Predicates of Gratification in English and Polish

A Semantic-Syntactic Perspective

by Katarzyna Góra (Author)
©2022 Monographs 422 Pages


This monograph presents a contrastive-corpus analysis of the semantic category of gratification. It takes as a case study the verb reward and its various forms in Polish and in English, as prototypical of the semantics of gratification. The study, set predominantly in the framework of semantic syntax, and drawing from the theory of valence and frame semantics, adopts a corpus-driven and usage-based approach to language analysis. By exploring the syntactic realization and distribution of arguments opened by the predicates of gratification in the two languages, the book offers new insights into language representation in English and Polish, and addresses the combinatoricity of human thought and cognitive mechanisms reflected in the lexicalization patterns of the situation of rewarding.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Valency properties of predicates – theoretical preliminaries
  • 1.1. The concept of a propositional structure
  • 1.1.1. Logical foundations of linguistic semantics
  • 1.1.2. Predicate calculus and predication
  • 1.1.3. The notion of a proposition
  • 1.1.4. Sentence as a sign of situation
  • 1.2. Predicates and arguments as constitutive elements of a proposition
  • 1.2.1. The notion of the predicate
  • Predicate valency
  • Classification of predicates
  • 1.2.2. The notion of argument
  • Classification of arguments
  • Arguments and adjuncts – discussion
  • Diathesis
  • 1.3. Case Grammar and semantic roles
  • 1.4. Polish School of Semantic Syntax
  • 1.4.1. Syntactic patterns of sentences
  • 1.4.2. Terminology
  • 1.5. Explicative syntax
  • 1.5.1. Theoretical assumptions of explicative syntax
  • 1.5.2. Notational system and typology of explicative patterns
  • 1.6. Current problems in explicative syntax
  • 1.6.1. Corpus data
  • 1.6.2. Contrastive research
  • 1.6.3. Prospective research
  • 1.7. Summary
  • Chapter 2: English and Polish Predicates of Gratification: Propositional-Semantic Structure
  • 2.1. English and Polish predicates of gratification in linguistic research
  • 2.1.1. Lexicographic data
  • Frame Net Project
  • Valence Dictionary of English
  • Walenty
  • Syntactic-Generative Dictionary of Polish Verbs
  • Syntactic-Semantic Dictionary of Polish Verbs
  • 2.1.2. Final remarks
  • 2.2. Gratification predicates and their valency
  • 2.2.1. Defining meaning
  • 2.2.2. Defining rewarding
  • 2.3. Semantic functions of arguments in sentences with gratification predicates
  • 2.3.1. Agent
  • 2.3.2. Beneficiary
  • 2.3.3. Response Action
  • 2.3.4. Cause
  • 2.4. Adjuncts in sentences with gratification predicates
  • 2.5. Final remarks
  • Chapter 3: Explicative Patterns of Polish and English Sentences with the Predicates of Gratification
  • 3.1. Types of diathesis with predicates of gratification
  • 3.1.1. Diathesis with Polish constructions
  • 3.1.2. Diathesis with English constructions
  • 3.1.3. Final remarks
  • 3.2. Realisation of the propositional arguments
  • 3.2.1. Realisations of the Response Action argument (p) in Polish constructions
  • Unmodified positions of (p)
  • Modified positions of (p)
  • 3.2.2. Realisations of the Response Action argument (p) in English constructions
  • Unmodified positions of (p)
  • Modified positions of (p)
  • 3.2.3. Realisations of the causal argument (q) in Polish constructions
  • Unmodified position of (q)
  • Modified position of (q)
  • 3.2.4. Realisations of the causal argument (q) in English constructions
  • Unmodified positions of (q)
  • Modified positions of (q)
  • 3.2.5. Contrastive remarks
  • 3.3. The list of explicative patterns
  • 3.3.1. The list of explicative patterns in Polish constructions
  • Finite structures
  • Infinitive structures
  • Impersonal structures with -no
  • Passive structures
  • 3.3.2. The list of explicative patterns in English constructions
  • Finite structures
  • Infinitive structures
  • Passive structures
  • The verb AWARD
  • 3.3.3. Contrastive analysis
  • Summary and conclusions
  • References
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Index of Names
  • Series Index

←10 | 11→


The structure of world stability and order hath been reared upon, and will continue to be sustained by, the twin pillars of reward and punishment…


