Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, University of Granada, Spain
This book is a study of the verb-noun collocations known as light verb constructions, verb support constructions, and complex predicates. Although these structures have been studied in depth in German—and have experienced some recent popularity in Spanish linguistics—surprisingly few recent studies have been attempted in English. Antonio Álvarez Rodríguez uses a substantial corpus of British newspapers to demonstrate how the use of these verb structures varies across different journalistic genres (e.g. politics, economics, sports). Moreover, the author provides an in-depth study of how morphosyntactic features vary in frequency, versatility, and productivity in both the verb and the noun phrase. A considerable number of tables and graphs illustrate these syntactic characteristics. The author limits himself to the study of seven verbs (do, have, give, make, take, hold, and keep), the first five representing the most frequent support verbs, while the final two verbs, of lower frequency, were selected for their contrastive value.
The literature review in Ch. 1 provides an outline of the general syntactic and semantic characteristics of complex predicates. A diachronic perspective of these structures in Old English enhances the discussion. Subsequently, the coverage given to complex predicates in dictionaries is also reviewed.
Ch. 2 describes the corpus used for this study as well as the system of scanning for the targeted verbs using Microsoft Word.
Ch. 3 is dedicated to the analysis of the verb support and a discussion of the results. Have and make occur extremely frequently, while do, keep, and hold occur only sporadically. As might be expected, the past tense and the nonfinite verb forms predominate, although the passive voice is frequent in the political genre.
Ch. 4 discusses the various noun phrase determiners, beginning with an overview of the different determiner types and their relative frequency. Interestingly, the sports genre makes strong use of possessive and complex determiners.
Ch. 5 describes the different types of noun phrase modifiers and their relative frequency in both the verbs and the different genres. The author considers both pre- and postmodification, covering adjectival, participle, and clausal modification.
Ch. 6 investigates the characteristics of the noun, specifically, the deverbal character of nouns—perhaps the most emblematic aspect of complex predicates. The author notes that, although the English noun and verb may be isomorphic, this is not necessarily a relevant characteristic of these structures in other languages. The nouns, however, certainly tend to be abstract and appear with greater frequency in the singular. Additionally, the occurrence of multiple complex predicates is discussed here—that is, the merging of two structures that share the same support verb (e.g. give help and advice).
The relative frequency of each support verb together with its noun complements is also examined. Some nouns, of course, are able to combine with more than one support verb, and the distribution of nouns across different verbs is also investigated (lead is perhaps the most productive, combining with give, have, hold, keep, and take).
This book is clearly written, logically organized, and easily accessible. The numerous tables and the examples extracted from the corpus ensure an adequate illustration of the phenomena. In sum, this is a worthy contribution to an important area of the English language.