Intransitive Accomplishments and the Lexicon: The Role of Implicit Arguments, Definiteness, and Reflexivity in Aspectual Composition

Journal of Semantics 19 (4):369-416 (2002)
Theories of aspectual composition assume that accomplishments arise when a transitive verb has an incremental theme argument which is realized as a quantized NP—foremost, an NP which is not a mass noun or a bare plural—in direct object position. A problem confronting this assumption is the large number of intransitive, unergative verbs in German and English that occur in accomplishment expressions. The paper argues that this problem can be solved within a standard theory of aspectual composition if additional, independently motivated lexical assumptions about argument structure, the representation of implicit arguments and lexical presuppositions are made. It turns out that a distinction between lexically determined definiteness versus non‐definiteness of implicit arguments in particular plays a crucial role, as well as one between implicitly reflexive and non‐reflexive arguments in that implicitly definite and implicitly reflexive arguments allow for accomplishment expressions. This is explained by the semantics of definiteness and reflexivity, respectively. Apart from these verbs, there is another large group of unergatives which show that, in contrast to a common assumption in aspectual composition theory, verbs themselves and not only VPs can be quantized. This leads to a lexical distinction between ‘mass’ and ‘count’ verbs
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DOI 10.1093/jos/19.4.369
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