LLI Meeting: Nov 16, 2013

This week, we have Sebastien Plante presenting to us his current research on “Defining Light Verb Construction Classes in English”. The abstract is provided below:


 “The literature recognizes a type of complex predicate often named “light verb constructions” (LVC), first noted in Jesperson (1954).  In my presentation, I will argue in favour of organizing LVCs and other LVC-like verbo-nominal constructions (VNC) into types according to the semantic and morpho-syntactic properties of its constituents, and of developing a metalanguage for capturing these differences.
LVCs are described as being made of one “semantically bleached” light verb (LV), and one deverbal noun (dvN), which together form a complex predicate which fulfils the same role of a verb alone.  Examples from English include have a nap, give a groan, and take a walk. In these examples, have, give and take are the light verbs, although it is both the LV and the dvN together which give the sentence its meaning.  In English, LVCs are specifically required to have the structure LV+a+dvN (esp. Wierzbicka 1982, Kearns 1988/2002, Butt 2003, Butt 2010), with an indefinite article, though LVCs may include additional information in the dvNP, as in to take a long walk.
The goal of this presentation is to introduce a categorization of LVCs in English, bearing foreign language data in mind, that will organize these and several other V+dvNP constructions according to their properties.  I will argue that LVCs should generally include all constructions where (i) the light verb is predictably stripped of some of the semantics of a heavy verb, and (ii) the LV and dvNP together denotes an event described primarily by the dvNP, and modified by the LV.  We can thereby distinguish between give an offer which is an LVC, and notice an offer which is truly a V+DP.
Different types of LVC will be defined according to the properties of the LV in pairwise combinations with dvNP types.  For this presentation, I will argue for three major categories of dvNP and four major categories of LV, which are combined pairwise into twelve broad categories of VNC capable of being further divided (or merged) based on the particulars of a given language.  Non-LVCs of a V+dvNP type will also be discussed in terms of how they relate to LVCs and one to another, and for those constructions which are not LVCs, to begin a discussion of what they should be considered as instead in this attempt at a description of a VNC family.”

We shall commence at the usual time and location, at 2:30pm to 4pm in VSSM 5220.

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