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4 Split VPs: VP shells in ergative structures

4 Split VPs: VP shells in ergative structures

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9.4 Split VPs: VP shells in ergative structures



predicates like those italicised in (29) below which have a (bold-printed) subject

and two (bracketed) complements:

(29 (a)

(b)

(c)

(d)



He rolled [the ball] [down the hill]

He filled [the bath] [with water]

He broke [the vase] [into pieces]

They withdrew [the troops] [from Ruritania]



If we assume that complements are sisters to heads, it might seem as if the V-bar

constituent headed by rolled in (29a) has the structure (30) below:

V'



(30)

V

rolled



DP

the ball



PP

down the hill



However, a structure such as (30) is problematic within the framework adopted

here. After all, it is a ternary-branching structure (V-bar branches into the three

separate constituents, namely the V rolled, the DP the ball and the PP down

the hill), and this poses an obvious problem within a framework which assumes

that the merger operation which forms phrases is an inherently binary operation which can only combine constituents in a pairwise fashion. Moreover, a

ternary-branching structure such as (30) would wrongly predict that the string

the ball down the hill does not form a constituent, and so cannot be coordinated

with another similar string (given the traditional assumption that only identical

constituents can be conjoined) – yet this prediction is falsified by sentences such

as:

(31)



He rolled the ball down the hill and the acorn up the mountain



How can we overcome these problems?

One answer is to suppose that transitive structures like He rolled the ball down

the hill have a complex internal structure which is parallel in some respects to

causative structures like He made the ball roll down the hill (where make has

roughly the same meaning as cause). On this view the ball roll down the hill

would serve as a VP complement of a null causative verb (which can be thought

of informally as an invisible counterpart of make). We can further suppose that

the null causative verb is affixal in nature and so triggers raising of the verb roll

to adjoin to the causative verb, deriving a structure loosely paraphraseable as He

made + roll [the ball roll down the hill], where roll is a trace copy of the moved

verb roll. We could then say that the string the ball down the hill in (31) is a

VP remnant headed by a trace copy of the moved verb roll. Since this string is a

VP constituent, we correctly predict that it can be coordinated with another VP

remnant like the acorn up the mountain – as is indeed the case in (31).

Analysing structures like roll the ball down the hill as transitive counterparts

of intransitive structures is by no means implausible, since many three-place

transitive predicates like roll can also be used as two-place intransitive predicates



337



338



9 split projections



in which the (italicised) DP which immediately follows the (bold-printed) verb

in the three-place structure functions as the subject in the two-place structure –

as we see from sentence-pairs such as the following:

(32) (a)

(b)



They will roll the ball down the hill

The ball will roll down the hill



(33) (a)

(b)



He filled the bath with water

The bath filled with water



(34) (a)

(b)



He broke the vase into pieces

The vase broke into pieces



(35) (a)

(b)



They withdrew the troops from Ruritania

The troops withdrew from Ruritania



(36) (a)

(b)



They closed the store down

The store closed down



(37) (a)

(b)



They moved the headquarters to Brooklyn

The headquarters moved to Brooklyn



(Verbs which allow this dual use as either three-place or two-place predicates are

sometimes referred to as ergative predicates.) Moreover, the italicised DP seems

to play the same thematic role with respect to the bold-printed verb in each pair

of examples: for example, the ball is the theme argument of roll (i.e. the entity

which undergoes a rolling motion) both in (32a) They will roll the ball down the

hill and in (32b) The ball will roll down the hill. Evidence that the ball plays

the same semantic role in both sentences comes from the fact that the italicised

argument is subject to the same pragmatic restrictions on the choice of expression

which can fulfil the relevant argument function in each type of sentence: cf.

(38) (a)

(b)



The ball/the rock/!the theory/!sincerity will roll down the hill

They will roll the ball/the rock/!the theory/!sincerity down the hill



If principles of UG correlate thematic structure with syntactic structure in a uniform fashion (in accordance with Baker’s 1988 Uniform Theta Assignment

Hypothesis/UTAH), then it follows that two arguments which fulfil the same

thematic function with respect to a given predicate must be merged in the same

position in the syntax.

