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Selection: Factivity and Interpretation ∗

By Itamar Kastner Nyu


Work on the syntax-semantics interface has been at odds to explain two seemingly unrelated issues: factivity effects and the nature of clausal complementation. I show that we need look no further than basic selectional requirements: new data and generalizations from English, Hebrew, Greek, Persian and American Sign Language reveal a systematic difference between verbs of different kinds which reduces to whether they select for an entity (a DP) or a proposition (a CP). I argue that some verbs select for a definite entity, translating into a CP embedded in a covert DP layer; and some select for a proposition, being simply a CP. The former are factive, the latter nonfactive. In addition, all verbs that select for a DP can embed a factive complement. A definite complement triggers not only factivity but also leads to differences in interpretation in a predictable manner, thus uniting the two issues of interest. The resulting syntactic analysis of matrix predicates and embedded clauses feeds semantic and discursive effects, bridging assertions, presuppositions and referential propositions. It also allows us to account for additional, as-yet-unexplained generalizations such as the factivity and nominalhood of sentential subjects, correctly predicting when they would be nonfactive.

Year: 2013
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:
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