Basic English Syntax with Exercises

semantics Extended projections

In (82a) the verb give is used fully thematically and it contributes its full descriptive content to the whole sentence: the agent is in possession of the chocolates, and does something (i.e. gives) that results in the recipient in possession of the chocolates. But in (82b), where give is used as a light verb, it does not contribute its whole semantic content. For example, it cannot be claimed that anything has been given here and certainly Kevin does not end up in possession of a kick! Instead the main descriptive content comes from the deverbal noun and hence the similarity of meaning of (82b) and (c). It seems that semantically speaking, the complement of the light verb is the main contributor to the construction and although light verbs do contribute something, their contribution is often subtle and always dependent on the thematic complement. This shows a very different relationship between a light verb and its complement and a thematic verb and its complement. In the latter case, the thematic verb selects and imposes restrictions on its complement whereas in the former, the light verb is in some ways selected for and restricted by its complement: recall that unaccusative verbs do not appear with the abstract causative light verb, but ergatives do. Suppose then that the main semantic aspects of a light verb are determined by its thematic complement and that these are passed up to it by a process similar to projection – something which has been called extended projection, in fact. It would then depend on the thematic verb how the argument of the light verb was to be interpreted, as a causer, not directly seen as the agent of the thematic verb, or as a direct agent of that verb. We might visualise this in the following way: