Towards a Compositional Semantics for Locative Modifiers

Claudia Maienborn


Within linguistic theory, very little effort has been devoted so far to a comprehensive theory of the syntax and semantics of modifiers. It is predominantly assumed that modifiers make a constant semantic contribution to the meaning of the constituent that is modified, irrespective of any conceivable syntactic differentiations. This account cannot cope with a multitude of empirical data and should therefore be replaced by a theory of modification that pays more attention to the exact nature of a given syntactic configuration and its impact on semantic composition. The approach advocated here is illustrated with locative modifiers of verb phrases. It will be shown that these expressions have a large range of meaning variability. Using German data, it is argued that differences in meaning can be correlated with diffe­rences in syntactic structure. On this basis, a compositional semantics for locative modifiers is proposed.

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