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Question for English Speakers about Secondary Predicates (also posted on ZBB)

From:Christopher Bates <chris.maths_student@...>
Date:Thursday, December 28, 2006, 12:50
I want to see if people agree with my own intuition about the behavoir
secondary predicates in English with indefinite controllers. Basically,
consider a sentence with a secondary predicate. The typical example is
something like:

The man ate the meat raw

Now, "raw" is making an assertion about one of the arguments of the main
verb, namely "the meat". It asserts that at the time of eating, the meat
was raw. But almost all the examples linguists tend to use of secondary
predicates have definite controllers. I want people's judgement about
the following sentences:

(1) The man ate some meat raw
(2) The man ate some raw meat

Firstly, are both grammatical? If they are, is there a difference in
meaning for you? If there isn't, do you prefer to use one over the
other? Here are my answers:

(2) is clearly grammatical. (1) is possible but sounds awkward... I
cannot percieve any meaning difference between the two. I prefer to use
(2) over (1).

This is a very important question for me because I'm making a slightly
barmy engineered language, Díwà, where predication is really a more
important notion than the distinction between nouns and verbs, which
doesn't really exist. Now, Díwà has a construction very similar to
English secondary predicates that allows you to make assertions about
the arguments of some other verb. However, this construction is also
extremely commonly used with indefinite arguments, for the following
reason. Consider a sentence like:

I saw a man

In such sentences with indefinite NPs, the NP does not serve the typical
nominal function of identifying a referent, but rather forms a covert
part of the predication. Its structure is really something more like:

see(I,X) and man(X)
= I saw something, and that something was a man

In Díwà, predication is the dominant notion, so Díwà marks this
distinction between NPs that serve the purpose of identification vs
those that are really predicative by making predicative NPs into
secondary predicates, pretty much. This means, though, that Díwà does
not distinguish (1) and (2), since both the fact that it was meat that
the man ate and the fact that it was raw form part of the predication.
This is all based on my own thinking, and if I've come to the wrong
conclusions regarding indefinite NPs then Díwà is doing something even
more insane than it was before... if, however, I'm right, then I predict
that natlangs like English will either disprefer secondary predicates
with indefinite controllers, or have no significant meaning difference
between sentences like (1) and (2).


Antonielly Garcia Rodrigues <antonielly@...>
JR <fuscian@...>
Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>
Elyse M. Grasso <emgrasso@...>