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The logic of complex predicates

A deductive synthesis of ‘argument sharing’ and ‘verb raising’

Abstract

In the literature, there are two major proposals for resolving the syntax-semantics mismatch characterizing complex predicates. The ‘verb-raising’ approach resolves the mismatch via syntactic movement (or its analog), whereas the ‘argument-sharing’ approach does so by positing merged argument structures for complex predicates at the syntax-semantics interface. Focusing on two types of complex predicates in Japanese—syntactic compound verbs and the so-called -te form complex predicate—I discuss some novel empirical data posing challenges to both approaches in addition to the set of well-known observations from the literature illustrating the tension between the two strategies.

The paper then argues for a synthesis of these two approaches within a variant of categorial grammar, taking advantage of the logical perspective on the syntax-semantics interface characteristic of certain recent variants of categorial grammar. The proposed analysis integrates the analytic insights of the two previous approaches seamlessly, and has both theoretical and empirical advantages over the two: theoretically, it clarifies the deeper connection between the theory-neutral analytic intuitions guiding the two approaches; empirically, it provides straightforward solutions for both the old and new empirical problems, enabling a previously unattained unified treatment of complex predicates that has a wider empirical coverage than its competitors.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See Grimshaw and Mester’s (1988) ‘argument transfer’, Matsumoto’s (1996) treatment of argument sharing in terms of functional uncertainty in LFG, and the approach in terms of function composition in CCG by Steedman (1985) for similar ideas in different frameworks. In a sense, the notion of argument sharing is prefigured in the ‘clause union’ analysis of complex predicates in Relational Grammar (RG) (cf., e.g., Aissen and Perlmutter 1976), which involves representing grammatical relations originally associated with higher and lower predicates together on a single, non-initial stratum.

  2. 2.

    Note in this connection that Yumoto (2005) reaches broadly similar conclusions that many properties traditionally attributed to syntactic differences receive more adequate accounts by refining the lexical semantic analyses of the relevant predicates.

  3. 3.

    In this connection, a reviewer points out that different predicates taking -te-marked complements behave differently with respect to whether they can embed negation, claiming that this fact reflects the syntactic biclausal vs. monoclausal distinction:

    1. (i)
      1. a.
        figured
      2. b.
        figuree

    However, the unacceptability of (ib) receives an independent semantic explanation. The relevant use of -te kuru means that some state of affairs gradually comes into being, and is inherently incompatible with stative predicates:

    1. (ii)
      figuref

    Since negative forms of verbs in Japanese are stative predicates, the unacceptability of (ib) is essentially of the same nature as the unacceptability of (ii). (Note also that the badness of (ib) has a flavor that is similar to the badness of the English sentence *It started to not rain, which is arguably semantic.)

  4. 4.

    Other phenomena include reflexive binding and honorification (cf., e.g., Shibatani 1976; Kuno 1983; Kageyama 1993). I disregard these phenomena here since they involve additional complications that are not directly relevant to the issue under consideration.

  5. 5.

    Strictly speaking, NPs with focus particles are not (canonical) quantifiers. But they are useful in that they are arguably scope-taking elements just like more canonical quantifiers (which is the only relevant property for the purpose of discussion here) and that the ambiguity we are after is brought out most clearly with them. For this reason, I use NP-dake (‘only’) expressions for examples of ‘quantifier’ scope ambiguity in what follows.

  6. 6.

    See Nishigauchi (1993) for a related point, where the syntactically complex nature of the complex predicate in long-distance passivization examples analogous to (17) is defended by means of Kageyama’s (1993) criteria for syntactic compound verbs such as semantic transparency and inapplicability of the Anaphoric Island Constraint.

  7. 7.

    See also Kageyama (1993) for a similar proposal, where the possibility of long-distance passivization is taken to directly correlate with the syntactic complexity of the projection of the embedded verb.

  8. 8.

    Note in this connection that several authors (Jackendoff 1972; Pollard and Sag 1994; Steedman and Baldridge 2011) have proposed semantic accounts of the acceptability patterns of passivization of certain control verbs in English along similar lines.

  9. 9.

    Shibatani (1978) claims that this case-marking alternation is impossible with such complex predicates, but I follow Matsumoto (1996) in assuming that sentences like those in (23) and (24) are acceptable in both case-marking patterns.

  10. 10.

    It is worth noting here that this kind of problem with the linearization-based ellipsis approach to coordination is, moreover, not restricted to the interaction of NCC with complex predicates; rather, it exists cross-linguistically across a large variety of cases in which NCC interacts with scopal phenomena, such as quantification and negation, as discussed, for example, by Levine (2011).

  11. 11.

    Note that adding expressions like maitosi ‘every year’ and ni-nen-kan ‘for two years’ changes the interpretation of the sentence, since such adverbials can provide the sum with respect to which the distributive predication inherent in the semantics of the internal reading of onazi can be invoked. The point here is that (34) is (nearly) impossible to interpret in the internal reading without such adverbial expressions, whereas (32) and (33) readily allow for the internal reading without an overt adverbial.

