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This sentence sucks to analyse: Are suck, bite, blow, and work tough-predicates?

  • Carolyn Pytlyk (a1)

Abstract

This paper investigates tough-predicates and whether four verbs (suck, bite, blow, and work) can function as this type of predicate. The theoretical analysis uses two syntactic and two semantic properties of prototypical tough-predicates to determine the status of the tough-verb candidates. Syntactically, tough-predicates select a to-infinitival complement and require a referential dependency between the matrix subject and the object gap in the complement clause. Semantically, the matrix subject must possess an inherent or permanent property and tough-predicates assign an “experiencer” role. From these four diagnostic properties, the analysis concludes that suck, bite, and blow are indeed tough-verbs, while the conclusions concerning work are less definitive. To complement the conclusions of the theoretical analysis, native speaker judgements were collected from 22 Canadian English speakers. The results show that for a majority of the consultants, suck, bite, and blow can function as tough-predicates. The behaviour of these verbs suggests that suck, bite, and blow (and possibly work) should be added to the small list of known tough-verbs.

Résumé

Cet article étudie les prédicats tough ainsi que la question de savoir si quatre verbes (suck, bite, blow et work) peuvent fonctionner comme prédicats tough. L’analyse théorique se sert de deux propriétés syntaxiques et de deux propriétés sémantiques de prédicats tough prototypiques pour déterminer le statut de ces quatre verbes tough. En ce qui touche à la syntaxe, les prédicats tough sélectionnent un complément to-infinitif et requièrent une dépendance référentielle entre le sujet matrice et le vide du complément dans la subordonnée complétive. En ce qui a trait à la sémantique, le sujet matrice doit posséder une propriété inhérente ou permanente, et les prédicats tough doivent attribuer un rôle d’ «expérienceur». En fonction de ces quatre propriétés diagnostiques, l’analyse arrive à la conclusion que suck, bite et blow sont en effet des verbes tough, alors que les conclusions à l’égard de work sont moins probantes. Dans le but de compléter les conclusions de l’analyse théorique, des jugements de 22 Canadiens de langue maternelle anglaise ont été cueillis. Les résultats montrent que pour la majorité des consultants, suck, bite et blow peuvent fonctionner comme des prédicats tough. Le comportement de ces verbes suggère que suck, bite et blow (et peut-être work) devraient s’ajouter à la courte liste de verbes tough connus.

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