Phases in verbal semantics

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The following article deals with phasal verbs, i.e., verbs referring to a special phase of an entire event. Thus, for instance, start refers to the beginning of an event whereas stop and finish focus on an event’s final phase. After a general introduction, I shall show in Section 1.2 that there is a direct line from medieval thinking about event phases to recent semantic theories as they have been developed since the 1960s or so onward. Three influential modern theories are discussed in the second section, namely: (1) Jackendoff’s account of the cognitive mechanism used to delimit events and their initial and final sub-phases; (2) Pustejovsky’s theory of the interaction of phasal verbs with their complements; and (3) Partee and Bennett’s analysis of phasal verbs within their interval semantics. In the main Section 3 I try to integrate these approaches to the semantics of phasal verbs within a more elaborate and comprehensive model for the semantic description of phasal verbs. The discussion will show that a coherent and descriptively adequate analysis of phasal verbs is possible and that phasal verbs must be recognized as constituting a grammatical class at least in the languages discussed here.


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