Citing data from English, German, Igbo, Edo, Ijo, Mandarin, Shanghainese, Yi, Mizo, Dai, Vietnamese, Paamese, Ambae, Japanese, and Malayalam, this paper develops a general account of word order in resultative constructions, like "He pounded it flat." It first defends a generalization. Both the position of the object, and the relative order of the two component predicates, those of means and result, vary with the size of the latter, here diagnosed by whether it can house a modifier. Williams then argues for a syntax that derives the observed patterns, uniformly for VO and OV languages, relying on head movement of the least embedded verb. This requires that the initial position of the object be outside the smallest constituent containing the two predicates, and that the size of the result predicate be permitted to vary underlyingly, sometimes comprising just the lexical predicate alone, contrary to what is often assumed. The paper finishes by observing that this syntax supports an uncommon semantics, one which assigns the object a thematic relation to the event of the complex predicate, independently of any relations to the events of its components.
Proceedings of the 26th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Charles B. Chang and Hannah J. Haynie
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