An analysis within the spirit of UTAH would be to assume that since the ball

is clearly the subject of roll in (32a) The ball will roll down the hill, then it must

also be the case that the ball originates as the subject of roll in (32b) They will

roll the ball down the hill. But if this is so, how come the ball is positioned

after the verb roll in (32b), when subjects are normally positioned before their

verbs? A plausible answer to this question within the framework we are adopting

here is to suppose that the verb roll moves from its initial (post-subject) position

after the ball into a higher verb position to the left of the ball. More specifically,

adapting ideas put forward by Larson (1988, 1990), Hale and Keyser (1991, 1993,



9.4 Split VPs: VP shells in ergative structures



1994) and Chomsky (1995), let’s suppose that the (b) examples in sentences like

(32)–(37) are simple VPs, but that the (a) examples are split VP structures which

comprise an outer shell and an inner core.

More concretely, let’s make the following assumptions. In (32b) The ball will

roll down the hill, the V roll is merged with its PP complement down the hill to

form the V-bar roll down the hill, and this is then merged with the DP the ball to

form the VP structure (39) below:

VP



(39)



V'



DP

The ball

V

roll



PP

down the hill



In the case of (32b), the resulting VP will then be merged with the T constituent

will to form the T-bar will roll down the hill; the [epp] and ␸-features of [T will]

trigger raising of the subject the ball into spec-TP to become subject of will (in

the manner shown by the dotted arrow below), deriving:

TP



(40)



T'



DP

The ball

T

will



VP

DP

the ball



V'

V

roll



PP

down the hill



The resulting TP is subsequently merged with a null declarative C constituent.

(Throughout this chapter, we simplify exposition by omitting details like this

which are not directly relevant to the point at hand.)

Now consider how we derive (32a) They will roll the ball down the hill. Let’s

suppose that the derivation proceeds as before, until we reach the stage where

the VP structure (39) the ball roll down the hill has been formed. But this time,

let’s assume that the VP in (39) is then merged as the complement of an abstract

causative light verb (v) – i.e. a null verb with much the same causative interpretation as the verb make (so that They will roll the ball down the hill has a similar

interpretation to They will make the ball roll down the hill). Let’s also suppose that

this causative light verb is affixal in nature (or has a strong V-feature), and that the

verb roll adjoins to it, forming a structure which can be paraphrased literally as

‘make+roll the ball down the hill’ – a structure which has an overt counterpart in

French structures like faire rouler la balle en bas de la colline (literally ‘make roll

the ball into bottom of the hill’). The resulting v-bar structure is then merged with



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9 split projections



the subject they (which is assigned the ␪-role of agent argument of the causative

light verb), to form the complex vP (41) below (lower-case letters being used to

denote the light verb, and the dotted arrow showing movement of the verb roll to

adjoin to the null light verb ø ):

vP



(41)

PRN

They



v'

v

ø +roll



VP

V'



DP

the ball

V

roll



PP

down the hill



Subsequently, the vP in (41) merges with the T constituent will, the subject they

raises into spec-TP, and the resulting TP is merged with a null declarative complementiser, forming the structure (42) below (where the dotted arrows show

movements which have taken place in the course of the derivation):

CP



(42)



TP



C

ø

PRN

They



T'

T

will



vP

PRN

they



v'

v

ø +roll



VP

DP

the ball



V'

V

roll



PP

down the hill



The analysis in (42) correctly specifies the word order in (32a) They will roll the

ball down the hill. (See Stroik 2001 for arguments that do is used to support a

null light verb in elliptical structures such as John will roll a ball down the hill

and Paul will do so as well.)

The VP-shell analysis in (42) provides an interesting account of an otherwise

puzzling aspect of the syntax of sentences like (32a) – namely the fact that adverbs

like gently can be positioned either before roll or after the ball, as we see from:

(43) (a)

(b)



They will gently roll the ball down the hill

They will roll the ball gently down the hill



9.4 Split VPs: VP shells in ergative structures



Let’s suppose that adverbs like gently are adjuncts, and that adjunction is a different kind of operation from merger. Merger extends a constituent into a larger

type of projection, so that (e.g.) merging T with an appropriate complement

extends T into T-bar, and merging T-bar with an appropriate specifier extends

T-bar into TP. By contrast, adjunction extends a constituent into a larger projection of the same type, e.g. merging a moved V with a minimal projection like

T forms a larger T constituent; merging an adjunct with an intermediate projection like T-bar extends T-bar into another T-bar constituent; merging an adjunct

with a maximal projection like TP forms an even larger TP – and so on. (See

Stepanov 2001 and Chomsky 2001 for technical accounts of differences between

adjunction and merger.) Let’s suppose that gently is the kind of adverb which

can adjoin to an intermediate verbal projection. Given this assumption and the

light-verb analysis in (42), we can then propose the following derivations for

(43a,b).

