Traditionally, verbs which have nominal complements are called transitive and those without intransitive. The verb await is a transitive verb and wait is intransitive. However, another kind of intransitive verb has no complement at all:
Because these verbs have no complements, their subcategorisation frames are empty (as indicated by the ‘null symbol’ Ø, which typically stands for the absence of content). These verbs obviously differ from those such as wait which have non-null subcategorisation frames. We might distinguish between the two types by referring to those in (72) as true intransitives and those such as wait as being prepositional verbs.
Yet, if we consider the total set of possible positions for adjectives and adverbs, we notice that where an adverb can appear an adjective cannot and vice versa. In other words, the two are in complementary distribution, just like transitive and intransitive verbs. In the case of verbs we took their complementary distributions to be evidence that they are of the same category and, therefore, there is no reason why we should not argue the same here in relation to adjectives and adverbs.
In (128a) the preposition under takes a nominal complement, demonstrating its [–N] property, in (128b) from takes a prepositional complement and in (128c) out has no complement and hence is used ‘intransitively’.
Like the inflections, the lexical properties of determiners are relatively simple. They have no theta grid and they subcategorise only for nominal complements. If pronouns are determiners, then in their pronominal use they can be considered as ‘intransitive’, taking no complement:
It seems that in the position where we have pestered Dennis we can have the verb persisted. This is not surprising as the verb pestered is used transitively in (11a), with a nominal complement (Dennis) whereas persisted is used intransitively in (11b), without a complement. However, if intransitive verbs distribute the same as transitive verbs plus their complements, this means that transitive verbs and their complements form a phrase that has a distribution in the same way that a determiner with its nominal complement distributed like certain nouns. Thus a more accurate description of the sentence than (9) would be:
2.2.1 The subject
The appearance of an expletive element is restricted to the subject position. We do not get an expletive in a complement position of intransitive verbs, which do not subcategorise for a complement:
In our discussion so far we have shown that whole DPs can be replaced by a pronoun and, indeed, that a PP can be replaced by the prepositional ‘pronoun’ there. But for VP we have used intransitive verb to demonstrate the distributional properties of the phrase. Is there a ‘pronoun’ for a VP? I may be that the words do so function as a kind of pronominal replacement for VPs, though its use is a little more restricted than other pronouns:
220.127.116.11 Adjunction to phrase
These clauses are not complements of the nouns, the nouns in (37) all being intransitive, and cannot be specifiers as they follow the head. Like AP adjuncts, they are recursive, demonstrating a clear property of an adjunct:
18.104.22.168 D-structure and Theta Theory
The verb smile is intransitive and therefore does not have a Θ-role to assign to an object. If we provide this verb with an object, we therefore have an argument that receives no Θ-role, which as we see from (76) is ungrammatical. Moreover, an argument cannot receive more than one Θ-role. So if a predicate must assign more than one Θ-role, it cannot assign them both to the same argument:
Now consider the nature of the empty object in (92b): the extraction site of the moved object. By the Projection Principle, this object position must remain in the structure and cannot be deleted otherwise the transitive verb would find itself without an object and hence would be sitting in the structural position of an intransitive verb. As this would alter the lexical nature of the verb, we conclude that it would be impossible. Yet if this position were simply vacant, like the subject position is at D-structure, we might expect that it could be the landing site for some other moved element. This, it turns out, is not true at all. Consider the following analysis which indicates several movements step by step:
4.1 Why the Noun is not the Head of the DP
The first consists of a determiner and a noun, which we have so far been describing as a head followed by its complement, in the usual English pattern. The second a pronoun, and we have claimed that pronouns are ‘intransitive’ determiners, i.e. determiners without an NP complement. The third consists of just a proper noun and the last just a plural count noun. These last two examples are puzzling: how can they be considered as DPs when they contain no determiner? Perhaps these are not DPs at all, but simply NPs. But if this is true, as all the examples in (1) have the same distribution, they must all be considered NPs. Thus, the pronoun should be categorised as a noun and the determiner in (1a) is not the head of the phrase, but some other element within the NP, perhaps an adjunct or a specifier (it is on the wrong side to be considered a complement).
5.2.1 Unaccusative verbs
Perhaps the simplest verb type, seen from a lexical perspective, is a group known as unaccusative verbs. At first sight, these look like simple intransitive verbs, though we shall see that they are in fact simpler than intransitives (or at least, intransitives are more complex!). Unaccusatives take one DP argument to which they assign a theme Θ-role. They may also, optionally in most cases, take a location or path argument expressed by a PP:
5.2.1 Unaccusative verbs
Another distinguishing fact about unaccusatives is that they do not take objects of any kind. You might wonder how this fact distinguishes unaccusatives from intransitives which also do not have objects, but the fact is that intransitives may appear with a limited set of objects:
5.2.3 Ergative verbs
Languages which relate the subject of the intransitive verb with the object of a transitive verb in terms of a shared case form, for example, are called Ergative languages and while it is doubtful whether the phenomenon demonstrated in (44) has anything to do with the ergativity we find in languages like Basque or Eskimo languages such as Yupik, the term is a convenient one.
22.214.171.124 Unaccusatives and ergatives
All of this demonstrates that ergative verbs can be analysed in exactly the same way as unaccusatives, in their ‘intransitive’ use, and as being part of a causative construction in their ‘transitive’ use. Indeed, ergative verbs themselves are identical to unaccusatives, even in causative constructions as it is the causative light verb which supplies the extra agent argument and the causative interpretation. For this reason, many linguists refer to these kinds of verbs as unaccusatives. However, it still remains that there are differences between the unaccusative verbs we reviewed above and the ergative verbs reviewed in this section. For a start, ergatives cannot appear in the there constructions and unaccusatives cannot appear in causative constructions:
5.2.4 Transitive verbs
It is time we turned our attention to those verbs that traditional grammars seem to consider more central: transitive and intransitive verbs. What we have said so far has far reaching repercussions for the analysis of these verbal subcategories. We will start discussing these with respect to the transitives.
6.3 Movement to Spec IP
We have said that the light verb which is responsible for assigning the Θ-role to the subject is responsible for assigning Case to the object. This seems to be the locus of Burzio’s generalisation that verbs which assign a subject Θ-role assign an accusative Case. Hence the object is in a Case marked position and need not move away in order to get Case. Consider the subject: why is it not in a Case position? Note that the verbal element above the subject, the tense in this case, does not assign any Θ-roles and hence its specifier position is empty at D-structure. Clearly this is unlike the light verb. We may propose therefore that tense is not an accusative Case assigning head. But why doesn’t the light verb assign Case to its subject? One might attempt to answer this by claiming that the light verb has to assign Case to the object and assuming that accusative Case can only be assigned to one place. While this seems reasonable, it doesn’t explain why the light verb taking an intransitive verb does not assign Case to its subject: