English verb-preposition constructions: Constituency and order
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English verb-preposition constructions: Constituency and order


This paper offers a comprehensive analysis of the constituent-structure and linear-order properties of English transitive and intransitive V-P constructions involving so-called ‘particles’ (turn on the lights/the lights on, mess up the song/the song up, shut up, sit down, etc.). Drawing on both standard and certain new evidence and arguments, it is proposed that V-P constructions generally come in one or both of two varieties: lexical compounds (mess up in mess up the song) and/or discontinuous verbs, i.e. lexemes with more than one piece projected as a word or phrase (mess ... up in mess the song up), and that the alternation, for those that have both manifestations, reflects different argument structure possibilities for a lexeme with the same overall conceptual semantics. The internal structure of VPs built on V-P lexemes is examined in some detail. The popular ‘small-clause’ approach, according to which the DP of transitive V-P structures is the subject of a phrase that has the P as its predicate, is shown to be problematic, primarily because there in fact exists a true small clause construction that can have a P as its predicate and the putative small clause of cases like mess the song up systematically lacks the defining properties of this construction. The word order restrictions that the small-clause approach is designed, in part, to account for are shown to follow from a set of independently needed linearization constraints, which are motivated by functional principles.

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