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Persian complex predicates and the limits of inheritance-based analyses1

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 30 November 2009

Persian complex predicates pose an interesting challenge for theoretical linguistics since they have both word-like and phrase-like properties. For example, they can feed derivational processes, but they are also separable by the future auxiliary or the negation prefix.

Various proposals have been made in the literature to capture the nature of Persian complex predicates, among them analyses that treat them as purely phrasal or purely lexical combinations. Mixed analyses that analyze them as words by default and as phrases in the non-default case have also been suggested.

In this paper, I show that theories that rely exclusively on the classification of patterns in inheritance hierarchies cannot account for the facts in an insightful way unless they are augmented by transformations or some similar device. I then show that a lexical account together with appropriate grammar rules and an argument composition analysis of the future auxiliary has none of the shortcomings that classification-based analyses have and that it can account for both the phrasal and the word-like properties of Persian complex predicates.

Corresponding author
Author's address: Freie Universität Berlin, Institut für Deutsche und Niederländische Philologie, Deutsche Grammatik, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, D-14195 Berlin,
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I thank Mina Esmaili, Fateme Nemati, Pollet Samvelian, Yasser Shakeri, and Mehran A. Taghvaipour for help with the Persian data and for comments on an earlier version of this paper. Without their help I would not have been able to write this paper. In addition I want to thank Elham Alaee for discussion of data and Daniel Hole and Jacob Maché for comments on the paper. I thank Emily M. Bender and Felix Bildhauer for discussion. Special thanks go to Bob Borsley, Karine Megerdoomian, Ivan Sag, Pollet Samvelian, and several anonymous reviewers, whose comments on earlier versions of the paper improved it considerably. I also thank Philippa Cook for proof reading.

Research related to this paper was presented at the HPSG conference 2006 in Varna, at the Institut für Linguistik in Leipzig, at the Institut für Linguistik in Potsdam, at the Centrum für Informations und Sprachverarbeitung in Munich, at the center for Computational Linguistics of the Universität des Saarlandes, Saarbrücken, in 2008 at the conference Complex Predicates in Iranian Languages at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, and in 2008 at the conference Syntax of the World's Languages at the Freie Universität Berlin. I thank the respective institutions and the organizers of the HPSG conference for the invitation and all audiences for discussion.

This work was supported by a grant from Agence Nationale de la Recherche and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to the Franco-German project PER-GRAM: Theory and Implementation of a Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar for Persian (DFG MU 2822/3-1).

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