1

Off they went to look for him in the forest,
and there atop a tall bael tree was their friend, sitting tight.

In this sentence, what does "there" refer to, "atop a tall bael tree" or "in the forest"?

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  • 1
    Which do you think it refers to and why?
    – Peter
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 2:41
  • @learner Did you see the way Peter fixed your punctuation? Take a close look at what he did! Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 2:43
  • @P.E.Dant I'm wondering if the problem is not self-correcting keyboards inserting that space before punctuation marks. Mine sometimes puts spaces in weird places. Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 2:52
  • In thise case , what does 'there ' work .?
    – learner
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 2:52
  • @AlanCarmack That's possible, maybe, but this quirk seems so widespread that it's hard to imagine that's the reason. As far as I know, no written language uses the comma surrounded by spaces, but maybe learner's does. Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 2:58

1 Answer 1

1

Well, let's take each phrase out of the sentence and see if what remains makes sense.

1 Off they went to look for him in the forest, and there was their friend, sitting tight.

In sentence 1, there does not have to refer to in the forest. They went in(to) the forest. He sat tight. He could be miles away, in the city. I think this would be an existential there.

For there to refer to in the forest, I might expect

1b Off they went to look for him in the forest, and their friend was there, sitting tight.

Now consider the sentence without in the forest:

2 Off they went to look for him, and there atop a tall bael tree was their friend, sitting tight.

In Sentence 2, there refers to atop a tall bael tree.

So, to me, the meaning doesn't change when you have the complete sentence:

Off they went to look for him in the forest, and there atop a tall bael tree was their friend, sitting tight.

There still refers to atop a tall bael tree. Of course the tree is 'in the forest', but we have seen that if we remove 'in the forest' there refers to atop a tall bael tree.

Notice Oxford

there

1 In, at, or to that place or position

Opinions may vary on this one.

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  • I'd say that "there" is a pro-form anaphoric to the PP "in the forest". I'd analyse this as a subject-dependent inversion construction in which "there" is a preposed locative complement. (cf the non-preposed "Their friend was there, sitting tight atop a tall bael tree", where "there" means "in the forest").
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 11:46

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