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TRANSITIVE PREDICATES

Properties:
Eg.(1) Mary built a house.
* Mary built.
*Mary built last year a house.
(2)Mary offered a gift to her sister.
*Mary offered a gift.
*Mary offered to her sister.
They have an external argument, the subject
An internal argument, the syntactic function of which is that of direct object.
It is not possible to omit the direct object (as a result of the application of the Projection
Principle)
The verb assigns Accusative case to its internal argument if the argument is adjacent to the verb
(in other words nothing can intervene between the verb and its argument)
The internal argument (direct object) can be either an affected object (denoting an entity affected
by the action the predicate refers to) or an effected object (denoting an entity that is the result of
the event described by the verb).
Eg. Affected objects cut the bread, eat a cake, chop a tree, carve the steak
Effected objects build a house, bake a cake, compose a song, write a book
The same verb may take either an affected object or an effected object
Eg. Cut the bread/ cut a road in the jungle; paint a house/paint a portrait; carve the steak/carve a
statue; press the juice/press the button
The internal argument may be a Theme or a Patient
We call such verbs monotransitive verbs
There are transitive verbs that take two internal arguments- two NP complements (the examples
under 2). The first NP functions as a direct object, while the second NP functions as an indirect
object or an adverbial modifier of place. We call such verbs ditransitive verbs.
Eg. He offered flowers to his wife. (Agent, Theme, Goal)
Grandma made a cake for her grandsons. (Agent, Theme, Beneficiary)
John put the books on the table. (Agent, Theme, Location)
With the first category of ditransitives it is possible to reverse the order of the two NP
complements. This reversal is accompanied by the deletion of the preposition to/for. Such a
construction is called the double object construction.
With some ditransitive verbs it is possible to delete one of the two objects
Eg. The president assigned the task to the secretary.
The president assigned the secretary the task.
The president assigned the task.
The president assigned the secretary.
The syntactic structure of a transitive verb
Transitive verbs are complex, causative VP structures, made up of two VP shells. The higher VP
is interpreted as an abstract causative light verb, , namely a null verb with a causative
interpretation similar to a verb like make. The causative light verb is affixal in nature, or it can be
null. The external argument of the transitive verb is projected in [Spec, p] so as to express the
causative/agentive role of the external argument. The internal argument of a monotransitive verb
is projected as sister to Vo.

Eg. We built a house. (We made the house to come to be built)

The structure of ditransitives that subcategorize for Location


Eg. Mary put the glasses on the shelf.
The shepherd got the horses into the stable.
The sentences above contain two prepositional phrases headed by the prepositions on and into.
Prepositions are prototypically relational as they specify a spatial, temporal or other type of
relation between two entities. Prepositions project structure containing both a complement and a
specifier. In the sentences above we can consider that the DPs that function as surface objects of
the verbs are projected in the [Spec, PP] position while the DPs functioning as objects of the
prepositions are projected as sisters of P0.The DPs functioning as direct objects of the verb are ccommanded and governed by the verb, they will be assigned structural Accusative by the verb.
From a semantic point of view such verbs (put, get, fit, pound, paint, etc) specify a change
brought about by an agent, so the verbs are causative.

The Ergative alternation


Eg. The enemy sank the ship. / The ship sank.
They stopped the machine. / The machine stopped.
Derived unaccusatives
One argument verbs, namely the internal one, a Theme which is projected in the object position
at D-structure and moves to [Spec, IP] at S-structure to be assigned case, as the intransitive
counterpart is unaccusative, it lacks an external argument, therefore cannot case-mark the
internal argument.
The transitive variant is causative.
They do not allow there-insertion (*There sank a ship.)
One can prove that such verbs are unaccusatives, namely that they lack an agent role since we cannot
insert an instrument role which is licensed only if an agent is present overtly or implicitly.
Eg. *The ship sank with a cannonball.
*The machine stopped with a stick.
Unaccusatives cannot control PRO. Generally, PRO can be controlled if the original role exists, which is
not the case of unaccusatives.
Eg. He wants PRO to do that.
PRO is controlled by the subject of the verb in the matrix clause, in the sense that we can identify the
empty category PRO, the subject of the non-finite infinitive with the help of the overt subject of the verb
want, the two being identical.
With unaccusatives it is not possible.
Eg. *Babies often roll/turn after PRO putting them to bed.

