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Basic English Syntax With Exercises

Basic English Syntax With Exercises


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Published by: Leslie Cooper on Nov 26, 2009
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Not all clauses are introduced by a complementiser. For example, subordinate
declarative finite clauses may or may not be introduced by that and main clauses never
have complementisers:

(11) a she said [(that) we should make the sandwiches]
b (*that) we should make the sandwiches

What is the status of the clause when there is no complementiser? One possibility is
that when there is no complementiser there is no CP and hence a clause without a
complementiser has the status of an IP. For embedded clauses this is a problematic
conclusion as it means that the verbs which select for such clauses must be able to take
IP or CP complements. In other words, they subcategorise for a complement with the
features [+F, –N]. But if this is so, we would predict that there should be verbs that
select for only CP complements, i.e. complements with [+F, –N, –V] features, and
those that select for only IP complements, with [+F, –N, +V] features.
But while there are many verbs which take clausal complements both with or
without a complementiser, it is doubtful whether the other predicted verb types exist. It
seems that we have to accept a generalisation that if a verb selects for a declarative
finite IP complement, it also selects for a declarative finite CP complement. It is not
easy to think how we can explain this generalisation when stated in this way. There is
another possible view, however. This sees all these complements as being CPs, but
sometimes the complementiser is filled with an overt that and sometimes it is filled by
an unpronounced complementiser:

(12) a she said [CP that she wanted ham and pickle]
b she said [CP ∅ she wanted ham and pickle]

The generalisation is now that all verbs which select for a finite declarative
complement select for a CP. This is fairly easy to capture in terms of the notion of
canonical structural realisation principles. The idea behind this is quite simple.
Basically, certain arguments are canonically realised by certain categories. For
example, themes are typically realised as DPs and locations as PPs. This is their
‘canonical realisation’. It may be that a certain degree of non-canonical realisation of
arguments is possible, for example the nominal home can realise a goal argument
usually realised by a PP:

(13) he went [PP to London]/[DP home]

All we need to say is that something with a propositional meaning is canonically
realised as a CP and then it follows that if a verb takes a propositional complement,
this will be realised as a CP. It follows from this that all finite declarative complement
clauses will be CPs and hence that we must assume that sometimes the
complementiser can be abstract, as in (12b). Non-finite complement clauses differ
from this pattern quite substantially. Certain verbs take non-finite complements with
an obligatory complementiser:

(14) a we were hoping [for the good weather to arrive soon]
b *we were hoping [the good weather to arrive soon]

The Clause as CP


Verbs such as wish, prey, plead, demand, indicate, signal, etc. all seem to behave in
this way. Obviously, for these verbs there is no question that they take CP

Others take non-finite clause complements that never have a complementiser:

(15) a I tried [ - to spread the butter]
b *I tried [for - to spread the butter]

Verbs such as attempt, have (= be obliged), promise, wish, prey, plead, demand, etc.
all behave like this.

Note that some of these verbs are in the other category as well. However there is a
difference, verbs in the try category take non-finite complements with missing subjects
and those in the hope category take non-finite complements with overt subjects. Thus
there seems to be a correlation between when the complement clause has an overt
subject and when it has an overt complementiser. We will go into this in more detail in
the next chapter, but it can be argued that clauses with covert subjects must be CPs
with a covert complementiser position:

(16) I attempted [CP ∅ - to cut the tomatoes]

One class of verb takes a non-finite clause complement that has an overt subject:

(17) he believes [Troy to be trouble]

In the next chapter we will argue that these are exceptional verbs and do not behave
like the others in that they take IP non-finite complements. Exceptions aside however,
the conclusion is that the majority of non-finite complement clauses seem to be, like
the finite ones, CPs. Hence a general conclusion seems to be that complement clauses
are always CPs.

This leaves main clauses. As pointed out in (11b), these never have overt
complementisers. However, given that covert complementisers seem to be a possibility
it is reasonable to ask whether main clauses are CPs which have an obligatory covert
complementiser, or whether they are just IPs with no space for a complementiser. The
issue is complicated unfortunately. On the one hand, there are some main clauses that
have to be argued to be CPs, as we shall see a little later. Thus, on general grounds it
seems reasonable to assume that all clauses are CPs. Moreover, if the role of the
complementiser is to indicate the force of a sentence, and main clauses without
complementisers have a force interpretation, then it might be argued that there must be
a complementiser to provide this aspect of clausal semantics. On the other hand, most
linguists accept that ‘exceptional clauses’ lack complementisers and these also have a
force interpretation and so it seems that there is a way for this to be introduced in the
absence of a complementiser, which undermines the argument that main clauses must
have complementisers because they have a force interpretation.
If we assume that main clauses are CPs we need an explanation as to why their
complementisers are obligatorily covert. But if we assume that main clauses are
merely IPs, we must account for why the CP is obligatorily banned. All in all then, it is
hard to decide on the issue. In this book, we will take the fairly standard view that all
clauses are CP (except for the exceptions) and hence we assume that main clauses
have obligatorily covert complementisers by a general principle.

Chapter 7 - Complementiser Phrases


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