Modal readings of light verbs with to-infinitivals

Claire Gronemeyer

Research output: Working paper/PreprintWorking paper

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This paper examines one type of configurationally determined meaning. Specifically, I defend the hypothesis that modality is not only expressed lexically, that is, by modal verbs or adverbs, but can arise syntactically, as the result of certain function words in specific configurations. This paper examines light verbs that receive modal readings due to their syntactic configuration and explores the factors that contribute to this configurationally determined interpretation. To summarize the results at the beginning, I will argue that the modal interpretation of the light verbs get, be, and have followed by a to-infinitival is the result of the following factors: the underspecified lexical entries of the verbs, the morphological or lexical stativity of the light verb, the meaning of the relator to, and the aspectual type of the embedded predicate. Section 2 presents the basic data on light verbs in modal constructions. Section 3 surveys the range of modal uses of get in English, making some comparisons with other Modal Light Verb (MLV) constructions. Section 4 takes a strictly compositional approach to the problem and shows how the separate meanings of the component parts combine to yield the observed interpretations. As a LV, the meaning of get is underspecified, and variation in its meaning is a function of the syntactic context. On the compositional approach to meaning assumed here, see Hoekstra 1994, Pustejovsky 1995, Barbiers 1995, a d Jackendoff 1997, among others.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Publication series

NameWorking Papers, Lund University, Dept. of Linguistics

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


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