LINGUIST List 15.494

Fri Feb 6 2004

Diss: Historical Ling: No�l: 'Believe-type...'

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  1. dirk.noel, Believe-type matrix verbs and their complements

Message 1: Believe-type matrix verbs and their complements

Date: Fri, 6 Feb 2004 09:18:24 -0500 (EST)
From: dirk.noel <>
Subject: Believe-type matrix verbs and their complements

Institution: Ghent University
Program: Germanic languages
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Dirk No�l

Dissertation Title: Believe-type matrix verbs and their complements:
Corpus-based investigations of their functions in discourse.

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field: General Linguistics, Historical Linguistics,
Language Description, Semantics, Syntax, Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language: English (code: ENG)

Dissertation Director 1: Anne-Marie Simon-Vandenbergen

Dissertation Abstract:

This doctorate is a collection of eight articles:

-	1997 'The choice between infinitives and that-clauses after
believe.' English Language and Linguistics 1, 2: 271-284.

- 	1998 'The proof of the pudding: is prove to be/that like believe to
be/that?' In Johan van der Auwera, Frank Durieux and Ludo Lejeune
(eds.) English as a Human Language. M�nchen: Lincom Europa. 264-273.

-	1998 'Infinitival copular complement clauses in English:
Explaining the predominance of passive matrix clauses.' Linguistics
36, 6: 1045-1063.

-	1999 'Is claim a believe-type verb? Further proof of the
pudding.' Belgian Essays on Language and Literature. Li�ge: University
of Li�ge. 67-80.

-	2001 'The passive matrices of English infinitival complement
clauses: Evidentials on the road to auxiliarihood?' Studies in
Language 25, 2: 255-296.

- 	2003 'Is there semantics in all syntax? The case of accusative and
infinitive constructions vs. that-clauses.' In G�nther Rohdenburg &
Britta Mondorf (eds.) Determinants of Grammatical Variation in
English. (Topics in English Linguistics). Berlin: Mouton de
Gruyter. 347-377.

-	2003 'Translations as evidence for semantics: An
illustration.' Linguistics 41, 4: 757-785.

-	2003 'The be said to construction in Late Modern English.' In
Aline Remael & Katja Pelsmaekers (eds.) Configurations of
Culture. Antwerpen: Garant. 155-164

These all deal with believe-type verbs, i.e. those members of the
verbal lexicon that share a) the syntactic characteristic of
displaying the alternation between a finite clausal complement and an
NP+to-infinitival clausal complement, or a so-called accusative and
infinitive, as illustrated in (1) and (2) below, and b) the semantic
characteristic that their (active) subjects say, think, perceive or
show something to be the case of the subject of the complement (though
such a semantic characterization often does not hold in cases like
(2b) where there is no active subject).

(1) Mary believes that John is an alien.

(2a) Mary believes John to be an alien

(2b) John is believed to be an alien.

The eight studies are all concerned with either or both of two sets of
'functional' questions:

1. Given that language users have a choice between a finite and a
non-finite complement after believe-type verbs, what determines their
decision to use the one or the other? Is the choice semantically
determined, i.e. do believe-type matrices plus infinitives convey a
different meaning than believe-type matrices plus that-clauses? Or can
both patterns be said to be synonymous and do other factors than
semantic ones determine their use?

2. It is an empirical fact that the infinitival complement occurs much
more often with a passive matrix (2b) than with an active one
(2a). Why is this so? The passive is of course a useful device a) to
rearrange the word order of a sentence so as to give it a contextually
appropriate information/thematic structure, and b) to leave the
'actor' of a process out of the picture, but that in itself does not
explain why a normally marked choice should be the unmarked option in
the case of matrices preceding accusative and infinitives. So can
information/thematic structure be invoked to account for the high
frequency of these passive matrices? And how could the possibility
offered by the passive to leave a participant unmentioned contribute
to its frequency in this case?
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