  12. 12.

    The lexical entry for morat-ta in (40) should not be taken to imply that all verbs that take -te-marked complements subcategorize for VPs. The specification for morat-ta here is motivated by the fact that the dative NP in this construction (which is coreferential with the embedded subject) is an argument of the matrix verb, bearing the benefactor role. At least for one of the verbs that subcategorize for -te-marked complements, there is evidence that the -te-marked complement is syntactically a sentence rather than a VP. The case in point is the desiderative predicate hosii, for which the subject of the embedded clause can be realized in either the dative or the nominative case:

    1. (i)
      figurebi

    As pointed out by Shibatani (1978) and McCawley and Momoi (1986), there is a difference between the two case-marking patterns in that the matrix predicate imposes a selectional restriction on the embedded subject only in the dative-marked variant:

    1. (ii)
      figurebj

    As in (ii), an inanimate subject is infelicitous with the dative-marked variant. Such a contrast can be straightforwardly captured in the proposed analysis by assuming, following Shibatani (1978) and McCawley and Momoi (1986), that the dative variant has the same syntactic category as morat-ta in (40), but that the nominative variant is licensed by an alternative lexical entry for hosii which subcategorizes for a (-te-marked) sentential complement.

  13. 13.

    Ample empirical justification exists for such an architecture of grammar. Dowty (1996b) motivates this setup by formulating analyses of word order-related facts from English such as adverb placement, verb-particle constructions and extraposition. A wider cross-linguistic justification comes from a closely related line of research in HPSG known as linearization-based HPSG, in which extensive empirical work has been carried out to date, including a detailed treatment of a wide range of word order-related facts in German by Kathol (2000).

  14. 14.

    Slash Introduction rules also need revision. However, since this revision has a nontrivial consequence for the interface between the combinatoric component and the component of structured phonology within the present system, I postpone introducing the revised Slash Introduction rules to the next subsection.

  15. 15.

    The scrambling rule in (49) is intended to capture clause-internal scrambling only. The so-called long-distance scrambling is known to have distinct properties (such as the fact that the scrambled element has to appear sentence-initially; cf. Saito 1985), and hence should be treated by means of some other mechanism. I follow Matsumoto (1996) in assuming that the apparent ‘inter-clausal’ scrambling in complex predicates like (8b) is a case of clause-internal scrambling, on the basis of the fact that it lacks the signature properties of long-distance scrambling. Also, the formulation in (49) is simplified in that it does not by itself capture the well-known asymmetries between SOV and OSV orders reflected in binding and scope interpretations (cf., e.g., Hoji 1985; see also Hoji 2003 for an important reconsideration of the set of facts in this domain). Such effects can easily be modeled in the present setup by imposing the constraint that the object can scramble over the subject but not vice versa (which involves elaborating (49) by making reference to the syntactic categories of the component expressions). However, since this issue is orthogonal to the ensuing discussion, I will continue to assume a simplified treatment via (49) in what follows.

  16. 16.

    The reason that the applicability condition on Cluster Pronunciation (59) refers to the notion of cluster instead of simply saying that the elements combined are atomic phonologies is to account for cases of multiple embedding of compound verbs, such as the following:

    1. (i)
      figureby

    In order to form the verb cluster in (i), (59) needs to be applied twice, and in the second application, either A or B in the rule will be a complex expression composed of two atomic verb phonologies:

    1. (ii)
      figurebz
  17. 17.

    The well-known correlation between the nominative vs. accusative marking on the direct object for the potential predicate -e(ru) and the desiderative predicate -tai and their semantic bi-/monoclausality can be given a lexical analysis along the same lines. As noted by Tada (1992) and Koizumi (1994, 1998), among others, for these predicates, the nominative marking on the embedded subject eliminates the narrow-scope interpretation available for the accusative-marked variant (following Koizumi 1994, 1998, I take (ib) to be ambiguous):

    1. (i)
      1. a.
        figurecm
      2. b.
        figurecn

    The special nominative case marking on the subject needs to be treated by assuming a separate lexical entry for the desiderative and potential predicates (similar to the one for the passive morpheme in (43), but differing from it in subcategorizing for the original matrix subject as well). It is then trivial to control the scopal property of the nominative-marked variant, by specifying that the embedded VP carries the +lex specification.

  18. 18.

    The way these rules are formulated departs somewhat from the (currently) standard variant of Type-Logical Grammar (cf., e.g., Moortgat 1997; Bernardi 2002) in that the applicability of Slash Introduction is directly constrained by the forms of phonological terms. In this respect, the present framework resembles more closely the systems proposed by Morrill and Solias (1993) and Morrill (1994). This is a subtle, but crucially important theoretical point, pertaining to the exact ontological underpinnings of the morpho-phonological component. See Kubota (2010, Sect. 3.2.2) for a more detailed discussion.

