Serial verb constructions : argument structural uniformity and event structural diversity
- Serial Verb Constructions (SVCs) are constructions which contain two or more verbs yet behave in every grammatical respect as if they contain only one. This observation guides my approach to SVCs in this dissertation, in accord with which SVCs are defined through displaying (i) no markers of subordination or coordination, (ii) uniform tense, aspect and/or mood values, (iii) the phonological properties of a clause headed by a single verb, and (iv) any other properties that signify monoclausal status in the language concerned. But while (i)-(iv) are standard defining properties for SVCs, I propose a further new defining property: the Theta Structure Property for SVCs, which requires that a SVC display monoclausal argument structure. The Theta Structure Property - so called because it holds at the argument structure level of Theta Structure in Lexical Decompositional Grammar (LDG) - requires that a SVC display the same number of structural arguments and the same list of configurationally-defined non-structural (oblique) arguments as some clause headed by a single verb (in some language). But while some SVCs, called `Possible Verb' SVCs, satisfy this property straightforwardly by virtue of the fact that they have exactly the semantic content of a clause headed by a single verb, there is an additional, non-core class of `Impossible Verb' SVCs for whom satisfaction of the Theta Structure Property is more complex. The basis for the Possible Verb-Impossible Verb distinction are LDG's Possible Verbs constraints, which determine the semantic content of what can be expressed in a clause headed by a single verb. Possible Verb SVCs satisfy these constraints, but Impossible Verb SVCs, in not satisfying these constraints, have more complex semantic contents and argument structures. Special predicate combining operations (mainly consisting of argument coidentification operations) must apply in order for an Impossible Verb SVC to satisfy the Theta Structure Property for SVCs; these operations deliver (monoclausal) argument structural uniformity across SVCs, although SVCs still display considerable event structural diversity. Event structural analysis features prominently in this dissertation, primarily for the purpose of demarcating the boundaries of Possible Verb and Impossible Verb SVCs. In some instances these two types of SVC can be difficult to distinguish, as the case studies of instrumental and motion SVCs of Chapters 4 and 5 demonstrate. But if certain instrumental and motion SVCs present some rather subtle cases of Impossible Verb serialization, there are Impossible Verb SVCs outside these domains, such as (A), which more blatantly lack the semantic content or event structure of a clause headed by a single verb: (A) Ozo kpee ema de. Ozo beat drum buy `Ozo beat the drum (and then) bought it.' (Edo; Stewart 2001, 49) Why are SVCs like (A), whose content could never be expressed in a clause headed by a single verb, behaving as if they contain only one verb? One of the most interesting answers to this question is that multi-event concepts are expressed in SVC form in those instances where they describe `recognizable event types' -- a combination of actions that cooccur so often as to be conceptualized as a single event. However, Stewart (2001) gives no indication that (A) expresses a recognizable event type. Are SVCs always constrained by some conceptualization of eventhood (recognizable event type or otherwise)? Are SVCs in some languages completely event structurally unconstrained? And does (A) really behave in every grammatical respect as if it contains only one verb? These questions are addressed in the concluding chapter, drawing on the cross-linguistically expanded survey of SVCs built up in the preceding chapters.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Owens, Melanie Rachel
|Stanford University, Department of Linguistics
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the Department of Linguistics.
|Thesis (Ph. D.)--Stanford University, 2011.
- © 2011 by Melanie Rachel Owens
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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