Something Funny about English: The Post-Indefinite Pronoun Modification Construction
- Construction Grammar,
- Social Meaning
How to Cite
This paper examines the “Post-Indefinite Pronoun Modification” (PIPM) construction in English, exemplified by something funny and nothing unusual. Some have compared post-indefinite pronoun modification to post-nominal modification (Kishimoto 2000, Larson & Marušič 2004, Wu 2021), but I argue that this pattern is a separate construction, as the adjectives in PIPM only follow indefinite pronouns, not nouns, and have an individual-level (intrinsic) semantic construal while postnominal modification has a stage-level (temporary/episodic) semantic construal. PIPM is a construction (Goldberg 1995, Michaelis 2012) that minimally contains two slots, an indefinite pronoun or quantified thing and an evaluative adjective. In this paper I compare PIPM to a class of “restricted access” adjectives that have been lumped with them in previous analyses, such as navigable, visible, possible, and available, which can occur after lexical nouns. I show that PIPM has a specific semantic interpretation involving social evaluation that distinguishes it from other modification constructions. PIPM signifies an indefinite referent out of a construed category of situations prototypically evaluated as the adjective in question, and therefore can play into social stereotypes and the construction of social meaning.