Mental states via possessive predication: the grammar of possessive experiencer complex predicates in Persian

Natural Language Semantics:1-44 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Persian possesses a number of stative complex predicates with _dâshtan_ ‘to have’ that express certain kinds of mental state. I propose that these _possessive experiencer complex predicates_ be given a formal semantic treatment involving possession of a portion of an abstract quality by an individual, as in the analysis of property concept lexemes due to Francez and Koontz-Garboden (Language 91(3):533–563, 2015 ; Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 34:93–106, 2016 ; Semantics and morphosyntactic variation: Qualities and the grammar of property concepts, Oxford University Press, 2017 ). Augmented with an analysis of prepositional phrases introducing the target of the mental state and an approach to gradability in terms of measure functions (Wellwood in Measuring predicates, PhD dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park, 2014 ), the analysis explains various properties of possessive experiencer complex predicates, including the behavior of target phrases, the ability of the non-verbal element to be modified by a range of adjectives, the direct participation of the non-verbal element in comparative constructions, and the ability of degree expressions to modify both the non-verbal element and the VP containing the complex predicate. Theoretically, the analysis ties transitive mental state expressions to the grammar and semantics of property concept sentences, which are expressed via possessive morphosyntax cross-linguistically, and connects with syntactic proposals that independently argue for a universal underlyingly possessive morphosyntax for mental state predicates (Noonan in Case and syntactic geometry, PhD dissertation, McGill University, 1992 ; Hale and Keyser in Prolegomenon to a theory of argument structure, MIT Press, 2002 ). The work here also motivates modifications to Francez and Koontz-Garboden’s original proposal, and opens new questions in the original empirical domain of the analysis of possessive predicating strategies for the expression of property concept sentences.

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