Secondary predication and the lexical representation of verbs Academic Article uri icon


  • In this paper it is assumed that syntactic structure is projected from the lexicon. The lexical representation, which encodes the linguistically relevant aspects of the meanings of words, thus determines and constrains the syntax. Therefore, if semantic analysis of syntactic structures is to be possible, it is necessary to determine the content and structure of lexical semantic representations. The paper argues for a certain form of lexical representation by presenting the problem of a particular non-standard structure, the verb phrase of the form V-NP-Adj corresponding to various constructions of secondary predication in English. It is demonstrated that the solution to the semantic analysis of this structure lies in the meaning of the structure's predicators, in particular the lexical semantic representation of the verb. Verbs are classified according to the configuration of the lexical semantic representations, whether basic or derived. It is these specific configurations that restrict the possibilities of secondary predication. Given the class of a verb, its relation to the secondary predicate is predictable; and the correct interpretation of the V-NP-Adj string is therefore possible.

publication date

  • March 1, 1990