In (43a), the verb roll merges with the PP down the hill to form the V-bar

roll down the hill, and this V-bar in turn merges with the DP the ball to form

the VP the ball roll down the hill, with the structure shown in (39) above.

This VP then merges with a null causative light verb ø to which the verb roll

adjoins, forming the v-bar ø +roll the ball roll down the hill. The resulting v-bar

merges with the adverb gently to form the larger v-bar gently ø +roll the ball

roll down the hill; and this v-bar in turn merges with the subject they to form

the vP they gently ø +roll the ball roll down the hill. The vP thereby formed

merges with the T constituent will, forming the T-bar will they gently ø +roll

the ball roll down the hill. The subject they raises to spec-TP forming the TP

they will they gently ø +roll the ball roll down the hill. The resulting TP is then

merged with a null declarative complementiser to derive the structure shown in

simplified form in (44) below (with arrows showing movements which have taken

place):

CP



(44)



TP



C

ø

PRN

They



T'

T

will



vP

PRN

they



v'

v'



ADV

gently

v

ø +roll



VP

DP

the ball



V'

V

roll



PP

down the hill



341



342



9 split projections



The analysis in (44) correctly specifies the word order in (43a) They will gently

roll the ball down the hill.

Now consider how (43b) They will roll the ball gently down the hill is derived.

As before, the verb roll merges with the PP down the hill, forming the V-bar roll

down the hill. The adverb gently then merges with this V-bar to form the larger

V-bar gently roll down the hill. This V-bar in turn merges with the DP the ball

to form the VP the ball gently roll down the hill. The resulting VP is merged

with a causative light verb [v ø] to which the verb roll adjoins, so forming the

v-bar ø +roll the ball gently roll down the hill. This v-bar is then merged with

the subject they to form the vP they ø +roll the ball gently roll down the hill. The

vP thereby formed merges with [T will], forming the T-bar will they ø +roll the

ball gently roll down the hill. The subject they raises to spec-TP, and the resulting

TP is merged with a null declarative C to form the CP (45) below (with arrows

showing movements which have taken place):

CP



(45)



TP



C

ø

PRN

They



T'

T

will



vP

v'



PRN

they

v

ø +roll



VP

DP

the ball



V'

ADV

gently



V'

V

roll



PP

down the hill



The different positions occupied by the adverb gently in (44) and (45) reflect a

subtle meaning difference between (43a) and (43b): (43a) means that the action

which initiated the rolling motion was gentle, whereas (43b) means that the rolling

motion itself was gentle.

A light-verb analysis also offers us an interesting account of adverb position

in sentences like:

(46) (a)

(b)







He had deliberately rolled the ball gently down the hill

He had gently rolled the ball deliberately down the hill



Let’s suppose that deliberately (by virtue of its meaning) can only be an adjunct to

a projection of an agentive verb (i.e. a verb whose subject has the thematic role of

agent). If we suppose (as earlier) that the light verb [v ø] is a causative verb with

an agent subject, the contrast in (46) can be accounted for straightforwardly: in

(46a) deliberately is contained within a vP headed by a null agentive causative



9.4 Split VPs: VP shells in ergative structures



light verb; but in (46b) it is contained within a VP headed by the non-agentive verb

roll. (The verb roll is a non-agentive predicate because its subject has the ␪-role

theme, not agent.) We can then say that adverbs like deliberately are adverbs

which adjoin to a v-bar headed by an agentive light verb, but not to V-bar.

This in turn might lead us to expect to find a corresponding class of adverbs

which can adjoin to V-bar but not v-bar. In this connection, consider the following

contrasts (adapted from Bowers 1993, p. 609):

(47) (a)

(b)







Mary jumped the horse perfectly over the last fence

Mary perfectly jumped the horse over the last fence



Given the assumptions made here, the derivation of (47a) would be parallel to

that in (45), while the derivation of (47b) would be parallel to that in (44). If

we assume that the adverb perfectly (in the relevant use) can function only as an

adjunct to a V-projection, the contrast between (47a) and (47b) can be accounted

for straightforwardly: in (47a), perfectly is adjoined to a V-bar, whereas in (47b)

it is merged with a v-bar (in violation of the requirement that it can only adjoin

to a V-projection).

