Catenatives or complex VP the debate about specific verbs in English


Jan Niehues

Paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a graded credit for the course “Problems of English Grammar” in Summer Term 2005 Submission Date: October 10, 2005 Approved by: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Handke Philipps University Marburg

................13 4......2 Auxiliaries............................................................................ 3 2 Catenative Verbs.......................................................... 7 3 Simple and complex catenatives....................... complex verb phrases......................................2 Syntactical or semantic grouping................................................................10 3........1 Definitions.....................................9 3.........1 Simple catenatives.15 6 References..............................................................................................................................................................................2 Contents 1 Introduction......4 2...............................................................13 4......................................................................... quasi-modal.........................................4 Simple vs... 4 2......................... 11 4 Classes and classification.......................................................6 2....................................................................3 From finite to non-finite VP................................ 16 .....................................................................................................1 Criteria for classification................. modifier................................................................. modals.......................... 13 5 Conclusion / Summary........................ operator..........7 2.....2 Complex catenatives..................................................................

try or seem that sets them apart from other verbs: their ability to be combined into chains of verbs. to the problem of how to analyse or categorise them.g.3 1 Introduction Most linguists agree that there is a particular feature of certain verbs like e. There remains some form of disagreement about almost every aspect of these verbs. Some linguists even question the need to define a class of catenative verbs in the first place. This paper will try to give an overview of the theories concerning catenative verbs."(Huddleston 1997: 209) The treatment of the grammatical phenomena is further complicated by the fact that linguists tend to introduce their own categories or descriptions for existing categories. 1 And indeed there has been a rather fervid debate about this between Huddleston on the one side and Matthiesen and Martin on the other. want. Due to the scope of work that has been published. conducted largely in the 'Occasional papers for systemic Linguistics'. auxiliaries vs. begin. Huddleston concedes that: "This is one of the most difficult areas of English grammar and despite a great deal of intensive study over the last twenty years there remains much disagreement over the most basic aspects of the analysis. An approach differing from that traditionally taken by grammarians is that presented by Dieter Mindt who bases his observations on the analysis of a corpus of actual language. . ranging from the question which verbs actually are catenative. (1) I don't want to have to be forced to begin to try to make more money. to 'catenate' (Lat. This is particularly evident in the argument of modals vs. their relation to the auxiliaries and their features of clause complementation. The field of semantics in particular would merit a much closer look on the effects of sentence taxis1. (Palmer 1987: 172) The term usually used for these verbs is 'catenative verbs'. only the main approaches will be considered. catena: chain). however. operators.

keep.1 Definitions Richard Hudson defines catenatives as "verbs that combine with a following non finite verb".4 2 Catenative Verbs Here. He includes "verbs like get.) In (4). there is hardly any semantic relationship between the clauses. 2. (Palmer 1987: 172pp. (Gramley & Pätzold 1992: 132) Palmer defines catenatives as verbs that combine with a full verb into verb phrases of theoretically unlimited length. 1) Although he applies the term 'complex phrase'. help as well as the traditional auxiliary verbs". noting their different approaches to certain features and their treatment of the auxiliaries. whereas catenatives usually imply some semantic restriction on the following verb. Huddleston and Pullum state that a catenative is present in "most cases where a non-finite clause is an internal complement of a verb". (Huddleston 2005: 215) Gramley and Pätzold agree by defining verbs which are followed by nonfinite verb forms but which are not operators as catenative verbs. (Hudson 2002) Sample sentences given by him include: (2) a) She was/got chosen for the job. start. he contrasts complex phrases utilising catenative verbs against examples such as: (4) I bought the boat to sail the world. b) Kim began the journey. objects (3b) and PP complements (3c). They illustrate this by giving cases of non-catenative complements: predicative complements (3a). the main definitions of catenative verbs will be presented. c) Kim hoped for a successful outcome. b) She was/kept talking. (3) a) Kim seemed a keen student. Palmer . (cf.