The above epigraph constituted the source of inspiration which initiated the investigation of a phenomenon, on which according to the quotation, the structure of world stability and order is reared – the pillar of reward. Little did I know that the initial curiosity into the psychological phenomenon of reward would evolve into research on the formality and philosophy of language, a code which is unique among the communication systems of the natural world in exhibiting rich combinatorial and compositional structure including lexical nomination. The research primarily concerns the comprehension of the semantic category of gratification in its syntactic perspective, i.e., formal-grammatical structure of sentences founded on the predicates of gratification treated more or less as discrete representations of the propositional (predicate-argument) structure. The starting point is the meaning of a sentence and the question of how much of a verb’s presence (combinatoricity) arises from the interaction of its content, meaning and general principles of grammar remains valid and crucial. Following S. Karolak (2002, 5–7), the assumption is that the conceptual structure governs the formal one. Its role is to direct attention to the “irreversible dependency” which exists between the combinatorial (syntactic) rules of formal elements and more abstract combinatorial (semantic) rules of conceptual elements. The basic vantage point of the analysis is the symmetric-asymmetric relation between the semantic and the formal plane of the sentence. The research attempts to take into account the immanent properties of analysed verbs adopting such a model that would enable explicit interpretation of both semantic and syntactic phenomena. Therefore, I will adopt here the principal theoretical framework and the apparatus of the so-called Polish school of semantic syntax founded by Karolak (1984, 2002) and its extended version of explicative syntax (Kiklewicz and Korytkowska 2010; Kiklewicz, Korytkowska, Mazurkiewicz-Sułkowska et al. 2019).

The research contrasts data compiled for Polish and English and comprises material based on excerpted isolated constructions with the Polish predicate NAGRODZIĆ/NAGRADZAĆ (S’) (‘reward’) and WYNAGRODZIĆ/WYNAGRADZAĆ (S’’1) (‘compensate’), the English predicate ←11 | 12→REWARD2 and to a lesser extent AWARD that are the primary source of data for much of the predicate-argument structure debate in this study. The presentation of material lies primarily on illustrative attestations of over one thousand and six hundred sentences excerpted from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) – around 600 examples and 800 hundred examples from the National Corpus of Polish (NKJP – Narodowy Korpus Języka Polskiego). A smaller number of samples was taken from the British National Corpus (BNC) as well as selected dictionaries (cf. Section 2.1.1). Almost all instantiations with AWARD (300) were collected from the website www.nobelprize.org as the objective was to investigate causality and examine the syntactic motivation of awarding Nobel laureates. The awareness of the systemic usage of the language component seems equally important in language studies, and an attempt to describe the standard usage of contemporary Polish and English – an actual, valid and well-founded objective.

If the assumption that the formal realisation (syntactic behaviour) of verbs is conceptually driven (semantically determined) is to be taken seriously, then the objectives must be formulated to determine to what extent the meaning of the verb governs its syntactic behaviour and what elements of the verb’s semantic definition matter in the relevant formal generalisations. Moreover, as mentioned by D. Szumska (2017, 273), the digitalisation of textual resources of natural languages, enabling work on even larger data sets, creates not only the possibility to verify and “attest to the instrumentation in the predicate-argument syntax,”3 but also functions as a reservoir for new paths of exploration. Consequently, the research questions posed in this monograph necessitate the examination of semantic (propositional) properties of emergent sentence structures and their syntactic structuralised forms. This research is guided by the hypothesis that the combinatoricity of verbs and its complements, particularly with respect to expression and realisation of its arguments, is, to a large extent coded in its meaning, in the predicate-argument structure of a proposition. If one wishes to establish the inventory of explicative patterns considering two different languages, it is obvious that a more general level of semantic roles will be required to account for generalisations across particular arguments, which must be accounted for ←12 | 13→in a principled and systematic way. Consequently, formal realisation of the predicate-argument structure, which serves as a tertium comparationis, can be used respectively to probe for linguistically relevant aspects of the conceptual as well as formal organisation of linguistic expression and the system of language in general.

