine in the syntactic frame of "[verb] + to + X" where X is a sentential complement (embedded clause), for example,
"I called to find out how you are doing" is perfectly grammatical to me.
"I wanted to find out how you are doing" is also grammatical for me.
"I forgot to find out how you are doing" is grammatical.
Verbs such as "call," "want," and "forget" can take infinitive sentential complements in English. For some speakers, the verb "send" can, also. It may be that such use of "send" is an ellipsis for "send X " where X is someone who is sent or something, such as a message, which can be sent and can "bring back" information.

If any of you read P.P.S. on my preceding post, you might have noticed that it is now gone. Upon further reflection, I realized that my syntactic analysis of "send" as taking an infinitive sentential complement was uncertain. Although there is a superficial resemblance to the syntax of the three preceding sentences which have verbs taking infinitival sentential complements, there is an important difference. For the sentences with "want" and "forget" in the matrix sentence, you can substitute a filler word like "something" as the object of the verb, as in:
"I wanted something."
"I forgot something."
I'm not sure about the syntactic analysis of of "call" in the preceding example sentence. It may be that "call" is a verb that parallels the syntax of "send" in taking a sentential complement of purpose, that is, the embedded clause states why the action was done. This differs from the sentences with "want" and "forget" which take sentential complements of content, telling us what was wanted or forgotten.

In any case, what we can learn about Bible translation from all this is that it is necessary for English Bible translators to be very sensitive to the rules of English, both syntactic and semantic, in order to produce translation wordings which sound grammatical (proper) to those who use the translation. We have seen that not all verbs behave the same, even though there may be superficial similarities as there are with the behavior of infinitival complements of some verbs such as "call" and "forget." In Chomskyan terms, the Surface Structure may look the same between the two following sentences:
"John forgot to find out how we were feeling."
"John sent to find out how we were feeling."
But these two sentences have differing semantic structures. "Forget" takes a sentential complement of content, while "send" takes a sentential complement of purpose, for those who allow it to.

Another language fact we should point out is that the syntactic frames which work for one language may be different for another language. I think I have heard that Biblical Hebrew allowed its verb for "send" to take a sentential complement of purpose (that may be the thrust of the article from the Bible Translator journal cited by Peter Kirk in comments to the post that stimulated so many responses; I don't have that article right at hand to find out; if I could, I would send to find out what the article says! [grin]). It is possible that the Hebrew syntax was imported to English during translation, just as some other syntactic forms from Biblical Hebrew and Greek have been imported to English during translation. If Bible users hear such "foreignized" English long enough it sounds acceptable after awhile. It forms a dialect of "church English."

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