From: Martin Port <mport2500aol.com>
Subject: Omitted Arguments and Complexity of Predication
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Institution: City University of New York
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010
Author: Martin A. Port
Dissertation Title: Omitted Arguments and Complexity of Predication
Subject Language(s): English (eng)
This work focuses on the licensing conditions and logical structure of
understood-argument constructions, or complement-drop
constructions, in English. There are two main types of such arguments:
Indefinite Understood Arguments (IUA) and Definite Understood
Arguments (DUA). IUA readings occur in such cases in He ate, He
cooked. In such cases, the reference of the dropped element need not
be known for the sentence to be satisfactorily interpretable. DUA
readings are given in such examples as She followed, She won. Here
the reference of the missing element must be known to the
speaker/hearer; it must appear in discourse.
Our central claim is that it is not necessary to resort to explanatory
factors outside the lexical-semantic structure of verbs in order to
account for the alternations. We propose that for both IUA and DUA,
the structure of the understood argument is a complex structure
involving existential quantification: '∃x [P(x)]'. It is never a simplex,
atomic element that could be represented by an individual constant.
For IUA cases, we justify this complex structure by showing that it is
mirrored in the structure of the alternating verbs. We note in particular
that IUA verbs often undergo other alternations such as the
material/product alternation, which we consider to be an indication of a
complex lexical structure.
For Definite Understood Arguments, we give two licensing factors that
correspond to the variable and the predicate in the logical form. We
motivate existential quantification in DUA constructions, by considering
such contrasts as I know/I know about that vs. I believe/*I believe about
that. Selecting for a PP-complement correlates with the possibility of
DUA. We claim that in this example, the about-phrase provides a slot
for a variable, since the phrase makes allusion to some object without
stating explicitly what it is.
We conclude by analyzing subject-drop alternations--the causative-
inchoative alternation--in the light of our findings regarding complement
drop. We note that this alternation occurs with verbs of a simplex
structure; and we offer a description of the general system of argument
drop in English.
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