(9) a) have not remembered seeing. (6) a) I promise to make you happy. it is by no means a valid description of sentences like (7a).5 sees a much tighter semantic and syntactic relationship.) He specifically excludes infinitives of purpose and of result. to make you happy... (10)a) The girl liked working. b) *He decided the plan. (11)a) The girl kept (on) workig... b) Working was liked by the girl.. thereby setting the catenatives alike to transitive verbs. b) remembered not having seen. this is not true for catenatives..... [INT1] . b) I promise. c) have seen. (Palmer 1987: 212) The easiest method of distinguishing between catenatives and full verbs are the TNP tests. negation and passivisation. (Palmer 1987: 206) Palmer rejects the approach of analysing the subordinate clause as a nominal that is the object of the catenative verb. (Palmer 1987: 172pp. While a catenative can be marked for tense and negation simultaneously with its main verb. b) remembered having seen. While a transitive verb with a direct object can be passivised easily. This is obvious from the fact that a subordinate clause can appear with verbs that do not allow an object. This is shown by the following: (8) a) have remembered seeing... namely tense. a full verb only allows this once. [INT1] The passivisation test helps to distinguish catenatives from transitive verbs with an object complement. similar to auxiliary verbs. exemplified by the impossibility of certain constructions: (5) a) *He kept to talk. b) *Working was kept on by the girl.. b) *He has talking. c) have not seen. (7) a) He decided to go. While this analysis may be applicable to certain constructions. only the usage in (6a) being catenative.

modifier. While the auxiliaries do not cause semantic restrictions on the choice of subjects. the auxiliaries are only modifiers to the full verb which is the main verb of the verb phrase. Quirk et al. Hudson's decision to include the traditional auxiliary verbs amongst the catenatives leads him to establishing a class of non-catenative operators. He argues that. although here "[t]he TNP tests are .Is she ready? Despite the fact that "there is no clear line between auxiliaries. catenatives and other verbs that may have subordination" (Palmer 1987: 29). revised his position on the auxiliaries that had been criticised by Palmer (Palmer 1987: 28) stating that "auxiliaries. entering into the simple catenative construction". a distinction can be made on semantic grounds. operator.6 2. b) *The water intended to run down the street. argue for a gradient of modality. aspect. These are of course different with each approach taken towards the catenatives.. (Palmer 1987: 31) Huddleston. (Huddleston 2005: 219) Already in 1997 he had explained his position of "not applying the term auxiliary to what [he is] calling the operator class". that in (12) is not. He contrasts: (13)a) The water may run down the street. in his 2005 collaboration with Pullum. generally taking raised subjects. allowing him to distinguish between catenative and non-catenative uses of be and have.2 Auxiliaries. may. restrictions may occur based on the first full verb. when used as markers of tense. rather inconclusive" (Palmer 1987: 31). shall &c. the definition of a separate class of catenative verbs requires some redefinitions and further distinctions to be made amongst the auxiliaries. quasi-modal Often. modals. While the use in (2) is termed catenative. (Hudson 2002) (12)She is ready. ranging from the central modals consisting of one verb phrase (can. mood or voice. are catenative verbs. . (Huddleston 1997: 143) In their 'Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language'..) to main verbs with non-finite clauses that are . Thus. Palmer dismisses the suggestion to treat all auxiliaries as full verbs.

the three criteria that can be used to distinguish between simple and complex verb phrases are: tense.g.) and the main verbs. Phrases with modals lie somewhere between the two.7 analysed as two verb phrases (e. (Quirk 1985: 146) 2. while those with catenatives are complex (though not all pass all the tests)..4 Simple vs. (Hudson 1998: 68) 2. hope with to-infinitive). Sequences of such phrases are then complex verb phrases." (Palmer 1987: 28) This is not completely congruent with the more traditional approach of applying the term 'complex verb group' to the combination of one to three . (Palmer 1987: 28) He summarises that: "Phrases involving primary auxiliaries are fairly clearly simple. complex verb phrases A rather straightforward definition for the distinction between simple and complex VP is given by Quirk et al. they are "nearer to main verb constructions than are semi-auxiliaries. In a simple verb phrase both tense and negation can occur only once and a simple phrase can be passivised without problems.. sharing characteristics of both simple and complex phrases.3 From finite to non-finite VP There are four basic non-finite forms of main verbs: the bare infinitive. be about to . the toinfinitive. (Quirk 1985: 137) While they resemble the auxiliaries in that most of the catenatives share the independence of subject. who define the finite verb phrase as being simple when it consists of one word and complex when it consists of more. These occur in simple as well as in complex catenative verb phrases. negation and passivisation. the -en and the-ing form (the latter summarising gerunds and present participles). A rather isolated position towards the to-infinitive is taken by Richard Hudson who suggests the analysis of to as a non-finite auxiliary verb on its own. The catenatives occupy a position between the semi-auxiliaries (have to. patterning entirely like main verbs in taking do-support". called the TNP tests. (Quirk 1985: 151) According to Palmer.

