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«Knowledge Ascription by Grammatical Construction Laura A. Michaelis University of Colorado at Boulder 1. Introduction1 While little consensus has emerged ...»

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Whether the content argument of teach is expressed by a noun phrase or a clause, it is subject to null expression, in which case it is reconstructed from context. The same

analysis of teach holds when it is found in the pattern in (26):

26. She teaches first graders to read.

In (26), teach takes a subject (she) denoting an agent, a direct object (first graders) denoting an experiencer and an infinitival complement (to read) denoting an act.

Following terminological tradition, we will refer to this construction as the Object Control construction. The Object Control construction is the transitive analog of the Infinitival Complement pattern exemplified in (13) above. Other examples of the Object

Control construction are given in (27-28):

27. She convinced me to stay.

28. She forced me to agree.

Now, according to the Intellectualist model, the meaning of (26) is captured by the

paraphrase in (29):

29. She teaches first graders that there is some x such that x is a way to read.

This analysis is implausible on its face. Instead, I would submit, the meaning of (26) is

captured by the paraphrase in (30):

30. She teaches first graders propositional content that is a precondition to the act of reading.

According to the proposed analysis, (26) is an instance of argument augmentation by construction, as in (17-18). The added argument is the ‘act’ argument denoted by the infinitival verb. The construction that contributes this argument is Object Control. In the Object Control construction, the verb’s direct object is interpreted as both the party affected by the act of teaching, forcing, persuading, etc. and the (potential) doer of the procedure denoted by the infinitival complement. When teach combines with the Object

Control construction, two of the arguments of the verb undergo what Goldberg (1995:

Ch. 2) refers to as fusion: they are identified with compatible arguments of the construction. The teacher argument of teach is fused with the agent (subject) argument of the Object Control construction and the student argument of teach is fused with the experiencer (object) argument of the Object Control construction. Where is the content argument of teach in (26)? It is missing: the content argument has not fused with an argument of the Object Control construction. In other words, the combination of the verb teach with the Object Control construction requires that the content argument be

unexpressed: (31-32), for example, are ungrammatical:

31. *She teaches first graders reading skills to read.

32. *She teaches first graders that specific letter sequences correspond to words of English to read.

I submit that the ungrammaticality of (31-32) has the same source as that in (33):

33. *He drank liquor himself into a stupor.

Sentence (33) is a defective instance of the Resultative construction, a well-formed instance of which is shown in (18) above. Sentence (33) fails because verb-construction integration requires that the verb’s second argument (liquor) be replaced by the construction's second argument (himself). The second argument assigned by the Resultative construction is an entity that undergoes a change of state; it is referred to as a theme argument. The label theme argument is used in frame-based semantics to denote a participant role that moves or is moved, either metaphorically, as in (18), where the state

of stupefaction is construed as a location, or literally, as in (4), repeated here as (34):

34. She swept the dirt into a dustpan.

When a verb that selects for a specific type of direct object, like drink (a liquid) or sweep (a surface), appears without that direct object in the Resultative construction, the direct

object in question is one that is omissible, as shown in (35-36):

35. The horses drank (water) thirstily.

36. She swept (the floor) thoroughly.

Crucially, however, while omission of the verb’s theme argument is optional in (35-36), it is obligatory in the context of the Resultative construction, as shown by (33). The same observations can be made, mutatis mutandis, about the ill-formed examples in (31-31) above: verb-construction integration requires that the content argument, which is otherwise subject to omission, be replaced by the infinitival ‘procedure’ argument of the Object Control construction. It is important to notice that a general susceptibility to null expression is a necessary but not sufficient condition upon an argument's removal during verb-construction integration. As it happens, teach allows either the propositional-content argument or the ‘student’ argument or both to be unexpressed. The first pattern is exemplified by (21), repeated here as (37). The second and third patterns are exemplified

by (38-39), respectively:

37. She teaches first graders.

38. She teaches reading skills.

39. She teaches.

But sentence (40), in which the ‘student’ argument has been removed in the course of

verb-construction integration, is ungrammatical:

40. *She teaches reading skills to read.





