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LINGUIST List 21.3443

Sat Aug 28 2010

Diss: On the Compositional Nature of Stativity

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        1.    E. Husband, On the Compositional Nature of Stativity

Message 1: On the Compositional Nature of Stativity
Date: 26-Aug-2010
From: E. Husband <husbandemsu.edu>
Subject: On the Compositional Nature of Stativity
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Institution: Michigan State University
Program: Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: E. Matthew Husband

Dissertation Title: On the Compositional Nature of Stativity

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Semantics

Dissertation Director(s):
Alan B. Munn
Alan Baretta
Cristina Schmitt
Marcin Morzycki

Dissertation Abstract:

Since at least Verkuyl (1972), aktionsart has been considered a property of
phrasal configurations minimally resulting from a combination of a predicate and
its internal argument. This has been demonstrated most clearly in the literature
on telicity where certain predicate-argument configurations allow for a telic
interpretation while others permit only an atelic interpretation. The properties
shared by nominals and events and the manner of their composition has been the
source of much debate, leading to a rich literature on the composition of
events. Largely left out of this debate, however, has been the role that
arguments might play, if any at all, in the composition of states.

This dissertation explores the role arguments and predicates play in determining
the availability of an existential interpretation of a stative subject, one
property distinguishing between the stage-level and individual-level behavior of
predicates. It develops a theory of aktionsart in which quantization, the
opposition of quantized and homogeneous structures plays a central role in
determining the aspectual behavior of stative predicates. It argues that the
distinction between stage-level and individual-level states is determined
compositionally, taking into account properties of the predicate, both verbal
and adjectival, and its arguments.

I begin by observing two empirical puzzles which affect the availability of
existential interpretation: the effects of internal arguments in verbal statives
first observed in Fernald (1994) and the scale structure effects of adjectival
predicates. Pursuing an analogy between the availability of existential
interpretation in states and telicity in events, I explore the possible role
verbs in stative predicates play in determining the existential interpretation
of their subject, ultimately arguing that there are no individual-level or
stage-level verbs.

I then turn to the role played by verbal arguments in stative predicates. I
propose, in opposition to topic-comment theories of the internal argument
effects, that the quantization of the object of transitive stative verbs
determines whether they license an existential interpretation of their subject.
Predicates with quantized objects license an existential interpretation, while
those with homogeneous objects do not. Given the structural analogy between the
availability of existential interpretation and telicity, I propose that stative
and eventive predicates are composed by the same mechanisms, with the
distinction between states and events arising from the selectional restrictions
on Voice, following Kratzer (1996, 2004).

I then turn to adjectival predicates and the observation that their scale
structure in?uences the availability of existential interpretation. I
demonstrate that scale structure is a type of quantization (closed scales are
quantized; open scales are homogeneous) and argue that this compositionally
determines their stage-level/individual-level behavior. I further consider the
role arguments play in determining the availability of existential
interpretation, observing that, as with telicity, the quantization of arguments
affects a predicate's stage-level/individual-level behavior.

The dissertation closes with an overview of its content and presents a highly
speculative discussion on the role played by quantization in language and the
possible role it may play in vision, suggesting that quantization may be a core
component of cognition more generally.
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