Home Clausal Complementation and Selection Project



Project Directors: Mark Baker and Ken Safir , Rutgers University

This research initiative explores how predicates select for clausal complements. Natural languages most typically make available several different clause types which can function as the complements to a verbal (or adjectival) matrix predicate and it is frequently possible, in a given language, to predict which of the several clause types in the language the predicate will select based on the lexical semantics of that predicate. Native speakers appear to acquire the typology of clausal complementation in their language without explicit instruction, which raises familiar poverty of the stimulus questions that imply a great deal of tacit knowledge about the consequences of what a verb means for the syntactic form of the complement it selects. Although work on the semantic and syntactic selection by verbs that take nominal or prepositional complements has been a staple of linguistic work for many years (as, for example, in the work of Levin and Rappaport, 1995 and much work on thematic roles), relatively little research has sought to use crosslinguistic contrasts to identify the key factors, or even the key generalizations, that should inform our account of how speakers arrive at the classification of clausal complementation in their native language. Our proposal is to use the Afranaph resources to explore this question.

This is attractive in that the African languages permit us to investigate two types of crosslinguistic comparison: comparisons between languages that are broadly different, both in history and typology (e.g. across Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Congo, and Nilo-Saharan), and comparisons among languages that are broadly similar, but differ in the details of clausal selection in ways that reveal smaller cleavages in classification (e.g., across the Bantoid languages).

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Clausal Complementation Questionnaire (CCQ)