.) (14). (Huddleston 19881: 172) . are accused by Huddleston of not being too precise on their point of modality and he suggests they use "one analysis in which auxiliaries and related expressions are treated as verbs taking non-finite complementation. (Huddleston19882: 350) Huddleston criticises Halliday's definition of verbal groups put forward in his 'Introduction to functional Grammar'. where a sequence of words of the primary class verb constitutes a verbal group (the sample given is: didn't know how to spell). resulting in catenatives having intermediate status between a single and a multiple verb phrase analysis. a lexical verb with a complement). Quirk et al.8 auxiliaries with a lexical verb or a complex verb (i. They suggest that (14) "consists syntactically of two verb phrases would have had and to have arrested.we would have had to have arrested you. "that to and not are either verbs or not words". (Quirk 1985: 154p.e. as this definition implies.. but semantically only of one". so that a more comprehensive and systematic account could be given of the verb/adjective + nonfinite construction". according to Huddleston. argue the gradient from auxiliary to main verb implies a similar gradience in the analysis of verb phrases. [INT1] Instead of arguing for a clean cut distinction between cases involving one or two verb phrases. Quirk et al.

A different approach is taken by Mindt in his 'Empirical Grammar of the English Verb'. (Huddleston 1997: 211) As with the VP. however. His description of the function of modal verbs and catenative verbs is criticised by Kamphuis as being "in fact identical". is going to be. The four basic types of catenatives as exemplified by Palmer: (15)a) bare infinitive b) to-infinitive c) -ing form d) -en form He helped wash up.9 3 Simple and complex catenatives Most linguists agree on four basic forms of catenative constructions that can be distinguished. is somewhat problematic as he does not give any sources for his corpus.g. but also defines catenative auxiliary constructions (e. (Palmer 1987: 173) The choice. stating only that he "had access to more than 240 million words of English". (Huddleston 1997: 210) When there is a choice of constructions. (Kamphuis 1996: 89) The classification of catenative verbs proposed by Mindt is severely criticised by de Haan according to 1 This data. based on the type of non-finite construction that is employed. which non-finite construction to use. and additionally. He wants to go to London. were able to escape). He states that the last two classes are far less frequent than the four 'central catenative constructions' and backs up his claim with data from his corpus analysis1 (Mindt 1995: 285). obviously carrying different meanings: (16)a) He was seen walking away. He keeps talking about it. (Mindt 1995: 6) . the catenative verbs can occur in simple or complex constructions. He got shot in the riot. Palmer contrasts the -ing form and the to. while some allow variation others allow only one type of nonfinite construction. who not only recognises the four classes mentioned above. clauses involving the -en form are invariably passive.g. is largely dependent on the catenative verb. are allowed to do) and catenative adjective constructions(e. (Palmer 1987: 189) Huddleston notes that only the bare infinitive and the to-infinitive "occur with significant numbers of catenative verbs".infinitive. b) He was seen to walk away. there is generally some difference in meaning.

