This subproject studies the linguistic means to improve the match between clause-embedding predicates and their clausal complements (e.g. by semantic enrichment of the complement clause or coercion/semantic shift of the clause-embedding predicate).

Clausal complementation is characterized by two important properties: (i) the predicate-specific instantiation of complementation structures and (ii) the interaction of the clause-embedding predicate (= CEP) and its interpretation with material in the complement clause (= CC). Property (i) concerns the instantiation of structures such as raising (Mary seems to hate spicy food), control (Mary tries [PRO to eat spicy food]), NEG-raising (Mary does not believe that she will like spicy food  → 'Mary believes that she will not like spicy food'), restructuring (e.g., clitic climbing, long passive, long object movement), and bridge phenomena (What did she say/*simper (that) Fred had done?); only specific subsets of CEPs occur with each of the aforementioned structures. Property (ii) has been shown for the “licensing” of mood markers (e.g., the subjunctive in Romance languages), negative polarity items, “harmonic modals”, dependent verb morphology (infinitives, participles, converbs etc.), logophoric markers and expletive negation in complement clauses of certain CEPs (e.g., ‘fear’).

Taken together, these properties show an aspect that will be central in the project: the obvious matching requirement between the CEP and its complement clause (see the discussion of the role of s-selection vs. c-selection). The ingredients that help to improve that match are taken here as instances of optimization: (a) addition of material in the complement clause (e.g., verbal mood, modals) that is needed only with certain CEPs and (b) modification of the CEP (e.g., coercion) triggered by elements in the CC (e.g., interpretation of German bedauern `regret’ as `say with regret’ in combination with a V2-complement). (a) will be classified as top-down effect and (b) as bottom-up effect.
    A further relevant aspect of the project is the potential polysemy/vagueness of CEPs and its significance for the respective clausal complementation properties (e.g., the mood-dependent interpretation of Spanish sentir: ‘sense’ (indicative), ‘be sorry’ (subjunctive), the reading-dependent admissibility of clitic climbing for Italian sapere: `know how’ (yes), `know that’ (no), the reading-dependent admissibility of NEG-raising for German erwarten: ‘expect’ (yes), ‘demand’ (no)). It is the goal of the project to learn more about the direction of optimization in the match of CEP and CC by looking at polysemous/vague CEPs.

Recursive embedding (symbolic picture); Photo: Colourbox
Recursive embedding (symbolic picture); Photo: Colourbox

The project will take a cross-linguistic perspective, comparing languages with rich inventories of CEPs and small inventories of CEPs and pursue the following goals:

  • identify clausal complementation structures that are sensitive to the reading of a CEP
  • determine the role of polysemy for selected CC structures
  • determine top-down effects in optimization (mainly expected for marked/restricted CC types)
  • determine bottom-up effects in optimization (specification of vague CEPs by material in the CC, meaning shifts of CEPs with certain CC types)
  • check whether the stacking of control, raising, NEG-raising, restructuring and bridge predicates yields the expected cyclic propagation in recursive embedding
  • theoretical modelling of optimization effects