4

The OP in this EL&U question says:

?I declined your report.

There is some mutually-understood portion that was dropped from the sentence. In my answer (comment section), I contrasted

Visa declined to permit the credit card transaction.

with

Visa declined the credit card transaction.

I think that "to permit" is mutually understood.

What is the linguistic operation that allows the drop of the mutually understood portion? I know that if it were a pronoun, the operation would be called a Pro drop. (For example, in Italian, one may drop the pronoun "He" in "He speaks" and simply say parla, because Italian verbs are inflected with person and gender.)

If the operation were raising, I would expect that a complete sentence would be raised, as in

Visa permitted the transaction.

being raised to

It seems Visa permitted the transaction.

But the entire sentence cannot be raised, as in

*Visa declined Visa permitted the transaction.

What is the linguistic operation that allows a mutually-understood deletion from "Visa declined to permit the credit card transaction" to "Visa declined the credit card transaction"?

Bonus: something in that operation would also have to explain why "I declined your report" is less grammatical than "I declined to read/to accept/to indorse your report."


Edit: Adding examples of a deleted infinitival.

  1. Clenching his chubby, little fists, Bill declined (to eat) the pasta.
  2. Wary about unsealed barrel, Bill declined (to accept) the pasta shipment.
  3. Since the waiter had his thumb in the entrée, Bill declined (to receive) the pasta.
  4. ? Since it had been on the shelf for a year, Bill declined (to ship) the pasta.
  5. ? Liking it extra crunchy, Bill declined (to boil) the pasta.

Something about the pragmatics of "decline" seem to force the deleted infinitival to be near "accept" or "permit." In 1, Bill's mommy has a yummy spoon of pasta coming his way, but he will not accept. In 3, Bill is not permitting a plate of cooked pasta to be set on his restaurant table. In 4 and 5, the sentences may be grammatical with the parenthetical statements but are ungrammatical without. That is to say, "Bill declined to ship the pasta," but "? Bill declined the pasta," even though 1 and 3 are "Bill declined the pasta."

  • I corrected the italian verb "parla" because parlo is the first person, not the third. :) – Alenanno Sep 23 '11 at 15:11
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    Thank you, Alenanno. I left "If the operation were raising" instead of your edit "If the operation was raising," because I am holding on to the arcane notion that the subjunctive mood still exists in English. – rajah9 Sep 23 '11 at 15:23
  • Ah ok... I thought that "If I were you" was the only case... :) – Alenanno Sep 23 '11 at 15:26
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    I disagree that "Visa declined the credit card transaction" is dropping anything. "Visa declined to permit the credit card transaction" seems highly awkward to me. – James Tauber Sep 23 '11 at 17:40
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    I'm still not understanding the phenomenon you are trying to capture. I find 'decline' taking an infinitive to be awkward in all cases and would use something like 'refuse'. Perhaps a dialect difference? – James Tauber Sep 23 '11 at 19:27
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I don't think that there is any deletion going on. The word decline in English simply has two possible uses – one followed by an infinitive, one followed by a noun phrase object. This is similar to "want":

(1) I want to go to the park
(2) I want an apple

The infinitive-taking version is a control verb (as opposed to a raising verb, which you discuss in your question). This online syntax book (direct link to relevant section) has an overview of control structures, diagnostics, and the differences between control and raising.

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