in turn. . (Huddleston 2005: 216) (18)a) Sara wanted to convince Ed. it has to be inferred from the context. 3.). Whereas Huddleston's 'Introduction to the Grammar of English' only distinguished between the verbs of the seem and expect classes (noting that most verbs belong to the latter) (Huddleston 1997: 212pp. This overlap cannot be achieved by modal verbs alone. he accuses Mindt of not presenting "any convincing arguments for this". Huddleston. the subject in (18b) is raised. d) Ed seemed to be convinced by Sara. While an ordinary subject is in semantic relation to the verb. the passivisation of a sentence containing an ordinary subject will result in a change of meaning. a raised subject belongs semantically to the subordinate clause. (de Haan 2002) One of Mindt's definitions is that "catenative verbs allow the overlap of two meanings within one verb phrase." (Mindt 1995: 469) This.g. (Huddleston 2005: 216) In (17). giving say as an example: (17) Your mother said to meet her at two o'clock. c) Ed wanted to be convinced by Sara. however. while he acknowledges that there are good reasons for wishing to distinguish such a category. the subject cannot be determined syntactically. Here the subject of the subordinate clause is identical with that of the main clause. While (18a) contains an ordinary subject. notes that there are one or two exceptional verbs. b) Sara seemed to convince Ed. is rejected by de Haan as well. from a) to c).1 Simple catenatives The identification of the subject in simple catenative sentences is usually unproblematic.10 whom he "fails to justify the existence of the category of catenative verbs". because a verb phrase cannot contain more than one modal verb. and not being consistent in his argumentation. e. A simple passivisation test illustrates the difference: While (18b) and (18d) have the same meaning. Huddleston and Pullum specify this by distinguishing between ordinary and raised subjects in simple catenative phrases.

b) *The hens want the farmers to lay eggs.2 Complex catenatives The same constructions as in (16) are also possible with an intervening noun phrase between the catenative and the following verb. (Palmer 1987: 178) The identity relations are not. Thus. (Palmer 1987: 174) The identification of subjects in complex catenative phrases is not as straightforward as it is in simple ones. b) I persuaded the doctor to examine the boy. the same with all verbs. Palmer likens 23a) to 23b). He had the rioters shot.11 3. Likewise. c) I wanted the boy to be examined by the doctor. He wants them to go to London. the choice of preposition is determined by the catenative verb. A further feature of complex catenative verbs is that they frequently occur with prepositions. Palmer shows the subject of the subordinate clause to be identical with the intervening noun phrase by contrasting sentences with reversed NP. It is argued by Palmer that for some verbs "The intervening noun phrase is both the object of the verb of the main clause and the subject of the subordinate". (Palmer 1987: 179) By application of the passivisation test it is shown that the doctor in (21) is indeed the object of persuaded but not of wanted: (22)a) The doctor was persuaded to examine the boy. d) I persuaded the boy to be examined by the doctor. (20)a) The farmers want the hens to lay eggs. the passivisation of the subordinate clauses results in a difference of meaning between the two sentences. He kept them talking a long time. however. These constructions can be classified according to the same patterns as catenatives without prepositions. . (Palmer 1987: 179) Passivisation of the main clause shows that (22a) is possible but (22b) is not. b) *The doctor was wanted to examine the boy. Here. noting this difference on the example of: (21)a) I wanted the doctor to examine the boy. (19)a) bare infinitive b) to-infinitive c) -ing form d) -en form He helped them wash up.

(Huddleston 1997: 221) (25)a) Ed resented your father opening the mail. b) We wanted a specialist to examine Ed. (Huddleston 2005: 221) Some verbs allow construction with a PossP instead of a NP.12 (23)a) I long for John to come. although it belongs semantically to the catenative complement. (24)a) We urged a specialist to examine Ed. Huddleston distinguishes ordinary and raised objects in complex catenative constructions. Huddleston notes that the difference between the two forms is stylistic. (24a) therefore having an ordinary object. While the raised object. (Palmer 1987: 185pp) Analogous to the distinction between ordinary and raised subjects with simple catenatives. that of (24a) does not. Again this can be tested by means of passivisation: The meaning of (24b) remains the same when passivised to (24c). . d) We wanted Ed to be examined by a specialist. is syntactically embedded in the superordinate clause. c) We urged Ed to be examined by a specialist. b) Ed resented your father's opening the mail. the ordinary object is related semantically to the verb of the superordinate clause. (25b) being the more formal one. b) I want John to come. not all verbs that take a NP allow the possessive construction. While all PossP can be replaced by NP. thus it is a raised object.