This sentence cannot possibly be interpreted as meaning that those who put the babies in bed are also the
ones that roll/turn them, therefore control is not possible.
These two tests prove that such verbs do not have a causative structure, so they do not contain a light p.
NB
Not all transitives have an ergative counterpart. There are transitive verbs that only select an agent as their
external theta role, but there are other transitives that select other roles as external arguments.
Eg.(a) The baby ate the soup. /*The spoon ate the soup. /*Hunger ate the soup
The barber shaved father. / *The razor shaved father.
(b) Mike opened the door. / The key opened the door. / The wind opened the door.
Verbs that have similar selectional properties roll, redden, break, drown, enlarge
Where do these differences come from?
Causality plays an important role in deciding thematic structures. There is an overlap between Cause and
Agent in the sense that if an argument is the agent of a change of state it is also the cause of that change.
The main difference between agency and causality may be stated as the fact that agentivity involves
properties of volition and intention where as causality does not. If the verb is specified for both causality
and agency (volition, intention) (like eat, shave) it can only select an Agent. If a verb is specified only for
causality (like open, break) it can select both and agent and an instrument (cause) as external argument. In
other words, only those transitives that are specified only for causality, but not for volition, intention enter
the ergative alternation.
De-adjectival ergative verbs
Eg. Thin, narrow, cool, thicken, harden, soften, widen, lengthen, shorten, broaden, loosen, tighten,
darken, redden, deepen, lower, enlarge
Eg. His eyes narrowed. / He narrowed his eyes and grinned.
The screen cleared when I bumped the keyboard. / I cleared the screen when I bumped the keyboard.
De-adjectival verbs also have analytical counterparts which can be either transitive or intransitive.
Eg. The leaves turned red. / The cold turned the leaves red.
The liquid froze solid. / We froze the liquid solid.
The safe blew open. / The charge blew the safe open.
The first sentence may be interpreted as a sentence containing a copula-like verb which subcategorizes for
a small clause that is in fact a resultative phrase. Such sentences may be interpreted as describing a
change resulting in a state. (The cold does something such that the leaves come to be red.)

THE CAUSATIVE ALTERNATION


Eg. (1) a. Jane broke the glass. / b. The glass broke
(2) a. The general marched the soldiers to the tents. / b. The soldiers marched to the tents.

Sentences a) in each pair are causative, but they do not illustrate the same type of causation.
In English we can make a distinction between the so-called causative/inchoative alternation
(1) and the so-called induced action alternation (2).
The Causative/Inchoative Alternation
Eg. She moved the branch. / The branch moved.
They sank the ship. / The ship sank.
The girl opened the door. / The door opened
The DO of the transitive sentence is the Su of the intransitive sentence
Verbs that undergo this alternation change of state verbs
- verbs of change of position
- change of colour
- converted from adjectives
Eg. Break, crack, smash, crash, rip, split, tear
Bounce, drift, drop, float, move, roll, slide, coil, revolve, rotate, spin, wind
Blacken, brown, crimson, gray, green, purple, redden, silver, whiten, yellow
Clear, clean, cool, dirty, double, dry, empty, sober, tame, thin, warm
Eg. The boys bounced the ball on the floor. / The ball bounced on the floor.
The wind cleared the sky. / The sky cleared.
Alternating predicates involve a change of state and involve a CAUSE predicate
They describe eventualities that are under the control of some external cause
When used transitively, the external cause, is the subject of the sentence
BUT, if the subject is an animate, intentional and volitional Agent cannot be used as
intransitives
Eg. The waiter cleared the table. / *The table cleared.
They murdered the king. / *The king murdered.
Induced Action Alternation
Eg. The rider jumped the horse over the fence. / The horse jumped over the fence.
I walked the dog. / The dog walked.
More restrictive only intransitive agentive verbs of manner of motion (in the presence of a
directional phrase) are allowed to be used transitively
Eg. Drive, fly, gallop, leap, march, race, run, swim, walk, etc
The causee is generally an animate entity induced to act by the causer
Eg. She hurried him to the door.
He was running the horse down the hill.
Other instances of causative alternation
Other basically intransitive verbs which denote internally controlled actions can, in certain cases
be used transitively, when externally controlled.
Eg. Bang, buzz, ring, clang, beam, flash, bleed
Fly, dangle, hang, stand, swing, sit
Lodge, burp

Eg. The visitors rang the bell./ The bell rang.


