Exceptions to a rule

Mark Wilson emory2oo2 at hotmail.com
Thu Oct 25 10:09:47 EDT 2001



Rule:

Verbs agree with their Subjects. A plural Subject
has a plural verb.

EXCEPTION to rule:

Neuter plural Subjects can take singular verbs.


My question in the above, oversimplified rule is whether or not
we really have an EXCEPTION to a rule and not simply a FEATURE of
a language.

To me, EXCEPTIONS to rules imply that their is something inherent
and unchanging WITHIN THE RULES that is being "violated."

Taking the above example, is there anything inherent within the
rule of plural subjects taking plural verbs that is VIOLATED
when neuter plural subjects use singular verbs?

I think it is rather obvious that Neuter plural subjects are often
conceived as a Unit and therefore the Greeks would have naturally
used a unit-like verb. So, what appears to be an EXCEPTION is rather
a FEATURE of neuter plural subjects. Once this FEATURE is discovered,
then the singular verb makes perfect sense.

I wonder if something similar is behind the deponency discussions
going on. Perhaps there is some inherent feature of m/p FORMS that
certain verbs align with. To say that a verb has a middle or passive
form BUT is active in meaning seems to imply to me some violation
of either the form or the voice.

Just trying to get a better handle on this...

Mark Wilson




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