Subject-verb inversion in free relative clause starting with ‘how’, in Dubliners by James Joyce

(1) “You can keep it,” said Harry, laughing at how pleased Ron was.
(2) “I always said he was off his rocker,” said Ron, looking quite impressed at how crazy his hero was.
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, p.200, p.302)

(3) His questions showed me how complex and mysterious were certain institutions of the Church which I had always regarded as the simplest acts.
(James Joyce, Dubliners)

In (3), it seems that subject-verb inversion has occurred after interrogative phrase, probably because of the heaviness of the subject. Can I similarly invert the sentence in (1) and (2)?

If so, are they just options, or is there some semantic difference, for example emphasizing the clause?


These are not interrogatives but free relatives; otherwise your analysis is spot-on.

Yes, it is the weight of the subject NP (14 words!) which licenses the inversion. And No: that doesn’t license inversion with lighter subjects.

But don’t suppose that Joyce performs this inversion because his subject is heavy. Joyce was perfectly capable of expressing this gracefully and colloquially if he had wanted to, and in fact this sentence stands out as awkward in its context. It does so because Joyce wants it to: it’s a mimetic device which represents in its very syntax the confusion the boy feels, the “foolish and halting” answers he gives to the priest’s questions.

Source : Link , Question Author : Listenever , Answer Author : StoneyB on hiatus

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