Therefore, the study will try to 1) identify and characterise obligatory arguments (frame elements, participants) implicated by the predicate REWARD in Polish and English that are essential for a full understanding of the associated situation of gratification (“the frame elements are the participants, and situation features that need to be identified or are taken for granted in sentences for which the conceptual structure frame is relevant” – Baker et.al. 2003, 282); 2) examine the saliency of each participant, especially pertaining to the phenomena of agency and causality, but also those of the beneficiary and response action implicated by the predicate REWARD; 3) select from the extracted sentences a sufficient number of randomly chosen samples that cover the range of combinatorial possibilities and annotate them as layered segmentation of the sentences, where the segments (semantic arguments) are labelled according to the predicate logic categories (x, y, p, q); 4) investigate semantic and grammatical properties of various types of complements with an emphasis on those illustrating propositional arguments; 5) provide a systematic description of the inventory of explicative patterns (‘reservoir of algorithms’) that exhibit the discovered combinatorial affordances in Polish and English; 6) determine the degree of regularity of discrete, half-discrete and indiscrete-representations of propositional arguments; 7) compare and contrast the regularity of the syntactic condensation processes in Polish and English by examining various linguistic processes e.g., nominalisation, conflation etc; 8) describe the most predominant tendencies pertaining to basic and derivative diathesis, in particular, the dynamic processes of positioning object and propositional arguments; investigate the coexistence between non-clause predication and polipropositional clause predication, chiefly, to establish the relationship between a nuclear proposition and an adjunct derivative proposition and investigate other forms of argument realisation than those accepted in the literature, e.g. adjectival or adverbial phrases.

The research in sentence structures in contemporary Slavic languages employing the methodology of semantic and explicative syntax is quite extensive (Kiklewicz et al. 2000). However, the syntactic structure based on the predicate REWARD has never been explored in much detail. As a result, the approach taken to the content plane of the sentence provides a linguistic model of the ←13 | 14→conceptualised form of reality coded in the form of a sentence. Moreover, it is assumed that in keeping a particular semantic entity constant one is able to observe surface elements that express it. The current contrastive study based on a tertium comparationis of a predicate-argument structure, taking into account conceptual, functional and structural properties inherent to the English predicate REWARD has never been investigated before. Therefore, this theoretical and empirical research deficit will be reduced by providing a novel study based on new data and insight into theoretical linguistics as well as the functional implication of the examined category for present and prospective research projects. The analysis may be described as having ambivalent character, i.e., takes into account the distribution (syntagmatic) and the representational (semantic) aspect. Moreover, it is a part of well ground traditions of contrastive and corpus linguistics constituting a contribution to lexicographic studies. As a result, the research results offered in this monograph may prove valuable in the applied aspect of language investigations, e.g., in the creation of syntactic bilingual or multilingual dictionaries. Moreover, linguistic material which contrasts connectivity and combinatorial properties of lexical units may have implications in translation studies.

The monograph is organised as follows. There are two parts – theoretical (Chapter 1), and empirical (Chapters 2 and 3). Chapter 1 presents the main theoretical assumptions and the methodological framework upon which the analysis is based. It discusses the concept of proposition, predicate calculus and predicate from the vantage point of logic and presents an outline of various traditions that have taken a sentence4 as the centre of their analysis (Section 1.1). It is followed by a further exploration of the status of the predicate in linguistics, based on the discussion of predicate valency and classification of predicates. Different typologies of argument classification, and a long-debated topic of the dichotomy of arguments and adjuncts are included. The final part of Section 1.2 is devoted to the concept of diathesis and the place of arguments within a syntactic and semantic structure. Issues undertaken in Section 1.3 relate to research initiated by Ch. Fillmore on Case Grammar and the notion of a semantic role of particular referents participating in a situation described by the predicate. Section ←14 | 15→1.4 presents the basic tenants of the so-called Polish School of Semantic Syntax, the fundamental assumption about the two levels of a linguistic structure – the conceptual and the formal as well as the asymmetries between the two planes. It covers syntactic patterns of sentences as well as terminological issues. Section 1.5 deals with its adherent model, namely explicative syntax with an emphasis on propositional arguments. A thesis on gradual manifestation of propositional arguments is presented, underlying the diversity of syntactic realisations. including the notational system typology of explicative patterns as well. The final part of Chapter 1 engages in a discussion on the current problems in explicative syntax, considering the issues connected to corpus data and contrastive studies, includes areas for prospective research.

Chapter 2 offers an exploration into how the ontological category of rewarding has been rendered in well-established lexicographic projects and dictionaries of expert status, such as: FrameNet Project (FN), Valency Dictionary of English, the valency dictionary of Polish (Walenty), Słownik syntaktyczno-generatywny czasowników polskich (‘Syntactic-generative dictionary of Polish verbs’ (SGD)) and in Słownik syntaktyczno-semantyczny czasowników polskich (‘Syntactic-semantic dictionary of Polish’ (Section 2.1)). Section 2.2 deals with the semantic explication of gratification predicates, its characteristics, valency as well as the hierarchical nature of its obligatory elements including a discussion on agentivity and causality so crucial in the process and mental activity of acknowledging and rewarding. The subsequent Section 2.3 constitutes an examination of the semantic functions and relations identified in the definition of a four-place predicate of REWARD (S’ and P’’) – which has been adopted in the study – Agent (x), Beneficiary (y), Response Action (p) and Cause (q), whereas Section (2.4) offers an analysis of optional elements (adjuncts) present in structures with the predicate REWARD.

