Studies in the composition and decomposition of event predicates

Studies in the composition and decomposition of event predicates. Ed. by Boban Arsenijević, Berit Gehrke, and Rafael Marín. (Studies in linguistics and philosophy 93.) Dordrecht: Springer, 2013. Pp. viii, 252. ISBN 9789400759824. $129 (Hb).
Reviewed by Ana Bravo, Universidad de Murcia

The book consists of nine articles and covers topics in the composition of event predicates. The approach is semantic (Chs. 2–7), but there are also two experimental studies on the processing of the different aspectual classes (Chs. 8 and 9). Although English is the language with which the majority of the phenomena are exemplified, Chs. 6 and 8 analyze two German expressions, while Ch. 4 focuses on French verbs.

Ch. 1 (1–26) offers a general overview of the contributions and the subject. Hence, the result is a very accessible presentation in the semantics of the composition of events that, at the same time, guides the reader through the issues examined. In Ch. 2 (27–48), Anita Mittwoch focuses on the relationship between activities and accomplishments. After having critically reviewed the criteria for distinguishing between the two classes, the author concludes that the telos is the only relevant property for considering an eventuality as an accomplishment. The modification of predicates with nonspecific DPs by in-adverbials is also studied.

Beth Levin and Malka Rappaport Hovav in Ch. 3 (49–70) concentrate on showing that cut does not encode a manner component lexically nor does climb encode a resultant state. In this way, the manner/result complementarity hypothesis can be conserved as a constraint in the lexicalization patterns of predicates and not merely as a tendency. In Ch. 4 (71–97), Fabienne Martin argues that the classification of certain manner adverbs (dispositional and psychological) and certain state predicates (experiencer psychological verbs) has to be modified in order to explain the compatibility between them, as in Paul cleverly interested him in the business. Roughly, when the modification is possible, it is either because a non-agentive predicate (achievements) has been coerced or because the state predicate is, in fact, weak agentive, instead of non-agentive.

In Ch. 5 (99–123), M. Ryan Bochnak proposes that the two readings of the English modifier half, eventive and qualitative, correspond to the two scales associated with the VP. One of the scales introduces quantity and is responsible for the telicity of the predicate and the eventive reading; the other one introduces quality and allows for the qualitative reading. In Ch. 6 (125–52), Jens Fleischhauer discusses the degree gradation of change of state verbs by the German modifier sehr ‘very’. For the author, the different readings obtained depend on whether the predicate has a standard telos or a maximum telos, a property that is given by the underlying type of scale lexically associated to the predicate. Finally, a scalar approach is also adopted in Ch. 7 (153–93) by Kyle Rwalins in order to explain the modification by the manner adverbs slowly and quickly as space and time adverbs.
With respect to the last two contributions, Oliver Bott in Ch. 8 (195–229) addresses the question of whether aspectual interpretation is processed incrementally or only when the verb has all its
arguments. In Ch. 9 (231–48), the experiment conducted by Evie Malaia, Ronnie B. Wilbur, and Christine Weber-Fox shows that telic verbs are associated with a template with an obligatory internal argument with consequences for the assignment of thematic roles.

This book is of interest to semanticists, syntacticians, and psycholinguists in the realm of the compositionality of events, as well as researchers in scalarity, adverbs, or modification. Those who look for a general survey of the field will also benefit from the contributions found within.