I want to know whether there is a technical term, preferably an accepted one, for the following type of parenthesis (bold):

(1) You are, I believe, not healthy.

The (bold) parenthesis always consists of a subject (often a pronoun) and an illocative verb: think, believe, etc. See for Russian: Iordanskaya & Mel'čuk (2011). Personally, I'm not convinced that Iordanskaya & Mel'čuk have it right, though.

The English data are less compelling than the German data. This type of construction looks as if it could be recovered in derivational syntax theories. However, data from German throw doubt on this assumption:

(2) Sie würde dem, (so) glaube ich, niemals zustimmen.
'She would, I believe, never agree with that.'

The parenthesis in (2) shows VS-order, with the optional adverb so. Note that the parenthesis cannot be the main clause because the propositional object (the clause without the parenthesis) cannot be preceded by a subordinator, such as dass.

If you know what this construction is called, or if you should know of an analysis of this kind of structure, please post an answer. Please avoid lengthy discussions in the comment section.

  • It seems to be covered under the syntactic rule Slifting (p.6 in the link); this name is short for "S-Lifting", where S is a clause, and "Lifting" means that the locution of the illocative verb becomes the main clause, i.e, it's "Lifted" up to the top node, while the ostensible top-node performative becomes a parenthetic chômeur. Slifting has interesting interactions with negative expressions.
    – jlawler
    May 30, 2014 at 16:51
  • @jlawler I don't see how the parenthesis comes to sit between parts of the slifted clause. May 30, 2014 at 17:46
  • @jlawler Can you point me towards some literature? You used the term chômeur. I'm familiar with that term from Role and Reference Grammar. Is the construction discussed somewhere in that framework? May 30, 2014 at 19:04
  • 1
    The chômeur gets niched like an adverb (see Niching): You, I believe, are not healthy ~ You are, I believe, not healthy ~ You are not, I believe, healthy ~You are not healthy, I believe.
    – jlawler
    May 30, 2014 at 22:02

1 Answer 1


These are conventionally called just parentheticals. As Dehé (2009) puts it (in a paper on their prosody), "parentheticals are commonly argued to be either external to the syntactic structure of their host <...>, or only very loosely related to it, e.g. in terms of adjunction <...>, Insertion <...>, or adjunction of a maximal projection which involves the application of b-Merge" (p.2).

You can find plenty of references for their syntax in his paper (Dehé, N. (2009). Clausal parentheticals, intonational phrasing, and prosodic theory. Bibliothek der Universität Konstanz.), including the book Parentheticals he and Kavalova edited in 2007.

As for the semantics, they seem to fit well into Pottsian kind of idea that they constitute a separate proposition, probably of a different status w.r.t. truth than the main (host) assertion.

Hope that helps.

  • 1
    Thanks for the pointers to the literature, Ivan Kapitonov! May 31, 2014 at 9:32

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