Different Types of Small Clauses and Their Analysis

A Comparison of English and German

Term Paper, 2003
20 Pages, Grade: 1



1. Introduction

2. What is a Small Clause?
2. Different Types of Small Clauses in English and German
2.1 Small Clauses as Complements to Verbs
2.2 Small Clauses as Complements to Prepositions
2.3 Independent Small Clauses
2.4 Small Clauses as Adjuncts
2.5 Small Clauses as Subjects
2.6 Resultative Small Clauses
2.7 The different Small Clauses in German and English

3. The Inner Structure of Small Clauses
3.1 Analysis of Small Clauses with Aarts (1992)
3.2 Analysis of the Different Types of Small Clauses in English
3.3 Analysis of the Different Types of Small Clauses in German

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

In this term paper, I will deal with some aspects of Small Clause (SC) analysis in English. The first chapter will explain what SCs are and present a general overview of their position in sentences. Furthermore I will briefly introduce a controversial analysis and consider the advantages of the SC analysis, as opposed to a predication analysis for example. Therefore several constituent tests will be applied to show that SCs can really function as syntactic units. Some semantic aspects will also be discussed to prove that they should be treated as units.

In the next chapter I will introduce different types of SCs. German will be considered as well and a comparison of both English and German SCs will be presented. The argument for the existence of German SCs is very similar to the English. For this reason I will not present the line of reasoning once more but simply assume the same syntactical phenomenon for German as well (for a more detailed analysis of German Small Clauses see Staudinger 1997: 111-115). It will be argued that English offers some more possible constructions with SCs than German. This observation leads to the conclusion that there are some significant differences between the two languages.

In a last step a possible analysis for the internal structure of Small Clauses will be presented. The need for a special analysis will be explained with respect to case-assignment. Then the suggested analysis will be applied to the presented types in unmarked word order to see if it is appropriate in practice. I will focus mainly on English here because an analysis of German SCs has to put up with different problems. Some of these struggles will also be discussed here.

In the conclusion the results of the previous chapters will be summarized. In addition some ideas for further research beyond the content of this paper will be given.

2. What is a Small Clause?

Clauses that lack an overt verb are called verbless clauses or Small Clauses. The general structure of SCs can be represented as follows:

[NP XP] where XP = AP, NP or PP

The bracketed constituents are said to be in a close relation, namely a subject – predicate relationship, where the NP is the subject of the SC and XP its predicate. Here are examples of the three different possibilities:

(1) The teacher believes [him stupid].
(2) The doctor considers [the patients maniacs].
(3) The captain wants [the sailor off his ship].

In the examples the bracketed words are said to be syntactic units. From the first example it can be concluded that the subject of an SC has to occur in the objective. In (2) it becomes obvious that there must be agreement of number and gender between the SC-subject and the SC-predicate. Of course this is the case in every SC but it is not always morphologically realized. The gender agreement cannot be realized in English SCs at all. Linguists claim that SCs contain an implicit verb be, which is not phonetically realized (Aarts 2001: 56):

(4) The teacher believes [him to be stupid].

As (4) contains a to-infinitive clause it is often argued that the Small Clause in (1) has the same meaning but for some reason the verb is left out. Other linguists claim the opposite, namely that sentences like (1) are the basic form and thus the sentences including a to-infinitive clause are derived by to be -insertion (Aarts 1991: 68). I will not deal with this topic here in greater detail.

The main problem of Small Clause theory is that there are some linguists who would still disagree with such an SC-analysis. They are of the opinion that [him stupid] in (1) for example does not form a syntactic unit. Roughly speaking it has been proposed to analyse the NP [him] as the Direct Object (DO) of the verb and the AP [stupid] as an Adjunct.

To refute this analysis in general it has to be shown that [NP XP] forms a constituent and that neither NP nor XP can be analysed separately. Therefore it seems reasonable to apply some constituent tests on the sentences above to show that SCs syntactically behave like constituents. To provide a proper argumentation I will apply three tests on [NP AP], [NP NP] and [NP PP] strings.

If [NP XP] is a constituent then it must be possible to make use of the Coordination Test by coordinating it with other constituents:

(5) The teacher believes [the pupil stupid] and [his colleague intelligent].
(6) The doctor considers [the patients maniacs] and [the secretary a fool].
(7) The captain wants [the sailor off his ship] and [the cook in his room].

