Des problèmes avec une phrase relative en anglais.
So I was reading about the sad and horrifying loyalist# riots that took place in Belfast over the weekend. Until I stumbled over a sentence, a quote of Ian Paisley.
In the Guardian, the construction that puzzled me looks like this (emphasis mine):
- Then tension hit a higher notch when Ian Paisley, the now undisputed leader of unionism, warned that the Whiterock parade could prove “the spark which kindles a fire there could be no putting out“.
So there’s a relative clause with a zero relative pronoun embedded in a relative clause introduced by which. The part that I’m unsure about is the innermost one, a fire there could be no putting out: a dummy subject (”there”) and an absent object of “putting out” (the zero relative pronoun). To me, it sounds as if there was something missing. But what?
Looking at other news sources, I found that most have the same version as the Guardian (the BBC, the Times …), at least for the part of Mr Paisley’s quote that is between quotation marks. There’s one exception, though:
- “It could be a spark that would kindle a fire that there’ll be no putting out,” he said. (unison.ie)
“Would kindle” instead of “kindles” and “there’ll be” instead of “there could be”, and most notably the relative pronoun that.
Still, I feel quite confused about what happens if a relative clause, in particular one with a zero relative pronoun that is the argument of a verbal particle / preposition, collides with a dummy subject in the construction there is.
[Isn’t syntax a really confusing discipline? The more I look into it, the less I understand. Maybe a better-oiled reader can put me on the right track? Pretty please?]
: I debated with myself whether I should put quotation marks around “loyalist”. But as it is one of the accepted terms for the Protestant faction in Northern Ireland, this wouldn’t be appropriate. Still, “loyalist” sounds cruelly ironic for people in shoot-outs and pitched battles with the police.