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Particles as grammaticalized complex predicates

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Abstract

This paper argues that English phrasal verbs represent a grammaticalization, from Phrase to Head, of a complex predicate construction. Predicates and the particles of phrasal verbs share a number of striking <i>quirks</i>: syntactically, both may appear with “unselected objects” and, semantically, both may form idioms of which the meaning cannot be predicted from its separate parts. Particles cannot be analyzed as predicates synchronically, however, because they allow two word orders: V – NP – particle and V – particle – NP, whereas predicates only allow the first of these, and not the second; furthermore, the particle appears to “bleach” much more easily than predicates, probably because the prototypical predicates, adjectives, express properties, whereas particles (prepositions) express <i>paths</i>. EModE marks a significant point in the development of the particle verb system in that the verbs participating in the combination are no longer restricted to ‘light’ verbs but include deadjectival and denominal verbs, unergatives, and ‘manner-of-motion’ verbs.

References

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