They stood the statue on the pedestal. / The statue stood on the pedestal.
The soldiers lodge in the schoolhouse. / The army lodged the soldiers in the schoolhouse.
The nurse burped the baby. / The baby burped.
Intransitives recategorized as causative transitives
Eg. He walked the horses up and down.
They generally graze their sheep on the neighbouring meadows.
The general worked his men ruthlessly.
You may sit down ten people with ease.
All the verbs in the sentences above are inherently intransitive verbs recategorized as transitive
causative verbs.
Two main subcategories :
A) transitives with a DO and an optional Adv of Place
B) transitives with a DO and an obligatory Adv of Place
A.1. motion verbs amble, dance, float, gallop, hurry, jump. march, quiver, retire, roll, run, tumble, walk
Eg. He was ambling his horses along the river.
She hurried the guest to the door.
The king marched the army into the Capital city.
Dont run him on a tight rope!
They all marched to London
A.2. positional verbs sit down, stand
Eg. I sat the old man down in a chair.
The mother stood the baby upon the floor.
Most recategorized verbs in the sentences above may undergo passivization
Eg. They were all marched to London by their commanders.
B.1. [-animate], [-abstract] DO and an obligatory Adv of Place. The DO usually has an instrumental
meaning.
Eg. She leant her elbows on the table (she caused her elbows to lean on the table)
She stayed her arms on her knees.
She struck her hand against a stone.
She dabbed a powder-puff across her forehead.
Phrasal transitives
Eg. Bob put his coat on.
Bob put on his coat.
Phrasal verbs verb + particle (or verb+preposition / verb+particle+preposition/ verb+adverb)

But such a verb can be interpreted as a verb phrase containing a verb and a particle inside which a
direct object can intervene between the verb and the particle without any change in the
grammaticality or semantics of the phrase.
The verb and the particle form a semantic unit and can be paraphrased by a lexical verb
Eg. Give up=renounce
Put off=postpone
Build up=develop
This analysis is supported by the idiomatic character of many phrasal verbs, in which the particle
deviates from its literal meaning
Eg. Turn down, blow up, figure out
If the particle preserves its literal meaning, it is more likely that the predicate will allow Particle
movement
Eg. He put on his hat. / He put his hat on
If the complex phrasal verb is idiomatic Particle Movement is blocked.
Eg. The terrorists blew up the building. / *The terrorists blew the building up.
No adverbial , not even right or straight can intervene in the V Prt NP structure
Eg. He put on his hat. / *He put right on his hat.
If the NP is heavy (for instance a very long NP, or an NP modified by a relative clause), a
modifier can intervene between the particle and the verb
Eg. He looked up the answer I had given him. / He looked right up the answer I had given him.
If the verb is deleted, it is deleted together with the particle
Eg. He put on his hat and [_] his coat.
If the complement is a pronoun Particle movement is obligatory
Eg. *He took off it. / He took it off.
Ditransitive phrasal verbs
Eg. He gave back the book to John.
*He gave back John the book. (double object construction is ungrammatical)
He gave the book back to John. (Particle Movement possible across the direct object in the
prepositional variant of the sentence)
*He gave the book to John back. (Particle Movement is blocked across both objects)
If the object is very heavy it cannot intervene between the verb and the particle
Eg. He turned off the light.
*He turned the light which I had forgotten on off.
If the direct object is clausal it cannot intervene between the verb and the particle
Eg. He gave away all the books.
*He gave what he had been able to gather throughout his life away.
The Syntax of phrasal transitives
There have been a number of proposals for the syntax of such verbs. We shall adopt the small clause
analysis.
Eg. Jane looked [sc the phone number up].
Small clauses have a number or properties.
They do appear as derived nominals.
Eg. Mary considers [John intelligent]. / *Marys consideration of John intelligent
The sequence above that we have considered a small clause [NP Prt] is also excluded from this type of
nominalizations.

