Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 1445–1492 | Cite as

Interpreting verb clusters

  • Stefan KeineEmail author
  • Rajesh Bhatt


We argue for syntactic verb cluster formation in certain restructuring configurations, the result of which is interpreted via function composition. This cluster formation can be diagnosed by its semantic consequences. In particular, we observe that in these configurations all embedded elements must receive a matrix interpretation even if there is no evidence that these elements leave the embedded VP at any stage of the derivation. We show that verb cluster formation and function composition provide a solution to this puzzle. We propose that the process of cluster formation takes place whenever two lexical verbs are part of the same phasal Spell-Out domain, which we relate to Richards’ (2010) distinctness proposal. Our analysis entails that (i) some instances of head movement have semantic effects and hence cannot take place at PF; (ii) the set of rules of semantic composition must include function composition; and (iii) it provides additional support for the notion of distinctness and extends its application to head movement.


Head movement Function composition Restructuring Semantics of movement Distinctness Phases Long passive 



We are greatly indebted to three anonymous NLLT reviewers and our editor Marcel den Dikken for extensive comments and valuable suggestions on earlier versions of this paper. We also benefited from very helpful discussions with Klaus Abels, Alan Bale, Jonathan Bobaljik, Annabel Cormack, Vincent Homer, Norbert Hornstein, Kyle Johnson, Winnie Lechner, Gereon Müller, Ethan Poole, Joachim Sabel, Martin Salzmann, Bernhard Schwarz, Dominique Sportiche, Gary Thoms, Lisa Travis, Michael Wagner and Susi Wurmbrand, all of whom we would like to thank. We are also indebted to the people who have agreed to take our questionnaire. We are also grateful to audiences at UMass Amherst, UCL, McGill, Chicago, Tübingen, GLOW 36, WCCFL 32 and LISSIM 8. All errors are our own.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MassachusettsAmherstUnited States

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