This test supports the claim that the bracketed strings are constituents. Things look different if the Clefting Test is applied:

(8) a) *It is [the pupil stupid] that the teacher believes.

b) It is the pupil that the teacher believes stupid.

(9) a) *It is [the patients maniacs] that the doctor considers.

b) It is the patients that the doctor considers maniacs.

(10) a) *It is [the sailor off his ship] that the captain wants.

b) It is the sailor that the captain wants off his ship.

The a)-sentences are clearly evidence against the status of [NP XP] strings as constituents and the b)-sentences show that in this case NP and XP could perfectly well be analysed as separate units. Another way for testing the status of SCs is the Constituent Response Test. By definition only constituents can be grammatical answers to open interrogatives:

(11) What does the teacher believe? – [The pupil stupid].
(12) What does the doctor consider? – [The patients maniacs].
(13) What does the captain want? – [The sailor off his ship].

Here again the bracketed strings seem to be constituents. So now there are two tests that work perfectly well with SCs and one test who fails to prove their existence. Now the problem with constituency tests is that a failure of one test does not automatically mean that the tested string of words cannot function as a syntactic unit. It is generally assumed that it is evidence enough if one test shows words as a constituent. So the conclusion has to be drawn that Constituent Tests alone are not appropriate to decide for or against a SC analysis. Therefore it makes sense to look for more confirmation for the status of SCs as constituents.

If the semantic level is considered as well, then there can be found some hints for a very close relation between NP and XP in every case, too. But in addition Aarts (1992: 38) observes that nonreferential it may occur in the NP-position of [NP XP] like in (14):

(14) I find it a beautiful day. (Aarts’s (94))

Now verbs assign a thematic role to their Direct Objects. Thus it cannot be a DO because it is not assigned a thematic role (q-role) at all. Only the string [ it a beautiful day] can be considered the DO of the verb. Besides nonreferential it usually occurs as a subject-slot filler. This supports the assumption that it is the subject of a syntactically independent unit in this case. The semantic and the syntactic level together provide enough facts to claim an SC analysis. What makes the existence of SCs even more likely is that they do not only occur as complements to verbs like in the previous examples but also in other positions in a sentence. These will be illustrated and discussed in the next chapter.

2. Different Types of Small Clauses in English and German

In the following sections I will discuss different proposals for SCs. After a closer consideration some will be kept and some will be dropped. Further more it will be considered whether an SC-analysis of these types makes sense in German as well.

2.1 Small Clauses as Complements to Verbs

This category is certainly the one that linguists least argue about. In all the previous examples so far the SCs were complements to verbs. This type can include APs, NPs, and PPs in its predicate position, as shown above. Now it is to argue that this category also holds for German.

(15) Der Affe findet [Tarzan interessant].
(16) Tarzan hält [den Affen für einen Dummkopf].
(17) Jana vermutet [Tarzan im Dschungel].

It is quite obvious that German also has verb complements, which are SCs. In (16) it is noticeable that für has to be inserted to make the sentence grammatical. At first sight it could be argued that therefore the construction differs from English and looks like [NP für NP]. But this is only a marginal difference because English has the same construction as well where you can add the particle as.

(18) The doctor regards [his patients as maniacs].

Thus it clearly depends on the verb whether you need a particle. This holds for the observation that in some sentences you have to insert als rather than für.

(19) Jana betrachtet [Tarzan als einen feinen Mann].

It is argued, which word class als, für and as belong to. Für especially could easily be considered a preposition. But if it were then a preposition could precede another preposition like in (20a) which is not designated in X’-theory. Thus it is often argued that these particles are part of the verb (Staudinger 1997: 69) in German. For the same reason you can analyse as part of the verb in English, too, if you consider (20b).

(20) a) Jana hält [Tarzan für in Ordnung].

b) The doctor regards [his patient as out of his mind].


Excerpt out of 20 pages


Different Types of Small Clauses and Their Analysis
A Comparison of English and German
University of Marburg  (Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
Proseminar Syntax
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ISBN (Book)
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Different, Types, Small, Clauses, Their, Analysis, Comparison, English, German
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Eric Weidner (Author), 2003, Different Types of Small Clauses and Their Analysis, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/127135


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