Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mary gets her case.

Today, my syntax professor explained the sentence "I sent Mary a letter" and its equivalent "I sent a letter to Mary." While discussing the tree, he explained where the "to" comes from.

To start, the verb forces the accusative case on to the noun phrase "the letter," making the letter what was sent.

But then what about Mary? She desperately needs a case. She sends a text to UG, who then inserts a "to" for Mary, giving her a case, at which point she is satisfied.

That's not verbatim, but the set of words are the same.