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Syntax Lecture 9: Verb Types 2. Two argument verbs: a reminder Two predicates null one meaning “do” lexical one with descriptive content Each predicate.

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Presentation on theme: "Syntax Lecture 9: Verb Types 2. Two argument verbs: a reminder Two predicates null one meaning “do” lexical one with descriptive content Each predicate."— Presentation transcript:

1 Syntax Lecture 9: Verb Types 2

2 Two argument verbs: a reminder Two predicates null one meaning “do” lexical one with descriptive content Each predicate is related to the appropriate argument agent theme Lexical verb moves to support agentive verb Complex verb moves to support inflection Agent moves to subject position

3 One argument verbs What are traditionally called intransitive verbs do not behave uniformly – John smiled He smiled an evil smile (cognate object) – John arrived

4 Cognate objects The definition of an intransitive verb is one that takes no object But some can appear with a very limited object which is ‘cognate’ with the verb itself – Cognate = having the same derivation Latin: paterGerman: VaterEnglish: father E.g. – Laugh a sinister laugh – Die a gruesome death – Sleep a fitful sleep But not – Drink a drink ‘drink’ is not really intransitive It is transitive but can have an implicit object He drank = He drank something He smiled  He smiled something

5 One argument verbs What are traditionally called intransitive verbs do not behave uniformly – John smiled He smiled an evil smile (cognate object) – John arrived * He arrived a late arrival There arrived a stranger(there construction)

6 There construction In the there construction, what normally functions as the subject appears behind the verb, in object position – An article appeared in the magazine – There appeared an article in the magazine The subject position is filled by there – A meaningless pronoun The post verbal position is restricted to indefinites – The article appeared in the magazine – * There appeared the article in the magazine Some things look like there constructions, but are not – There goes the richest man in the world The subject is not meaningless but deictic The object is definite

7 One argument verbs What are traditionally called intransitive verbs do not behave uniformly – John smiled He smiled an evil smile (cognate object) * There smiled a man – John arrived * He arrived a late arrival There arrived a stranger(there construction) In the post arrived a package(locative inversion)

8 Locative inversion This involves the switching of places between the argument in subject position and a locative PP At first this looks as though the PP is in subject position, but – In the post there arrived a package

9 Locative inversion If this is the same structure, then there seems to be an empty ‘there’ subject in locative inversion – In the post --- arrived a letter This is the only case in English where the subject of a finite clause can be empty, though we do find such things in other languages – (én) sétálok It is possible that such null subjects are in part licensed by a condition of recoverability – We know the subject is ‘én’ because of the verb’s inflection

10 Locative inversion The same could be true for the there subject – There is a man in the garden – There are men in the garden As it is the subject which determines the form of the verb, there must have different features in these cases The features of the there subject are determined by the post verbal argument It follows that the there subject is recoverable from the post verbal argument in the same way that ‘én’ is recoverable from ‘-ok’

11 Locative inversion It is an unsolved question why this only works with fronted PPs and not in all there constructions: – In the garden (there) stands a fountain – *(there) stands a fountain in the garden

12 One argument verbs What are traditionally called intransitive verbs do not behave uniformly – John smiled He smiled an evil smile (cognate object) * There smiled a man * in the theatre smiled a man – John arrived * He arrived a late arrival There arrived a stranger(there construction) In the post arrived a package(locative inversion)

13 The difference between them Verbs which can have cognate objects but can’t appear in there and locative inversion constructions are called unergatives Verbs which cannot have cognate objects but can appear in there and locative inversion constructions are called unaccusatives Unergatives have an agent argument Unaccusatives have a theme argument

14 Unergatives The UTAH says that there is a uniform position for each argument type We have seen that agents appear in the specifier of an abstract agentive verb This suggests that the analysis of an unergative is: But the lexical part of smile has no argument – Is this something to worry about?

15 Nominal predicates There are two types of nominals formed from verbs: – Those that refer to the process – Those that refer to the result The building of a bridge The building Result nominals typically do not take arguments So arguments seem to be something related to verbal things

16 Light verbs Light verbs are fully meaningful verbs used in situations which do not make use of all their meaning: – He took a walk – He gave her a look – He had a quick peep All of these verbs take a nominal as their complement The nominal expresses the lexical content of the process (but has no argument) The verb adds the argument (but not lexical content) This is very similar to what we are suggesting for the analysis of unergative verbs ≡ He walked ≡ He looked at her ≡ He quickly peeped

17 Cognate Objects The analysis also provides a possible position for the cognate object

18 Unaccusatives Unaccusative verbs have a theme argument Themes go in the specifier of lexical verbs Therefore the structure of an unaccusative verb is: This accounts for the absence of the cognate object – The object position is already taken

19 The there construction In the there construction the theme argument does not move to the subject position – Presumably it stays inside the VP But the verb ends up in front of the theme – So it must move The verb is in front of the theme even if it doesn’t move to the I position – There might arrive a letter So there must be a verbal position between its original place and the I

20 The there construction

21 This position must be a head position This head cannot appear with unergatives The agentive head is present with unergatives but not unaccusatives So, this head position is in complementary distribution with the agentive verb This suggest that the two are the same kind of verb, though they differ in meaning – Agentive = do – There head = ???

22 The there construction

23 Connection to the passive Recall that the passive morpheme also stands in complementary distribution with the agentive verb The passive morpheme is also in complementary distribution with the there head: unaccusatives cannot passivise: – * a letter was arrived The passive morpheme and the there head both have no argument of their own Unlike the passive morpheme, the there head licences a there subject The there head selects only unaccusative complements The passive and agentive heads select only transitive complements

24 3 structures compared AgentivePassiveThere construction

25 Conclusion Two types of intransitives Unergative – Consists of Agentive verb with agent in specifier + lexical predicate – Has place for cognate object – Agentive verb in complementary distribution with there head Can’t appear in there construction Unaccusative – Consists of Lexical predicate with theme in specifier – No place for cognate object – No agentive verb Can appear in there construction


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