1.3.6 Functionally underspecified categories
We have now discussed all eight of the categories that we listed at the start of this section. However, there are some categories that we have not yet discussed and some members of the categories that we have which do not seem to fit well in them. In this section we will briefly discuss the possibility or four extra categories which differ from the previous ones in that they are not specified for the [±F] feature. This means that they differ from each other in terms of the specification of the [±N] and [±V] features, but they differ from the other categories in that they are neither functional nor thematic.
We will start with the aspectual auxiliaries. We have pointed out that these auxiliary verbs do not behave like modals as they are not in complementary distribution with them. In fact, aspectual auxiliaries are not in complementary distribution with any I element:
|(187)||a||he may have been shopping|
|b||… for him to have been shopping|
|c||he had been shopping|
This would suggest that they are not categorised in the same way as inflections. They appear to be verbal elements as they inflect for almost the same set of things that verbs do (perfective have inflects for tense (has/had), progressive be inflects for tense (is/was) and perfect aspect (been) and passive be inflects for tense (is/was), perfect aspect (been) and progressive aspect (being)). However, they are clearly not thematic elements in that they play no role in the thematic interpretation of the sentence. Aspectual auxiliaries therefore share properties with verbs and inflections, but they cannot be categorised as either. We can capture this situation if, like verbs and inflections, we categorise aspectuals as [–N, +V] elements, but simply leave the [±F] feature undefined. In common with inflections, aspectual auxiliaries also take only verbal complements and they never precede any other category. However, they may precede either verbs or other aspectual auxiliaries:
|(188)||a||he has [eaten the sandwich]|
|b||he has [been eating the sandwich]|
Given that verbs are categorised as [–F, –N, +V], we cannot claim that this is the category that aspectual auxiliaries subcategorise for as this would exclude them from taking non-thematic verbal complements (i.e. other aspectual auxiliaries). On the other hand, if we claim that they select complements of the category [–N, +V] they would only be able to select for auxiliary complements and not main verbs. The solution to the problem is stating that the category they select as their complement is optionally specified for the [–F] feature, which correctly predicts that they cannot have an inflectional complement.
|subcat:||[(–F), –N, +V]|
|(prog)||subcat:||[(–F), –N, +V]|
|(pass)||subcat:||[(–F), –N, +V]|
If there is a non-functional non-thematic verb, then it is predicted that there must be non-functional non-thematic nouns, adjectives and prepositions. To what extent is this prediction fulfilled? There are nouns which do not appear to behave like thematic nouns and yet are clearly not categorised as determiners either. Consider the following examples:
|(190)||a||a bottle of wine|
|b||a cup of tea|
|c||a group of tourists|
|(191)||a||a picture of the president|
|b||the disposal of the evidence|
|c||the door of the house|
The nouns in (190) do not function as the main semantic element of the expression as do those in (191). Note that the expressions in (191) refer to a picture, a disposal and a door respectively, but the referents of the expressions in (190) are wine, tea and tourists respectively. One can pour a bottle of wine and drink a cup of tea, but what is poured and drunk is not the bottle or the cup but the wine and the tea. On the other hand, if one breaks a picture of the president or deplores the disposal of the evidence, it is not the president that gets broken nor the evidence that is deplored. The kind of nouns in (190) are called measure or group nouns and they differ from other nouns in terms of their relationship to their complements. The complements of the nouns in (191) are arguments of those nouns and as such stand in a thematic relationship to them. In other words, these nouns are thematic elements which have Θ-grids in their lexical entries. Measure nouns do not stand in the same relationship to their complements at all and in fact they appear to have a similar relationship to their complements as quantifying determiners do to their nominal complements. This is not a thematic relationship and hence it appears that these nouns are not thematic nouns. Clearly they are not determiners either and hence they seem to be prime candidates to be analysed as non-thematic non-functional nouns.
The complements of measure nouns are always prepositional, though specifically the preposition of is always involved. We are not yet in a position to clearly see the details of what this implies, so we will not pursue the issue at this point. The following lexical entries are an approximation of what is necessary to more precisely capture their true nature:
Next, let us consider possible non-thematic non-functional adjectives. Recall that post-determiners are elements which seem to have adjectival properties in that they have comparative and superlative forms and may be modified by adverbs:
|(193)||a||the many/more/most people|
|b||these extremely few advantages|
It is clear that these elements are not thematic and hence should not be analysed as adjectives such as pink, certain or keen, for example. For one thing, they cannot be used predicatively as adjectives can, making them more like degree adverbs:
|(194)||a||the outcome was certain/irrelevant/stupid/etc.|
|b||*the people were more/most/several/etc.|
|c||*the idea was so/too/as|
However, degree adverbs do not have comparative and superlative forms and so it would be inaccurate to categorise the post-determiners as functional adjectives (i.e. as [+F, +N, +V]). Therefore we propose that these elements be categorised as [+N, +V] elements. It seems that post-determiners always select nominal complements, which is why they have been confused with determiners and hence they have the following lexical entries:
Finally, we turn to non-thematic non-functional prepositions. There are elements which appear to be prepositions, but which do not play a role in the thematic structure of the clause. For example, we have introduced the use of the preposition of in situations such as the following:
|(196)||a||a picture of Mary|
|b||fond of his grandmother|
As we pointed out, nouns and adjectives seem not to be able to take nominal complements and hence the preposition of is inserted so that the complement is prepositional instead. This preposition plays no role in the thematic interpretation of these constructions however, the thematic relations hold between the noun or the adjective and the following nominal element. Another such preposition is the by which is found in passive clauses:
|(197)||a||Peter hit the policeman||the policeman was hit by Peter|
|b||Lucy received a letter||a letter was received by Lucy|
Note that in the passive structures the nominal following by is interpreted the same as the nominal preceding the verb in the active. It is, of course, the verb which determines how to interpret this nominal, agent in (197a) and recipient in (197b), and hence, presumably, the verb which determines it in the passive examples. If this is so, then by plays no role in the thematic interpretation as this is entirely determined by the verb.
However, these prepositional elements, though apparently non-thematic, are not complementisers, as they do not introduce clauses. We therefore categorise them as prepositions which are unmarked for the F feature. Thus, they are non-thematic, but also non-functional prepositions, categorised as [–N, –V]. Like most prepositional elements they take nominal complements:
This concludes our typology of word categories. Although it has not been exhaustive, as there are one or two categories that we have not discussed (conjunctions such as and and or for example), we have covered all of the categories that we will be concerned with in the rest of this book and nearly all of those made use of in the English language. How to include those we have not dealt with within the system we have developed is not something we will touch on in this book.