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Is there a contrast in acceptability between the following sentences:

asked 2017-02-17 06:18:21 -0500

Fredo gravatar image

updated 2017-03-07 20:03:47 -0500

ksteimel gravatar image

i. Of which car did the driver cause a scandal? ii.Of which car do you think the driver caused a scandal?

any difference in acceptability between i and ii?

Many thanks Fredo

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answered 2017-02-28 14:58:02 -0500

Sarah R. gravatar image

updated 2017-02-28 14:58:43 -0500

Hi Fredo, thanks for asking!

To me it seems that those sentences are equally grammatically unacceptable. i. is a request for information about an event, while ii. is a request for an interlocutor's opinion about an event. However, the essential structure: "of which car... [did] cause[d] a scandal?" (Restructured: " * Cause a scandal of a car.") Is strangely uninterpretable by itself. In English, one could "cause a scandal about a car," although the type of car-related scandal is hard to imagine, but one cannot " * cause a scandal of a car." (The * marks the structure as unacceptable.) This is because the word "cause" does not pair very well with "of" in that context.

Interestingly, the phrase "make a scandal of a car" is somewhat more acceptable, since the phrase "make ... of," as in "make a big deal of it," is a common English phrase. In this case, the phrase, "make a scandal of a car," would have the meaning: "make a car into a scandal." (To cause some kind of scandal centered around a car.) It's an odd meaning but an interpretable one.

So to answer the question, there's no "contrast in acceptability," between i. and ii. They are both unacceptable because of their underlying structure, but the difference between something like, "which one did he cause," and "which one do you think he caused," is one of specificity, not acceptability.

I hope that helps!

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answered 2017-03-02 12:24:13 -0500

ksteimel gravatar image

I like the second sentence a bit more, however, both are pretty ungrammatical. If you want to see what more people think about this, I recommend submitting a query via the main LINGUIST List website that points to a survey. You can use something like google forms to create a survey really quickly.

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Asked: 2017-02-17 06:18:21 -0500

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Last updated: Mar 02