Sentence (39) is ungrammatical because the Object Control construction requires an experiencer argument as its second argument, and the ‘student’ argument of teach is the only one of the two nonsubject arguments with the requisite properties of animacy and volition.

Thus far, we have discussed the combination of a transitive verb of knowledge ascription, teach, with a construction, the Object Control construction, that licenses an infinitival complement denoting a procedure. Similar observations apply to the combination of an intransitive verb of knowledge ascription with an infinitival complement. In contrast to French, German and other languages, where a stative verb of knowing can be combined with an infinitival complement denoting a procedure (as in the French savoir example (16) above), the only intransitive verb of knowledge ascription that enters into this pattern in English is the change-of-state verb, learn, which I will regard as meaning ‘come to know some propositional content’. Thus, while (41) means something like ‘I came to know something that enables me to swim’, (42) does not mean ‘I know something that enables me to make coffee’; rather, it means ‘I know that I should make coffee under

certain circumstances’:

41. I learned to make coffee.

42. I know to make coffee.

While this divergence between know and learn is mysterious, the generally idiosyncratic behavior of verbs leads us to expect such cross-linguistic differences in verb complementation patterns, and the observations made here about the English verb learn can easily be applied to French savoir or German wissen. What is crucial for our purposes is that the grammatical pattern in (41) appears both grammatically and semantically

analogous to that in (43):

43. I tried to make coffee.

The grammatical pattern exemplified in both (41) and (43) is referred to in the linguistic literature as Subject Control. Like Object Control, the Subject Control construction requires a single argument, the subject argument, to play a distinct semantic role for each of two verbs, the main verb and its infinitival complement. These roles are: the experiencer of the intentional state denoted by the finite verb (learn or try) and the agent of the procedure denoted by the infinitival verb (to make coffee). While in the Object Control construction this ‘double duty' argument is the direct object of the main verb, in the Subject Control pattern it is the subject of the matrix verb. Like Object Control, Subject Control can replace the second argument of a verb with which it combines. In the case of (41), for example, the second argument, the propositional-content argument, is replaced by the infinitival ‘procedure’ argument of the construction. As in the case of teach, we find independent attestation of this argument-omission affordance for learn, in

examples like (44-45):

44. I love to learn [things].

45. Will they ever learn [that crime doesn’t pay]?

Thus, as in the case of teach, the version of learn that combines with the Subject Control construction is the intransitive one, in which the 'content' argument is not overtly expressed but is present at the conceptual level. As in the case of teach, the verbconstruction integration relation attested in such combinations is the precondition relation: learning some set of propositions (the content) is a precondition for doing things like making coffee.

The addition of an infinitival or clausal complement to the argument array of a mentalstate predicator (verbal or adjectival) is a general phenomenon, attested for predicators

other than those expressing knowledge states, as in (46-48):

46. “I am slack jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed [...],” Mr. Goss wrote in The Wall Street Journal. (NY Times 5/14/09)

47. Griffin appears happy that he could be heading to Los Angeles.

48. Fergie was smart to dye her hair dark before getting married to Josh Duhamel.

Both being slack-jawed and being happy are single-argument property predications. The clausal second argument with which these adjectives are paired in (46-47), respectively, is licensed by a construction rather than by the particular adjective. The construction exemplified in (46) is that which pairs a mental-state predicator with an infinitival clause

denoting an activity that induces this mental state; it is also exemplified by (49):

49. I am embarrassed/shocked/surprised to read this news.

In (46), the state of being slack jawed (a facial posture) is used to represent the mental state of being shocked, according to the metonymic convention by which the symptom of an emotional state stands for that state. The integration relation illustrated in (46), as in (49), is the manner relation: the facial posture accompanies the state of being surprised.

