Diccionario de perífrasis verbales

Diccionario de perífrasis verbales. Ed. by Luis García Fernández. Madrid: Gredos, 2006. Pp. 30. ISBN 9788424927943. $37.68.

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, University of Granada, Spain

Perhaps the first published lexicographic work of its type, this dictionary offers a theoretical overview of the structure, syntax, and semantic description of Spanish periphrastic verbs. Joining Ignacio Bosque’s Diccionario redes/network dictionary: Diccionario combinatorio del español contemporáneo (Madrid: Ediciones Sm, 2005), this volume supplements the current productive work on aspects of Spanish phraseology.

The volume begins with a comprehensive fifty-page introduction to Spanish periphrastic verbs, describing the theoretical framework within which the dictionary entries are analyzed and discussed. The introduction is divided into two sections: the first part discusses semantic and syntactic characteristics of these structures; the second identifies their syntactic restrictions.

In his outline of syntactic properties, the author discusses the types of syntactic operations that components may undergo within the generative framework of analysis. Regarding semantic characteristics, the author focuses on the auxiliary verb and discusses the types of verbs that lend themselves to this category (typically superordinates or hyperonyms), how the central meaning of the verb may restrict the types of nouns with which it combines, and the types of delexicalization that verbs typically undergo.

The second part of the introduction contains a description and illustration of the types of syntactic restrictions that apply to the periphrastic structures that contain a gerund, an infinitive, or a participle. The author also discusses the theoretical approach used to explain the concepts of mood, aspect, tense, (alethic, epistemic, and deontic) modality, and voice. Finally, the author briefly describes the potential for these structures to be used as discourse markers. The examples illustrate the apparently identical meaning and function expressed by llegar a and incluso, which can both be used in the sense of ‘even’ in English (e.g. llegó a proponernos que nos quedáramos en su casa ‘he even asked if we would like to stay at his house’).

The main content of the dictionary—the periphrastic verb entries—is arranged into several subsections. Subsection 1, ‘Meaning’, provides a brief description of the general meaning of each phrase as well as an account of regional distinctions and synonymous variants. For example, the dictionary opens with abrir a plus infinitive, common in Colombia and Puerto Rico, with synonymous variants including echar a plus infinitive and poner se plus infinitive, which are used in the sense of ‘begin to do something’ in English (e.g. Juan se echó a andar ‘Juan started walking’).

Subsection 2, ‘Structural definition’, examines the extent to which a periphrastic verb complies with the defining criteria outlined in the introduction. These criteria are illustrated with examples, some invented, while others are taken from the Corpus de Referencia del Español Actual (CREA corpus). The author indicates that the variety of periphrastic phrases suggests that not all criteria are necessarily fulfilled. Variant syntactic structures are also discussed here.

Subsection 3, ‘Syntactic definition’ considers in detail the idiosyncrasies of particular structures, investigating possible syntactic restrictions that affect the auxiliary verb, such as defectiveness in certain tenses, aspects, or moods. Further possible idiosyncrasies that may affect the structure in particular contexts involving negation, interrogation, and the passive voice are also examined.

Subsection 4, ‘Discussion’, provides an explanation for the syntactic idiosyncrasies outlined in the previous subsection. For example, it is noted that quedar(se) plus gerund, which can be used in the sense of ‘remain doing something’ in English (e.g. Juan se quedó pensando antes de responder ‘Juan thought for a while before answering’), does not combine with verbs that denote a change of state. This is explained by referring to the durative meaning of the verb itself.

The dictionary ends with an ample general bibliography and a variety of indexes that allow the reader to search for a particular periphrastic structure by focusing on either its semantic or syntactic characteristics.

Learners and teachers of Spanish will find this reference a tremendous addition to the various practical educational materials available.