LINGUIST List 17.114

Sat Jan 14 2006

Review: Typology/Syntax:Himmelmann & Schultze-Berndt(2005)

Editor for this issue: Lindsay Butler <>

Directory         1.    Martin Schäfer, Secondary Predication and Adverbial Modification

Message 1: Secondary Predication and Adverbial Modification
Date: 11-Jan-2006
From: Martin Schäfer <>
Subject: Secondary Predication and Adverbial Modification

EDITORS: Himmelmann, Nikolaus P.; Schultze-Berndt, Eva TITLE: Secondary Predication and Adverbial Modification SUBTITLE: The Typology of Depictives PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press YEAR: 2005 Announced at

Martin Schäfer, Institute of Linguistics, University of Leipzig


The book is a collection of 13 papers on the syntax and semantics of depictives and related constructions in a variety of languages. All but the introduction and the contribution by Valenzuela go back to contributions to a workshop on 'Depictives in Crosslinguistic Perspective', organized in 2001 by the editors (The editors' position paper for that workshop has since appeared as Schultze-Berndt & Himmelmann (2004)). The investigation of depictives has a very peripheral status in linguistics. Stock examples for this type of secondary predication are adjectives like 'angry' in (1a), a subject depictive, and 'raw' in (1b), an object depictive.

(1a) Peter came home angry. (1b) John ate the meat raw.

Little is known about the exact semantics of depictives or about the ways depictives like those in (1) are expressed in other languages. The collection significantly enlarges the data available for the study of depictives and presents many new ideas with regard to their syntax and semantics. It is of interest to all linguists working on secondary predication or adverbial modification.


The book starts out with the excellent introduction ''Issues in the syntax and semantics of participant-oriented adjuncts'' by the editors, N. P. Himmelmann and Eva Schultze-Berndt, pp. 1-67. In the first part, the authors introduce the basic terminology used throughout the volume. The following differentiations are made: a) 'participant-oriented adjuncts' denote a state or condition which temporally overlaps with the state of affairs designated by the main predicate. Examples for participant-oriented adjuncts are depictives, participant-oriented manner adverbials (e.g. 'angrily' in 'Peter left angrily'), and circumstantials. b) 'depictives proper' are participant-oriented adjuncts that are part of the focus domain of a sentence (cf. e.g. the adjectives in (1)). c) 'circumstantials' are participant-oriented adjuncts that are not part of the focus domain of a sentence (e.g. 'as a young girl' in H & SB's (24) 'As a young girl Sarah did not travel to Paris alone'). d) 'depictives (in the broad sense)' compromise depictives proper and circumstantials. In addition, the term 'depictives' is restricted to those expressions that can be distinguished from event-oriented adjuncts (e.g. manner adverbials like 'slowly' in 'Peter read the review slowly') on morphosyntactic grounds. e) 'general adjunct constructions' can receive event-oriented or participant-oriented interpretations.

In the second part, they present the range of semantic functions participant-oriented expressions can serve. This is illustrated with a semantic map for participant-oriented expressions. The third part lists five parameters that play a major role in a morphosyntactic typology of participant-oriented adjuncts: the combinatorics of oriented adjuncts and main predicates, the syntactic function/semantic role of the controller of the oriented adjunct, the syntactic position of the adjunct, the word class/internal structure of the adjunct, and the morphological marking of the adjunct.

''Depictives in English and Warlpiri'' by Jane Simpson, pp. 69-106, argues that in Warlpiri depictives have clearly adjunct status, showing great flexibility with respect to word order and interpretation. In addition, there are only few constraints on what can serve as a depictive and of what the depictive predicates. In contrast, English depictives have more in common with resultative complements, exhibiting different properties depending on what they are predicated of and showing restrictions with respect to the lexicosemantic class of the main verb.

Thomas Müller-Bardey, in ''Adverbials and depictives as restrictors'', pp. 107-140, attempts to characterize depictives and adverbials with respect to their ability to be part of the restrictor in quantificational relations. He proposes to analyze depictives as two-place predicates of the form DEPICTIVE(x,e).

In ''Depictive agreement and the development of a depictive marker in Swiss German dialects'', pp. 141-171, Claudia Bucheli Berger describes predicative and depictive marking in Swiss German dialects. Of the three types of dialects she discusses, one behaves like standard German (i.e., exhibiting attributive agreement but not depictive or predicative agreement). In contrast, in the Wallis dialects, depictive and predicative agreement exist. Finally, the dialects of the Appenzellerland use a genuine depictive marker, apart from having attributive agreement.

''Quantifying depictive secondary predicates in Australian languages'' by William B. McGregor, pp. 173-200, discusses participant-oriented quantifiers in Australian languages, e.g. the usage of numerals like 'one' in the sense of 'alone'. The author argues that a dependency relation of attribution is essential to secondary predicate constructions.

Winfried Boeder's ''Depictives in Kartvelian'', pp. 201-236, gives a survey of depictives in the Kartvelian or South Caucasian language family, focussing especially on Georgian and Svan. It is shown that depictives expressing condition, state or concomitance and manner expressions, that is, adverbials, are used in similar contexts.

In ''On depictive secondary predicates in Laz'', pp. 237-258, Silvia Kutscher and N. Sevim Genc discuss the morphosyntactic, semantic and prosodic characteristics of depictive secondary predication in Laz, another Kartvelian language. They show that Laz does not have a unique segmental or distributional means to mark depictives, with the possible exception of reduplicated numerals functioning as distributive quantifiers. Prosody allows to distinguish depictives and manner expressions in pre-predicate position.

''Participant agreement in Panoan'' by Pilar M. Valenzuela, pp. 259- 298, examines participant agreement (PA) in Shipibo-Konibo, a Panoan language spoken along the Ucayali river in Peru. With respect to their PA morphology, the author distinguishes 5 adjunct types and correlates these with the degree of participant vs event orientation.

In ''Secondary predicates and adverbials in Nilotic and Omotic: a typological comparison'', pp. 299-321, Azeb Amha and Gerrit J. Dimmendaal investigate secondary predicates in Nilotic languages (spoken in Ethiopia) and Omotic languages (spoken in the north and east of lake Victoria). They discuss possible relations between the expression types used to encode participant-oriented adjuncts and other typological parameters of the respective languages.

Tom Güldemann's ''Asyndetic subordination and deverbal depictive expressions in Shona'', pp. 323-353, investigates deverbal secondary predicates in Shona, the major Bantu language of Zimbabwe. 'Free- subject dependent predicates' constitute a general adjunct construction, allowing depictive and several adverbial usages. Güldemann also argues for the importance of assertive focus in the determination of depictives.

In ''Forms of secondary predication in serializing languages: on depictives in Ewe'', pp. 355-378, Felix. K. Ameka argues that Ewe, a Kwa language of West Africa, has nominal depictive secondary predicates. In addition, he discusses whether serial verb constructions can serve as depictives.

''Depictive and other secondary predication in Lao'' by Nicholas J. Enfield, pp. 379-391, gives a concise overview of expressions functioning as depictives and other secondary predicates in Lao, an isolating language. The structures discussed all can have various functions; Lao lacks a dedicated depictive construction.

The collection ends with ''A semantic map for depictive adjectivals'' by Johan van der Auwera and Andrej Malchukov, pp. 393-421. After a short introduction to semantic maps, the authors develop a semantic map for adjectival constructions.


The book makes a very compact impression in that all authors, although covering very different aspects of depictives and participant- oriented adjuncts, discuss their findings in view of the positions held by the editors in the introduction or in Schultze-Berndt & Himmelmann (2004). Probably the most intriguing outcome of the book is that the 'traditional' view on depictives has been far too simplistic. As the editors argue in the introduction, it appears that many semantic adjunct types are both participant- and event-oriented, albeit to very different degrees. As a consequence, there exists competition as to whether the participant-orientation or the event-orientation is morphosyntactically encoded, that is, whether a depictive or an adverbial construction is used. An English example for this sort of competition is (2), where (2a) has the adverbial 'angrily', and (2b) the depictive 'angry'. (2a) John angrily read the review. (2b) John left the party angry. = (11b-c), p.8

This kind of opposition between 'angry' and 'angrily' is one of the many cases which leave the non-native speaker of the respective language wondering about what kind of semantic contrast this possibly could encode (though at least (2) is amply discussed in the introduction and in Geuder (2000)). That the English data do not represent an isolated case is shown in many examples throughout the volume, cf. (3) for another example revolving around 'angriness', this time from Shona.

(3a) ndaka-mu-tuka zvaka-shata 1SG:SBJ:REM:PST-10BJ-scold 8MAN.RS.STAT-become.bad 'I scolded him angrily.' (3b) aka-taura zv-ose izvi aka-shatirwa 1.REM.PST-speak 8INAN-all 8DEM 1.FS.STAT-become.angry 'He said all these things in a state of anger.' = (42), p. 341

That several possibilities of encoding are not restricted to these kinds of 'psychological predicates' is shown in (4), an example from the Omotic language Turkana.

(4a) e-pes-e-te nesi e-rono 3-kick-ASP-PL 3SG.ABS 3-be.bad:SG 'They kick him/her/it badly.' (4b) e-pes-e-te nesi ni-aronon(i) 3-kick-ASP-PL 3SG.ABS REL-badly 'They kick him/her/it in a bad way.' = (3), p. 303

Even 'raw' can in some languages be encoded as either depictive or adverbial, cf. (5) from Georgian.

(5) xorc-i um-i / um-ad miqvars meat-NOM raw-NOM / raw-ADV 'I like meat raw.' = (116), p. 229

Boeder's comment on (5), ''Subtle differences in meaning remain to be investigated.'' can in fact be applied to many more examples in the book.

Another very interesting point raised in the introduction concerns the role of focus in defining depictives. Thus the introduction argues that depictives proper are always part of the focus domain whereas circumstantials are not, although both ''are participant-oriented adjuncts which convey a state of affairs which temporally overlaps with the state of affairs conveyed by the main predicate.'' (p. 19). It is not quite clear to me to what extent this differentiation makes sense, especially when the so-differentiated circumstantials and depictives proper show no further semantic difference. I would rather subscribe to the more cautious conclusion of the discussion of the role of assertive focus in T. Güldemann's contribution, namely that ''the inherent focal status of depictives [...] has heuristic potential for distinguishing such expressions from formally related ones.''

All in all, this book provides an excellent resource for anyone interested in depictives, adverbials and related constructions.


Geuder, Wilhelm (2000). Oriented Adverbs: Issues in the Lexical Semantics of Event Adverbs. Ph.D. dissertation, Universität Konstanz

Schultze-Berndt, Eva & Nikolaus P. Himmelmann (2004). 'Depictive secondary predicates in crosslinguistic perspective', Linguistic Typology 8(1): 59-131 (Revised manuscript received in 2001!)


Martin Schäfer works at the Institute of Linguistics at the University of Leipzig. He recently completed his PhD thesis on "German adverbial adjectives: syntactic position and semantic interpretation".