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Adverbial and attributive modification of Persian separable light verb constructions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 January 2019

Heinrich-Heine Universität Düsseldorf
Heinrich-Heine Universität Düsseldorf


Persian makes extensive use of light verb constructions (LVCs) consisting of a non-verbal preverb and a semantically light verbal element. The current paper concentrates on LVCs with nominal preverbs (e.g. sedâ dâdan ‘produce a sound’, lit. ‘sound give’) which license an attributively used adjective intervening between the two components of the construction. Such LVCs are idiomatically combining expressions, in the sense of Nunberg, Sag & Wasow (1994: 496). The individual components of idiomatically combining expressions have an identifiable meaning and combine in a non-arbitrary way. Thus, they are conceived as being formed compositionally. Evidence for this view can be taken from the fact that the attributively used adjectives function as internal modifiers, targeting only the nominal component of the LVC.

As adjectives can also be used adverbially, two modification patterns emerge: The nominal preverb is modified by an attributive modifier, or the same adjective can be used as an adverbial modifier of the whole LVC. Two corresponding interpretation patterns arise: Attributive and adverbial modification either both result in the same, or in different interpretations.

The paper makes the following claims: First, only compositionally derived LVCs license attributive modification of their nominal preverb; and second, different interpretations of the two modification patterns only result if the light verb and the preverb each license a suitable property as a target for the modifier. If, on the other hand, such a property is only licensed by the preverb, adverbial and attributive modification result in the same interpretation.

Research Article
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This work was supported by the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 991 ‘The Structure of Representations in Language, Cognition, and Science’ financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). In addition, our research was funded by a grant from Heinrich-Heine University awarded to Jens Fleischhauer (Strategischer Forschungsfonds, F-2015/946-2). We would like to thank the audiences at the Event Semantics Workshop 2016 and CoSt 2016 – especially Thomas Gamerschlag, Sebastian Löbner, Albert Ortmann and Christopher Piñón – for their helpful comments and suggestions. We explicitly like to thank the anonymous reviewers of JL for their very valuable comments, which helped to improve the paper a lot.


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