Verbs of Mental States

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This article is a summary of a longer investigation of the so-called psych verbs that have been much studied in the literature. I have defined a psych verb as one that takes a complement clause subject <i>that S</i> and <i>Nh</i>, a human noun object. These are sentences like <i>That John was so stingy (troubled + annoyed) Helen</i>. It turns out that psych verbs so defined are heterogeneous: one group refers to a change in the mental state of <i>Nh</i>, a second to a change in the physical state of<i> Nh</i>, and a third group refers to no change of state at all in <i>Nh</i>. Some of these verbs take an optional or required particle, e.g., <i>calm</i> takes <i>down</i> optionally, but only <i>bowl over</i> is a psych verb as defined here. Others do not appear with <i>Nh</i>, but rather with a noun referring to some mental state of <i>Nh</i>, as in <i>That the officer treated his men so curtly blunted (*them + their morale)</i>. A lexical study of these verbs shows that there are more than 600 in English. Various syntactic properties of these groups of psych verbs have been studied, and the results have been collected into a table, an extract of which is appended here.


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