Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

It's Been Said Before "examines why certain phrases become clichés and why they should be avoided -- or why they still have life left in them."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Sounds Fascinating

By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Academic Paper

Title: The meaning of the English present participle
Linguistic Field: Semantics; Syntax
Subject Language: English
Abstract: While earlier descriptions of the English present participle have tended to be too general or too exclusively focused on its progressive meaning, this article aims to present an account of the meanings of the English present participle that captures their full richness. It starts from the observation that many (though not all) present participle clauses/phrases are paradigmatically related to adjectival phrases, as manifested in their distributional properties (e.g. a challenging year, those living alone). The article analyses the semantic effects that arise from the tension between the verbal semantics of the participial stem and the adjectival semantics of the syntactic slot. These effects involve accommodation of the verbal situation to the requirement that a situation is represented as time-stable and as simultaneous to some contextually given reference time. The progressive meaning is one such semantic effect, but participles may also assume iterative, habitual or gnomic readings. Some construction-specific semantic extensions of this adjectival template are identified and a tentative explanation is offered for them. Those constructions where the present participle has lost its semantic association with adjective phrases, such as the progressive construction and integrated participle clauses, are shown to display loosening or specialization of semantic constraints.


This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 15, Issue 3.

Return to TOC.

Add a new paper
Return to Academic Papers main page
Return to Directory of Linguists main page