Eg. *The looking of the phone number up


Small clauses do not allow extraction of a part of the post-verbal NP
Eg. This makes the back of the car out last searching place. / *Heres the car that makes the back of our
last searching place.
Phrasal transitives behave in a similar way.
Eg. The pressure has worn Marys brother out. /*Who has the pressure worn the brother of out?
A small clause is interpreted as expressing a result
Eg. She filled [my plate up].
They threw [him out].
Therefore, we can say that the verb subcategorizes for a small clause, a particle phrase where the NP
occupies the subject position, namely the Spec position. The problem that appears is case assignment,
because the maximal projection can be considered as a barrier to government. Kayne considers that the
Particle projection is not a barrier, so the verb governs the NP inside the small clause and assigns Acc
case to that NP. But there are problems related to sentences like
She filled up my plate.
They threw out the boy.
For which Kayne suggests movement of the NP, which is in fact movement to the right, when we know
that movement always occurs to the left.
A solution to this problem would be to accept the small clause analysis but the status of this small clause
is that of a Particle Phrase with a resultative meaning. As Particles are not case assigners they can
intervene between the verb and the NP without being a barrier to government and case assignment. The
verb is transitive therefore it will assign Accusative. No movement is stipulated for the structures above.
Movement will occur with structures in which the NP intervenes between the verb and the Prt. The NP
moves to [Spec, Prt]. Movement occurs when the NP has topic-like features, that is when its reference is
quite determined.
ENGLISH SYNTAX THE DOUBLE OBJECT CONSTRUCTION
Ditransitives verbs which take an external argument and two internal arguments, the first one
functioning as a direct object and the second one as an indirect object, which has the role of Goal
or Beneficiary.
The two objects are obligatory arguments. Both of them receive case. They are assigned the same
theta role both in the prepositional variant and the double object construction.
We shall see that there is a difference of interpretation between the prepositional variant and the
double object construction.
Eg. (1) The teacher gave bad marks to the students. (Goal)
The teacher gave the students bad marks.
(2) She made a shirt for her niece. (Beneficiary)

*She made her niece a skirt.


The Dative Alternation
. interpreted as CAUSE x to HAVE y
. verbs which involve causation of a change of possession allow the Dative alternation
Classes of verbs denoting causation of change of possession which enter the Dative Alternation
A) give verbs give, pass, sell, pay, loan, serve, feed, lease, lend, refund, rent, repay, trade
Eg. I rented the house to Tom.
I rented Tom the house.
B) verbs of future having - offer, promise, leave, forward, allocate, assign, advance, grant,
award, allot, concede, issue, leave, owe, vote.
Eg. We granted the money to him.
We granted him the money.
C) verbs of throwing - bash, bat, flick, fling, hurl, hit, kick, pass, pitch, shoot, slam, slap,
sling, throw, tip, toss
Eg. He passed the ball to John.
He passed John the ball.
D) verbs of sending; verbs of instruments of communication cable, send, mail, signal, e-mail,
ship, fax, wire, telephone, radio, telex,
Eg, She e-mailed the news to me.
She e-mailed me the news.
E) verbs of communication ask, tell, show, teach, write, pose, read, quote, cite, preach
Eg. He preached the Gospel to the natives.
He preached the natives the Gospel.
F) bring, take - He brought flowers to Mary. / He brought Mary flowers.
BUT verbs of Latinate origin cannot occur in the double object construction, even if they
denote change of possession
Eg, donate, contribute, convey, distribute, transport, transfer, address, propel, release, explain,
describe, portray, narrate, demonstrate, dictate, recite, etc.
He donated his fortune to his best friend.
*He donated his best friend his fortune.
BUT verbs of future having and verbs of communication occur in the double object
construction even if they are of Latin origin
Eg. bequeath, refer, recommend, guarantee, permit, radio, telegraph, telephone, etc
Eg. She recommended the movie to me.
She recommended me the movie.

