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The syntax of fear

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Par   •  19 Février 2016  •  Analyse sectorielle  •  2 419 Mots (10 Pages)  •  825 Vues

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THE SYNTAX OF FEAR

Sara Virginia González Iglesias

GRAMMAR II

GROUP 320

[pic 1]

24/11/2015


THE SYNTAX OF FEAR

In this exercise, we are going to discuss which syntactic structures are realized in different examples according to the current grammar in English Language.

First of all, we have to take into account the different meanings of the verb fear according to The Merriam Webster dictionary as we can see in (1), this information leads us to think  whether this verb might or might not work syntactically different depending on its meaning.

(1) a. To be afraid of something or someone.

      b. To expect or worry about something bad or unpleasant.

Hereafter, we find the definition of (1a) realized in the same simple catenative construction of (2a). This is a structure where the matrix verb can be followed by a non-finite subordinate clause without the intervention of an NP. Simple catenative constructions can be either a raising structure or a subject control one.

Meanwhile, (1b) is realized in the complex catenative construction of (2b), where the matrix verb can be followed by a non-finite subordinate clause with the intervention of an NP. Complex catenative construction can have either an ECM verb, a verb selecting for an object control clause or a prefer one.

This exercise will be focused on the classification of the two first named constructions applied to the given examples.

To determine the syntactic structures in (2) we will start analyzing the contrast in (3):

(3) a. !!The walls fear to crumble upon us any moment

     b. The walls are feared to crumble upon us any moment

In (3a) the verb fear imposes selectional restrictions on the external argument the walls. The external argument should have a [+animate] feature to satisfy the requirements of the predicate. Considering the walls as an inanimate argument, it cannot fulfill the lexical requirements, therefore, (3a) is semantically anomalous. According to this, the verb fear is selecting its external argument.

We can prove it by this evidence:

  (3a)’ John fear to break down at any moment

The external argument John is fulfilling the lexical requirements of fear, accordingly it is not semantically anomalous.

As a test to (3b) we will make a contrast between active and passive sentences:

5a. He fears the walls to crumble upon us

5b. The walls are feared to crumble upon us

6a. !! He persuaded the walls to crumble

6b. !! The walls were persuaded to crumble upon us

The sentences given above as a piece of evidence are grammatically accepted. The b sentences of each couple are passivized in order to see how the internal argument, the walls, reacts. Both ECM and object control structures can be passivized, so this does not give us a clue to guess which of them is. However, in the first couple of sentences the verb fear does not impose selectional restrictions on its independent and nominal internal argument (NP); while in the second couple of sentences the verb persuade imposes selectional restrictions on the internal argument as we can tell from the semantic anomaly in (6a) and (6b). This leads us to think that fear might be an ECM verb and in contrast, persuade is a verb selecting for an object control clause [according to previous structural analyses that we carried out in earlier lectures this year] . Therefore, this guides us to propose that (3b) has an ECM structure.

There is a very important point we can make about (3a) where relation between the verb and its external argument the walls is highlighted, while (3b) underlines the relation between the verb and its internal argument-NP the walls. This last relation is given to see that the passive sentence remains grammatical and that the verb fear is not imposing any semantical restrictions on its internal argument. It is also remarkable that due to the fact that (3b) is a passive sentence, the external argument of the matrix clause is not phonetically realized; besides it is a complex catenative construction which does not take an independent NP.

To continue, we are going to make another contrast between passive constructions using in this case a [+animate] feature and a new embedded clause with a verb whose meaning can change depending on whether the matrix verb subcategorises for one structure or another. What we are trying to discover with this one more piece of evidence is to confirm that fear in (3b) is acting as an ECM verb. In case that the sentence would have a different meaning in the passive version of the embedded clause, we would say that the NP and the to-infinitive are independent constituents, therefore it would be an object control verb, but if the meaning remains the same in the passive version of the embedded clause, we would say that the NP and the to-infinitive form one unique constituent and as a consequence, the verb would result in an Exceptional Case Marking Verb would indicate that we might be before another type of structure, most likely one which has an exceptional case-marking verb as a predicate.

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