As we have seen, the VP shell analysis outlined here provides an interesting

solution to the problems posed by three-place predicates which have two complements. However, the problems posed by verbs which take two complements arise

not only with transitive verbs which have intransitive counterparts (like those in

(32)–(37) above), but also with verbs such as those bold-printed in (48) below

(the complements of the verbs being bracketed):

(48) (a)

(b)

(c)

(d)



They will load [the truck] [with hay]

He gave [no explanation] [to his friends]

They took [everything] [from her]

Nobody can blame [you] [for the accident]



Verbs like those in (48) cannot be used intransitively, as we see from the ungrammaticality of sentences such as:

(49) (a)

(b)

(c)

(d)







The truck will load with hay

No explanation gave to his friends



Everything took from her



You can blame for the accident





However, it is interesting to note that in structures like (48) too we find that

adverbs belonging to the same class as gently can be positioned either before the

verb or between its two complements:

(50) (a)

(b)



They will carefully load the truck with hay

They will load the truck carefully with hay



This suggests that (in spite of the fact that the relevant verbs have no intransitive

counterpart) a shell analysis is appropriate for structures like (48) too. If so, a

sentence such as (48a) will have the structure shown in simplified form in (51)

below (with arrows showing movements which take place):



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344



9 split projections



CP



(51)



TP



C

ø

PRN

They



T'

vP



T

will



v'



PRN

they

v

ø +load



VP

V'



DP

the truck

V

load



PP

with hay



We can then say that the adverb carefully adjoins to v-bar in (50a), and to V-bar

in (50b). If we suppose that verbs like load are essentially affixal in nature (in the

sense that they must adjoin to a null causative light verb with an agent external

argument) we can account for the ungrammaticality of intransitive structures such

as (49a) ∗ The truck will load with hay.



9.5



VP shells in resultative, double-object and

object-control structures



The VP shell analysis outlined above can be extended from predicates

like load which have both nominal and prepositional complements to so-called

resultative predicates which have both nominal and adjectival complements –

i.e. to structures such as those below:

(52) (a)

(b)



The acid will turn the litmus-paper red

They may paint the house pink



In (52a), the verb turn originates in the head V position of VP, with the DP the

litmus-paper as its subject and the adjective red as its complement (precisely as

in The litmus-paper will turn red); turn then raises to adjoin to a strong causative

light verb ø heading vP; the subject of this light verb (the DP the acid) in turn

raises from spec-vP to spec-TP, and the resulting TP merges with a null declarative

complementiser – as shown informally in (53) below:

(53)



[CP [C ø [TP the acid [T will] [vP the acid [v ø +turn] [VP the litmus-paper [V turn] red]]]]



(For alternative analyses of resultative structures like (52), see Keyser and Roeper

1992; Carrier and Randall 1992; and Oya 2002.)



9.5 VP shells in resultative, double-object and object-control structures



We can extend the vP shell analysis still further, to take in double-object

structures. such as:

(54) (a)

(b)

(c)

(d)



They will get [the teacher] [a present]

Could you pass [me] [the salt]?

I showed [them] [my passport]

She gave [me] [a hat]



For example, we could suggest that (54a) has the structure (55) below (with arrows

indicating movements which take place in the course of the derivation):

CP



(55)



TP



C

ø



T'



PRN

They

T

will



vP

v'



PRN

they

v

ø +get



VP

V'



DP

the teacher

V

get



QP

a present



That is, get originates as the head V of VP (with the teacher as its subject and a

present as its complement, much as in The teacher will get a present), and then

raises up to adjoin to the strong causative light verb ø heading vP; the subject

they in turn originates in spec-vP (and has the thematic role of agent argument of

the null causative light verb ø ), and subsequently raises to spec-TP. (For a range

of alternative analyses of the double-object construction, see Larson 1988; 1990;

Johnson 1991; Bowers 1993; and Pesetsky 1995.)

The VP shell analysis outlined above also provides us with an interesting

solution to the problems posed by so-called object-control predicates. In this

connection, consider the syntax of the infinitive structure in (56) below:

(56)



What decided you to take syntax?



For reasons given below, decide functions as a three-place predicate in this use,

taking what as its subject, you as its object, and the clause to take syntax as a

further complement. If we suppose that the infinitive complement to take syntax

has a PRO subject (and is a CP headed by a null complementiser ø ), (56) will

have the skeletal structure (57) below (simplified e.g. by ignoring traces: the three

arguments of decide are bracketed):



345



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