September 01, 2008

whom cares?

We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us. (Sarah Palin, Gov. of Alaska)
Bristol Palin's pregnancy does not worry me, but this sentence does.

Let's look at it in more detail: The relative clause after children contains a coordination structure. What causes the ungrammaticality (at least I think the sentence is ungrammatical, not just odd) is that who is an object pronoun in the first part of the sentence, i.e. one could also say whom ("...five wonderful children whom we love"), and a subject pronoun in the second part of the sentence, i.e. one could not say "...and whom mean everything to us". Coordination does not just care about words, it cares about structure, compare the following examples:
  • Peter walked in and ___ greeted me.
    (Peter is the subject in both verb phrases)
  • BUT NOT: Peter walked in and I greeted___
    (Peter is the subject of walk but the object of greet)

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