> Date:         Tue, 23 Oct 2001 16:30:34 -0400
> From: Vasiliy Chernov <[log in to unmask]>
> On Mon, 22 Oct 2001 15:11:50 PDT, Matthew Pearson
> <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> >However, there are no idioms in English--at least, none that I can think
> >of--which consist of a verb and its subject, the object having a literal
> >interpretation and varying from context to context. For example, we could
> >imagine a hypothetical idiom of the form "The toaster burned X" meaning "X
> >went bankrupt":
> >
> >  The toaster burned Pat  (= Pat went bankrupt)
> >  The toaster burned my brother  (= My brother went bankrupt)
> >
> >But no such idioms exist in English. In fact, it's been claimed that no
> >language anywhere has such idioms. If we assume that idioms are stored in
> >our mental dictionaries as phrases (constituents), then we could take this
> >observation (if true) as evidence that languages treat a verb and its
> >object as a phrase, to the exclusion of the subject of that phrase (at
> >least underlyingly).
> I must think a bit if word order rules interfere with this. At a glance,
> it seems important that in my Russian examples, the objects can be easily
> fronted, forming the topic, while the rest of the sentence seems to be
> undivided focus (indivisible, since idiomatic).

Danish has a few idioms where the topic of discussion is the object
position (not fronted), or even governed by a preposition. Like,

        Men så tog fanden ved min bror, og han ...
        But then the devil grabbed my brother, and he ...

which can be applied to anything from a fit of uncharacteristically
hard work to a total kicking-the-ground hissy-fit.

Lars Mathiesen (U of Copenhagen CS Dep) <[log in to unmask]> (Humour NOT marked)