  19. 19.

    It is important to note here that morpho-phonological verb clustering necessarily induces restructuring of the abstract phonology (which in turn induces argument sharing), but restructuring of the abstract phonology might be caused by other factors, so that the argument-sharing effect is not limited to cases where tight morpho-phonological clustering is observed. For languages like Japanese, the two seem to correlate, and the present fragment correctly predicts this by constraining the availability of restructuring of the abstract phonology to cases involving verb clustering only. For evidence that restructuring of the abstract phonology is possible without tight morpho-phonological clustering of the predicates involved, see the discussion of Romance languages in Sect. 4.1 below.

  20. 20.

    The syntactic category Se should really be thought of as an abbreviation of a new functor syntactic category (which should more transparently be written with a new kind of slash). However, since working out this detail is not directly relevant for the treatment of the empirical issue at hand, I will not elaborate on this point here. For a similar treatment of implicit event variables within a CG setup, see Winter and Zwarts (2011).

  21. 21.

    I omit the treatment of iku and kuru here since the core meaning of these predicates that is responsible for inducing the internal readings of symmetrical predicates is essentially the same as tuzuke. These two verbs additionally have subtle meaning differences (which are irrelevant for the issue at hand) from tuzuke and from each other in terms of the way in which the event is situated in time from a certain anchoring point (with iku being forward-looking and kuru being backward-looking).

  22. 22.

    The predicates atom and cont in (89) are defined as follows:

    1. (i)
      1. a.

        atom(e)=¬∃e′<e

      2. b.

        cont(e)=∀t,t′[t<t′∧t,t′⊂τ(e)→¬∃t″[t<t″<t′∧t″∉τ(e)]]

    atom(e) holds if e does not have any subpart that is smaller than itself; cont(e) is true iff for all of the instants that are within the runtime of e (i.e., τ(e)), every instant between these instants is also within the runtime of e, that is, e is temporally continuous.

  23. 23.

    I would like to thank an anonymous reviewer for raising this issue.

  24. 24.

    In some Romance languages, clitics can attach to embedded verbs in constructions involving restructuring verbs without undergoing clitic climbing, as attested by the following Spanish example (den Dikken and Blasco 2007). (Here, lo is a clitic pronoun which is the direct object of the embedded verb a ver ‘see’ and the higher verb ir ‘go’ is a restructuring verb.)

    1. (i)
      figuredo

    This is another case where apparently conflicting evidence is found for (this time) verb clustering and argument (non-)sharing. This again is not a problem, but is in fact a naturally expected situation under the present account. Unlike full-fledged words, clitics are by definition morphemes that cannot stand alone and need to lean on another word to be morphologically realized. Given this, it is plausible to assume that the placement of the clitic between V1 and V2 in examples like (i) does not necessarily hinder morpho-phonological clustering of V1 and V2, and that, for this reason, they do not obligatorily undergo the sort of reanalysis that full-fledged arguments undergo in those languages. This of course raises the question of how to account for the difference between languages in which clitic climbing is obligatory and those in which it is not. Exploring such an issue is beyond the scope of the present paper, but it should be noted here again that such facts are in principle consistent with the general setup of the present approach in which the fine-grained notion of ‘modes of composition’ in the morpho-phonological domain will likely enable a simple and explicit account of such cross-linguistic differences.

  25. 25.

    Note in this connection that even an elaborate extension of the phrase structure-based approach like linearization-based HPSG would be of no help here, since the linearization framework still entails a strictly binary distinction between the syntactic and morpho-phonological domains, and thus is inherently unsuited for capturing the relevant notion of different degrees of morpho-phonological flexibility (see below).

  26. 26.

    See, e.g., Monachesi (2005:219), who raises a similar concern in her comparison of her own HPSG analysis of Romance complex predicates with an alternative in MMTLG.

  27. 27.

    See also Muskens (2007) for a closely related approach in this respect. Muskens’ approach can be thought of as a formalization of Dowty (1996b).

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Acknowledgements

For comments on this paper and related work, I would like to thank Olivier Bonami, David Dowty, Bob Levine, Detmar Meurers, Carl Pollard, Neal Whitman, Shûichi Yatabe and Etsuyo Yuasa. I would also like to thank the three anonymous reviewers of NLLT, whose insightful and thought-provoking comments greatly improved both the content and the presentation of the final version. Part of the revision of this paper was carried out while the author was supported by the Research Fellowship of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Grant No. 22-2912), whose financial support I would like to acknowledge.

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Kubota, Y. The logic of complex predicates. Nat Lang Linguist Theory 32, 1145–1204 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-014-9246-8

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Keywords

  • Complex predicate
  • Categorial grammar
  • Multi-modal categorial grammar
  • Argument sharing
  • Verb raising
  • Japanese