Aspectual complex predicates in Dutch, English, Swedish and Afrikaans: A comparative study of the syntax-semantics interface

Start - End 
2013 - 2014 (stopped)



This project is concerned with complex predicates, i.e. constructions that, in spite of being structurally
and conceptually composed of two sub-events, essentially denote one unified event by means of a
single clause, e.g. He brings the water to the boil. Focusing on the type of complex predicate in which
the first component modifies the second component in terms of aspect, including causativity, it seeks
to compare the structural and semantic properties of this type of construction in four Germanic
languages: Dutch, English, Swedish and Afrikaans. By means of corpus data, the project explores the
syntax-semantics interface, charting the structural patterns available for encoding aspectual complex
predicates and investigating how the structural features contribute to the semantics of the construction.
This is achieved by accounting for syntactic and semantic differences in terms of three continua:
(1) a continuum ranging from clausehood/verbhood to nounhood (cf. He gets the water to
boil/boiling/to the boil), which also covers degrees of finiteness and which applies to the
second component of the construction.
(2) a grammaticalization cline to account for the extent to which the first component has lost its
concrete lexical content and has come to express grammatical (aspectual/causative) meanings
(cf. from get meaning ‘to acquire’ to causative get).
(3) a lexicalization cline applying to the second component and the construction as a whole,
gauging the extent to which the second component has become semantically and structurally
autonomous from its verbal source construction and the construction’s tendency towards
idiomaticity (cf. how the boil only occurs in complex predicate constructions).