The construction exemplified in (47), described by Moffett (2005), denotes a relation between a thinker or speaker and propositional content believed or stated; the latter is expressed by a finite clause. Verbs and adjectives that select for this argument array on the basis of their intrinsic semantics are aware, believe and know. The adjective happy differs from the foregoing predicators in that it does not intrinsically select for a propositional argument: being happy is not necessarily the result of knowing some proposition. It is only by virtue of combining with the that-clause complementation pattern, as in (47), that happy obtains a propositional argument. The integration relation exemplified in (47) is again manner: the emotional state of happiness accompanies the intentional state of knowing (in this case, that one is heading for Los Angeles). The construction exemplified in (48), described by Oshima (2009) as the adj+to-inf construction, pairs an adjective that describes a mental or behavioral propensity of an individual (e.g., intelligence, boldness, bravery, stupidity) with an infinitival complement denoting an action ascribable to that propensity. In line with the present approach,

Oshima describes this construction as follows:

The traditional argument/adjunct distinction tends to be obscured in ‘non-canonical’ constructions like the adj-to-inf-cxn. The to-infinitive is an indispensable constituent in the construction, and can be regarded as a complement in that respect; on the other hand, it may be considered an adjunct for the reason that the main predicate (adjective) does not inherently select for it. (Oshima 2009: 367) In Construction Grammar terms, the infinitival complement is licensed by the adj-to-inf construction rather than by the adjective itself. In other words, adjectives like smart, stupid and wise are not intrinsically relational adjectives; in this respect they differ from intentional-state adjectives like eager, prepared and determined: felicitous use of sentences like Fred is eager/prepared/determined requires mutual knowledge of the act that Fred intends to perform, while no such requirement obtains for sentences like Fred is bold/smart/brave. Thus, adjectives like smart and stupid receive an infinitival complement only through the mechanism of word-construction integration. What is the integration relation exemplified by predications like (48)? As in the case of verbs of knowledge ascription, it is the precondition relation: having the relevant propensity is a necessary condition on performing the action, and so one can infer the propensity from the performance of the action. The latter statement captures Oshima’s observation that predications licensed by the adj-to-inf construction are implicit epistemic conditionals;

for example, as he observes (p. 370), the sentence John was wise to leave early can be paraphrased as ‘John must have been being wise, {because/considering that} he left early’.

The foregoing observations show that syntactic context, or more specifically constructional context, may alter the array of semantic arguments that a verb or adjective selects. This means that the syntactic context may only indirectly reflect the semanticrole-licensing properties of the predicator. Acknowledging this enables us to strike a compromise between the Rylean and Intellectualist views: verbs like learn and teach do indeed take propositions as their second arguments, but that propositional argument is replaced by one denoting a procedure in the infinitival constructions that have convinced proponents of the Rylean view that verbs of knowledge ascription describe a relationship between a person and a procedure. Instead, as in the Intellectualist view, verbs of knowledge ascription denote a relationship between a person and propositional content.

Such verbs are compatible with the Object Control and Subject Control constructions insofar as propositional knowledge is understood as a prerequisite for performance of the procedure. We here adopt the Rylean rather than Intellectualist view of infinitival complements: such complements denote procedures rather than propositions. The present account is thus Rylean with regard to constructional argument licensing and Intellectualist with regard to verbal argument licensing. At least in the case of verb phrases like French savoir nager and English learn to swim, the distinction between ‘knowing how’ and ‘knowing that’ comes down to a distinction between verb meaning and construction meaning.

3. WH-complements A WH-clause consists of a predication in which a clause-initial question word (who, what, where, how, etc.) serves the function of an argument (e.g., agent or patient) or adjunct (e.g., means, manner, purpose). A WH-clause becomes a WH-complement (also known as an indirect question) when it serves as the argument of a verb, e.g., a speechact verb or verb of knowledge ascription. Sentence (50) is an example of the latter type of

embedding context; I will argue that its meaning is captured by (51):

50. John knows how to make good coffee.

51. There is x means by which one makes good coffee, and John knows the value of x.

Similarly, I propose that (52) means something like (53):

52. John wonders how to make good coffee.

53. There is x means by which one makes good coffee, and John wants to learn the value of x.

In other words, WH-complements of verbs of knowledge ascription are just like WHclauses in general: first, they presuppose an open proposition (i.e., one containing an unbound variable in place of an argument or adjunct) and second, the embedding construction expresses what the speaker’s stance2 toward that variable is: the speaker may By speaker stance here I mean either the stance of the person denoted by the subject of a verb of cognition or speaking, as in (50) and (52), or the stance of the person uttering the sentence, as in (54-55).



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