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Evolutionary Syntax

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Academic Paper


Title: The meaning of the English present participle
Author: Hendrik de Smet
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Université Catholique de Louvain
Author: Liesbet Heyvaert
Institution: University of Leuven
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.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 15, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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