The Comparative Grammar of Intensional Transitive Verbs: This project is a comparative study of intensional transitive verbs, a construction type raising significant questions about the relation between semantics and grammar. Semantic intensionality phenomena are known to arise with clausal complements embedded under verbs of propositional attitude like believe, know, think or say; by contrast, direct objects of transitive verbs are typically extensional in their semantics. This correlation seems to be violated, however, with predicates like want, need, seek, or imagine, which show apparent transitive syntax coupled with an intensional semantics.
It has been proposed that the correlation stated above is absolute, and that intensional transitive verbs (ITVs) merely appear to be transitive. On this view, examples like Mary wants a griffin or Max seeks a wife are underlyingly clausal in structure (cf. Mary wants to have a griffin and Max seeks to find a wife), accounting for the intensionality of their "objects".
This project will investigate the covert clause analysis comparatively, looking at a range of languages, including Chinese, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Slovenian. The working hypothesis is that clausal complementation is "concealed" in ITVs as the effect of two known grammatical phenomena: phonetically null elements and clause reduction. If this is correct, careful comparison of languages in which the principles governing null elements and restructuring are known to vary should bring the clausal nature of ITVs into relief, or else provide evidence that the hypothesis is incorrect.
This research is supported by NSF BCS-0236952.