I'm one of those obsessive English purists, but because I'm far from being an English professor, I don't know all the little rules of English. For instance, one thing that drives me crazy is the little known rule or I think it's a rule about the use of a dummy 'it.' Technically, in the most "pure" of English, the use of any pronoun without antecedent, such as the dummy 'it,' is deprecated. But because English cannot realistically adhere to that ideal, I can accept exceptions if they are widely accepted as grammatically correct.

There are two kinds of dummy 'it.' One is "impersonal" and is already accepted, used it cases like "It is raining" where there can be no possible antecedent (or if there was, the "proper" construction would be complicated and clunky). The other is "anticipatory," such as "It is dogs who bark," where a simple rearrangement and rewording avoids the dummy 'it' altogether: "Who bark are dogs" or more pleasantly "Dogs are the ones who bark." Somewhat cursory searching on Google and the newsgroup suggests that some say anticipatory 'it' is not appropriate for formal speech/writing, but others mention no such restriction. What I would like to know is whether or not the anticipatory 'it' construction is truly generally acceptable (and not just in informal situations) and if it is really a proper, correct construction and not a clumsy bastardization.
In other words, I want an authoritative answer about this.
"Fei Meng" > There are two kinds of dummy 'it.' One is "impersonal" and is already
accepted, used it cases like "It is raining" where there can be no possible antecedent (or if there was, the ... really a proper, correct construction and not a clumsy bastardization. In other words, I want an authoritative answer about this.

Seals bark too.
"Fei Meng" > There are two kinds of dummy 'it.' One is "impersonal" and is already

accepted, used it cases like "It is raining" where there ... In other words, I want an authoritative answer about this.

Seals bark too.

Canines other than dogs also.

dg (domain=ccwebster)
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There are two kinds of dummy 'it.' One is "impersonal" and is already accepted, used it cases like "It is raining" where there can be no possible antecedent (or if there was, the "proper" construction would be complicated and clunky).

It is raining. WHAT is raining? The weather is raining.

Michael DeBusk, Co-Conspirator to Make the World a Better Place Did he update http://home.earthlink.net/~debu4335 / yet?
There are two kinds of dummy 'it.' One is "impersonal" ... there was, the "proper" construction would be complicated and clunky).

It is raining. WHAT is raining? The weather is raining.

That sounds unidiomatic to me. I might say "The weather is rainy," but that doesn't get across the same idea as "It's raining." I would not say "The weather is raining."
It's simpler to just see the use of the "it" in "It's raining" as the "dummy 'it,'" as in the discussion at
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/internet-grammar/minor/dummy.htm

As Steven Pinker (in The Language Instinct: The New Science of Language and Mind) has pointed out, the languages of the world are divided into those which use dummy subjects and those which do not. English and French use a dummy subject: "It's raining" and "Il pleut." Spanish and Esperanto don't, "Lluve" or "Está lloviendo" for the first, "Pluvas" for the second. As far as I can see, there is no point in hypothesizing an antecedent for the dummy pronoun or some sort of ghost subject where no subject is present. (Not in the present grammar of those languages, that is. It may well be that in the history of each language, that sort of thing existed, but there is no reason to believe that such a thing exists in the minds of the present speakers of the language.)

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
I'm one of those obsessive English purists, but because I'm far from being an English professor, I don't know all ... really a proper, correct construction and not a clumsy bastardization. In other words, I want an authoritative answer about this.

"Bastardization" is a word which, as far as I can see, is pointless when speaking about language. I wouldn't even find "bastardization" appropriate when discussing a pidgin.
Some uses of the "anticipatory 'it,'" it seems to me, are preferable to alternative versions. Consider the following (found on the Internet): "It should be recognized that honest error is an integral part of the scientific enterprise." The alternative, "That honest error is an integral part of the scientific enterprise should be recognized," sounds awkward to me, while the "anticipatory 'it'" version sounds fine.

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
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I'm one of those obsessive English purists, but because I'm far from being an English professor, I don't know all ... really a proper, correct construction and not a clumsy bastardization. In other words, I want an authoritative answer about this.

You may have grasped the wrong end of the
stick. English sentences are not judged OK or
not according to their conformity with a priori rules. First, English sentences are judged OK or not OK;
then the rules are distilled from regular patterns in these judgments. The basis for the first judgment is not explicit; it includes functional efficiency and euphony as well as conformity to imputed rules.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)
It is raining. WHAT is raining? The weather is raining.

That sounds unidiomatic to me.

It is unidiomatic. It's idiomatic to say "It is raining". I was pointing out how (I believe ) the pronoun expands. It's my perception that the noun to which "it" refers is "the weather". If it does, then the "it" is not a dummy in that case.
(Not in the present grammar of those languages, that is. It may well be that in the history of each ... is no reason to believe that such a thing exists in the minds of the present speakers of the language.)

Point taken.

Michael DeBusk, Co-Conspirator to Make the World a Better Place Did he update http://home.earthlink.net/~debu4335 / yet?
I'm one of those obsessive English purists, but because I'm far from being an English professor, I don't know all ... really a proper, correct construction and not a clumsy bastardization. In other words, I want an authoritative answer about this.

I'm not a teacher, just a person who learned English from birth, and whose English already conformed to the rules taught in school. My answer may not be authoritative, but it is: That's just the way it is!
Cece
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