Rather of theoretical importance is the decision. Examples he gives for such complicated . one class of verbs without. verbs of report. They count 500 . if verbs are allowed multiple class membership.2 Syntactical or semantic grouping Gramley and Pätzold distinguish "some thirty different classes of catenatives". judging on practical reasons on a case to case basis.600 verbs that are involved.13 4 Classes and classification There is an obvious interest in grouping catenative verbs into distinct classes of verbs. perception. from the type of infinitive used to the patterning of intervening NP. This high number is partly due to the fact that some verbs are counted twice or more as "multiple class membership is common". 4.) He admits that this is no ideal solution as there are several verbs that do not fit either of this patterns. This can be done according to a variety of criteria. and two classes that take an intervening NP. 4. One method is to compare the syntactic patterns exhibited by each construction. An important decision that is to be made is whether to allow multiple class membership for certain verbs. Another approach is to define groups of related meanings together.g. (Palmer 1987: 179pp. e. grouped according to their meanings. Palmer acknowledges his decision as "often fairly arbitrary". labelled the persuade and the want pattern respectively. attitude or need.1 Criteria for classification Two distinct approaches toward the classification of catenatives can be seen. (Gramley & Pätzold 1992: 168) Palmer distinguishes three classes of catenative verbs according to the pattern of subject identification. whether to treat this as cases of homonymy or polysemy. both semantic and syntactic.

though often with no clear distinction between the two. bears close correspondence with the syntactic categories. and that there are others such as BELIEVE that permit main clause passivization. He summarises that: "There is a great deal of indeterminacy here. expect and promise. He introduces nine classes with a total of 31 subclasses. the pattern of identity relation and the specific features of tense. even though semantically the NP is not the object of the main clause. to list the verbs and to state for each individually. believe can be handled if the concept of subject raising is applied.e. believe. In the case of order. the best we can do is to state the facts that there are verbs that may occur with either construction. Palmer proposes to apply a semantic grouping of verbs that. its characteristics in terms of the criteria. the type of non-finite form.14 cases include: order. phase. ie may or may not have the NP as the object of the main clause. aspect and voice) would result in "a vast number of classes". the use of all possible criteria for the classification of catenatives (i. making it preferable "simply to approach the problem lexically. actually." (Palmer 1987: 183) According to Palmer." (Palmer 1987: 187) Reducing the number of criteria would lead to verbs being either placed in multiple classes or borderline cases not really fitting anywhere. (Palmer 1987: 191pp) . he states that the distinction between the two classes is simply not valid.

e.15 5 Conclusion / Summary There remain the different approaches of whether to apply strict categories in analyses. Due to the fact that there is no agreement yet (nor is there likely to be) over even the broader points of the analysis of catenative verbs.) While traditional dictionaries mark all verbs as transitive. how to assess the importance of syntax or semantics. thus beginning learners (i. in schools) will most likely never come into contact with the more detailed points of their analysis. It will be enough to note that some verbs can 'introduce some sub-clause'. (Huddleston 1997: 210p. nor are there definite solutions for a number of problems associated with them. It is obvious that the topic of catenative verbs will not feature very prominently in language learning. the semantic differences (if any)". where more than one is involved. intransitive or both. certain implications arise. or to allow for some gradience between two points (most prominently concerning finiteness and modality). as an analysis will frequently differ in results based on whether a syntactic or a semantic approach was favoured. Another factor is the presentation of information in dictionaries: Huddleston states that "there is no getting away from the fact that the lexical entries for verbs must specify which kinds of complements they take and. (Huddleston 1997: 223) This would then merit a closer look at the concept of valeny and extensive valency deicionaries. . but teachers will not have to be able to explain catenatives in detail. Also. Huddleston suggests that this distinction is not very comprehensive stating the need for syntactically adequate lexica giving specific information on valid complements where "the transitive/ intransitive contrast will have a good deal less of importance".

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. module: Formal Aspects of the Verb .17 Internet Sources [INT1] accessed: September 10. 2005.

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