Predicate classes

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The aspectual interpretation of sentences is constrained by the truth conditions predicates impose on points of times or time intervals. Using data from English, Vendler (1967) established a classification of four verb types on these grounds, that has been widely accepted in linguistic theory. Various researchers, among them Dowty (1979) for English and Ehrich (1992) for German, have proposed finer grained classifications. This paper is very much in the spirit of these proposals. Our aim is a detailed model of the compositional lexical semantics of predicates that models the contrasts of verbal aspect by implicit temporal arguments in the logical characterisation, thereby yielding a concise classification. Punctual and durative predicates are distinct through having either points in time or intervals as implicit temporal arguments. Truth intervals of predicates can be closed or open resulting in the telicity or atelicity of a verb. It is argued that resultativity must, in addition, be introduced by a secondary predicate denoting a result. This predicate may also be implicit. If it is explicit, however, it has the status of a syntactic argument. Since the secondary predicate is subject to a truth interval of its own, the verbal aspect of resultatives must be more complex than that of nonresultatives. Moreover, transitive and intransitive resultatives combine diverse kinds of elementary predicates such as ACT, BECOME, CAUSE Predicating over elementary events, licensing different argument structures and yielding specific truth conditions on times. Finally, a classification of 15 kinds of predicates is established on the basis of compositional complexity.


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