I have recently come across the following expression:

(они) попрали даже то, что ими диктуется о смысле жизни. (they) trampled even what they dictated about the meaning of life.

It made me wonder: What is the PP о смысле жизни dominated by?

In order to understand it, I considered the expression where the PP is definitely a part of D/NP

Он купил книгу о Х (He bought a book about X)

and made it an embedded clause with wh-movement such that only книгу undergoes movement which resulted in

*Я знаю, что́ он купил о Х (I know what he bought about X)

which is ungrammatical which led me to the conclusion that N' (or N if we take the PP to be a complement in this case) cannot be wh-moved and if there is movement, the PP is then dominated by VP.

The question is: Can you please reference any literature accounting for this phenomenon?

  • 1
    I deleted my answer because you convinced me it was not relevant; I apologize.
    – Keelan
    Feb 13 at 14:05
  • @Keelan, pied-piping sounds right. E.g. the book about what did you buy? * where there is double piped-piping: 1) the pp is pied-piped 2) the dp dominating the pp is also pied-piped. I tried specifically searching for the phenomenon as it is attested in Russian but to no avail. A more general account encompassing various manifestations of pied-piping will do as well. P.S. The English *what did you buy about X? may be thought of as involving PP stranding (as it is indeed strange to assign a theta-role expressed by the PP to the verb, if it is the case, Russian then doesn't have that)
    – Shpekard
    Feb 13 at 14:53
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    I'm a native speaker of Russian and *Я знаю, что́ он купил о Х (I know what he bought about X) sounds pretty grammatical, as for me. Well, “to buy something about X” is not what you'd hear often, still if my sister is going to a book store would it be ungrammatical to ask her, “Will you buy something about Mozart for me?” Also, if you substitute “to buy” for a verb which combines with o (“about”) more eagerly, like “to read”, “to write”, there'd hardly be any questions about that being grammatic, and “to dictate about” is one of such verbs.
    – Yellow Sky
    Feb 14 at 19:22
  • @YellowSky that is a good point. I specifically chose купить to eliminate ambiguity. My suggestion was that if a PP is a complement/adjunt of a D\NP, it will be pied-piped. Your example Купишь мне что-нибудь о Моцарте? and the declarative expression such as Я купил что-то о Моцарте pose a question as to what the PP is governed by. Do you know how to handle it?
    – Shpekard
    Feb 15 at 15:45
  • I'd say о Моцарте is an attribute to что-нибудь, so о смысле жизни is an attribute to что in your expression.
    – Yellow Sky
    Feb 15 at 21:55


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