• Dwight Bolinger
Part of the Cognition and Language: A Series in Psycholinguistics book series (CALS)


The company that a word keeps can often reveal unexpected nuances of meaning. What appears to be some kind of strange syntactic restriction turns out to be a reflection of the word’s content. The verb surprise would seem to be usable with any thing or event that causes surprise, and yet there is a restriction that looks, at first glance, to be purely syntactic. What one is surprised at can be easily embodied in a that clause or a have infinitive, but plain infinitives may cause trouble
  1. (1)

    I was surprised that I fell.

  2. (2)

    I was surprised to have fallen.

  3. (3)

    ?I was surprised to fall.

  4. (4)

    We were surprised that we agreed with him.

  5. (5)

    We were surprised to have agreed with him.

  6. (6)

    ?We were surprised to agree with him.

  7. (7)

    It surprised me that I broke the vase.

  8. (8)

    It surprised me to have broken the vase.

  9. (9)

    ?It surprised me to break the vase



Professor Emeritus Romance Language Past Participle Mental Construct Semantic Pattern 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    The category of ‘mental construct’ has other uses. So-called existential there, for example, is used to ‘present to the mind’ (Bolinger, 1977, pp. 90-123).Google Scholar


  1. Bolinger, D. Meaning and form. London and New York: Longman, 1977.Google Scholar
  2. Larkin, D. Complement form in Tamil and the subordinate parenthetical clause problem. Unpublished manuscript, 1977. (Department of Linguistics, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. 20057.).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dwight Bolinger
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Romance Languages and LiteraturesHarvard UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Department of LinguisticsStanford UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations