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On the Offensive

By Karen Stollznow

On the Offensive " This book sheds light on the derogatory phrases, insults, slurs, stereotypes, tropes and more that make up linguistic discrimination. Each chapter addresses a different area of prejudice: race and ethnicity; gender identity; sexuality; religion; health and disability; physical appearance; and age."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Believe-Type Matrix Verbs and their Complements: Corpus-based investigations of their functions in discourse Add Dissertation
Author: Dirk Noël Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Ghent University, Germanic languages
Completed in: 2002
Linguistic Subfield(s): Semantics; Syntax;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Anne-Marie Simon-Vandenbergen

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. München: 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. Liège: University of Liège. 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 Günther 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?