Other verbs which are compatible with the change of possession concept, but do not allow
the double object construction
1) manner of speaking verbs babble, bark, bellow, chant, call, murmur, roar, whisper, yell,
stammer, grumble, etc
Eg. She whispered the news to her mother.
*She whispered her mother the news.
2) verbs of communication subcategorizing for a complement clause admit, allege, announce,
articulate, say, assert, communicate, question, claim, report, declare, confess, mention, state,
repeat, recount
Eg. She communicated the news to John.
*She communicated John the news.
3) miscellaneous entrust, present, provide, supply, credit, furnish, carry, pull, push, lift, lower,
raise
Eg. They presented the prize to her.
*They presented her the prize.
The [+animate] constraint
Eg. She brought disaster to the village. / *She brought the village disaster.
She brought a book to Mary. / She brought Mary a book.
The PrepNP [+animate] - needs to be recognized as a potential possessor.
Idioms allow the double object construction irrespective of the [+animate] constraint
Eg. give the house a coat of paint, give the door a kick, give the problem ones full attention, give
somebody the creeps, give something his all, etc
He gave the house a new coat of paint. / *He gave a new coat of paint to the house.
The Goal Affected Goal only in the double object constructions
The Theme Affected
He gave the book to Mary. (Goal-Possessor) /- interpretation CAUSE y to BE of z
He gave Mary (Goal-Theme) the book. / - interpretation CAUSE z to HAVE y
The Benefective Alternation
Eg. She carved a toy for the baby (Benefective)
She carved the baby a toy.
Verbs of creation in a general sense enter the Benefactive alternation; the DO an effected object
Build verbs arrange, assemble, blow, build, carve, knit, embroider, forge (metal), hammer, roll,
sculpt, compile
Prepare verbs mix, blend, cook, bake, boil, brew, fix, toast, toss, grind, light, clear, fry, iron,
poach, pour, prepare, roast, scramble, wash
Get verbs book, buy, cash, catch, fetch, find, gather, hire, lease, leave, order, phone, pick,

pluck, procure, pull, reach, rent, reserve, save, secure, slaughter, steal, vote
Create verbs design, dig, mint
Verbs of performance dance, play, sing, spin, whistle,

Syntax
The VP shell analysis
Eg. They got the teacher a present.
He passed me the salt.
I showed her my letter.
The lexical verb originates as the head of the lexical VP, while the DP the teacher occupies the

[Spec, VP] position and the DP a present the complement position, as if it were a representation
of The teacher got a present. The lexical verb then raises to adjoin to the light causative verb that
heads p. The subject they originates in [Spec, p] and is assigned the role Agent by the causative
light verb.
IP
DP

I
p

I0
T

DP
They

0
+cause

VP
DP
The
Teacher

V
V0
Get

DP
a present

Pesetskys analysis
He proposes that a double object construction contains a null element (a preposition) G which
case-marks the second NP.
Eg. John offered Mary G flowers.
Pesetsky describes this preposition as null and affixal, and its role is to introduce the Theme
argument in the double object construction. This null preposition is the one which assigns case to
the Theme argument the way the overt preposition to assigns case in the prepositional variant.
Because G is an affix it needs a host, that is it must be adjoined to a non-affixal category, so G
moves and adjoins to the governing verb.
IP
DP

I0
T

DP

-ed

John

VP
V

+cause
V

PP

V0

NP

Offer

Mary

P
P0

NP
flowers

Differences between To and G


Nominalizations based on the double object constructions are ungrammatical whereas those
rebased on the to-variant are grammatical, because, as Pesetsky says affixation of G to the verb
prevents further derivation.
Eg. *Johns offer of Mary (of) flowers
*Marks rental of Julie (of) a flat
Johns offer of flowers to Mary
Marks rental of a flat to Julie
To selects a Goal and G selects a Theme.