Chapter 3 provides detailed evidence on the combinatorial potential coded in the predicates of rewarding. Section 3.1 attempts to examine verb combinatoricity with respect to a wide range of syntactic diathetic alternations that reflect the verb’s meaning. Section 3.2 investigates complementation processes and covers the realisation of different types of syntactic exponents in which the predicate REWARD can express its prepositional arguments of Response Action (p) and Cause (q) in canonical (unmodified) as well as modified positions. This Section also explores condensation processes visible in the asymmetrical relation between the content and the expression plane. Section 3.3 presents a comprehensive list of explicative patterns, illustrative examples and comments on noteworthy properties. This extensive inventory of recorded data is first presented in Polish and includes finite, infinitive, the impersonal form ←15 | 16→nagrodzono as well as passive constructions. The examples with the P’’ sense WYNAGRODZIĆ/WYNAGRADZAĆ (‘compensate’), due to a relatively small number, are presented together irrespective of the form of the verb. The findings based on the English data include patterns based on finite, infinitival, and passive sentences with the verb REWARD as well as passive constructions with the verb AWARD. Contrastive analysis and discussion finalise Chapter 3. General conclusions and outlook generated by the research are offered at the end.

As in the famous quote, “There were the bits he understood. They were bad enough. But the bits he did not understand were worse”.5 I must humbly admit that when I embarked on the journey of a PhD monograph on the semantic and syntactic structure of sentences with gratification predicates, the bits I did understand were still overwhelming. I have reached a certain destiny with it; however, the reader must bear in mind this is not the final arrival point. Drawing a line is relatively arbitrary.

This monograph would be unbearably incomplete if it did not record my gratitude. It was originally written as PhD thesis under the supervision of Professor Aleksander Kiklewicz, to whom I am greatly indebted, first and foremost, for introducing me to the captivating school of thought of semantic syntax and as a natural consequence to the fascinating world of cognition, grammar and the undisputable connectivity and combinatorial properties of language and thought. Needless to say, finalisation of this project would not have taken place but for this Professor’s professional and valuable expertise, his guidance and continuous support. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the time and effort devoted by the reviewers Professor Małgorzata Korytkowska and Professor Genoveva Puskas to improving the quality of this work as well as their priceless words of encouragement and appreciation. I would also like to thank Dr Iwona Góralczyk for her co-supervision and insightful feedback. For whatever shortcomings that remain, I alone remain responsible.

I wish to extend my appreciation to the Humanities Department of the University of Warmia and Masuria for financial support which allowed me publish this monograph, but also to attend conferences, preliminary surveys of various national and international library holdings as well as numerous research stays without which my scholarly work would be impoverished and difficult. I am also greatly indebted to the Linguistics Department at Geneva University, whose intellectual grandeur and hospitality I benefitted from immensely during ←16 | 17→my research stays, lectures and doctoral schools that I had the privilege to attend. My appreciation is also due to Trevor Hill and Andrea Góra for their diligent editing work of the present book. Moreover, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to those who have helped, directly or indirectly, in bringing this research project into being, especially my dear friends Patrycja, Joanna, Hania, and many others. I would like to thank Peter Lang for editorial and publishing work. I am also indebted to Jarek Puczel for granting permission to use his artwork as the cover illustration. Finally, I remain grateful to the father of my children for his support and discipline almost through to the end of the long incubation period so that I could work more or less undisturbed.

←18 | 19→

Chapter 1: Valency properties of predicates – theoretical preliminaries

Before presenting some basic methodological principles and theoretical assumptions that form the foundations of semantic and syntactic analysis in the following monograph, I would like to begin with some general reflections on the nature of linguistic research. S. Karolak, the founder of the so-called Polish School of Semantic Syntax, would start many of his books by recalling a situation when Queen Isabella I of Castalia was presented with the first textbook of Spanish grammar. She questioned the usefulness of such a book – “since everyone fluently speaks Spanish” (Karolak 2002,7; 2007, 7). Even though awareness of language issues in the general public has improved since then and linguistics has been recognised as a field of science, there are linguists who “find [themselves] in a curious position of trying to persuade the world at large that we are engaged in a technically demanding enterprise” (Jackendoff 2002, 3).1 This quote from Jackendoff (2002, 4) confirms this sociological problem and he comes up with the following similes: “the behaviour is reminiscent of creationists reacting to evolutionary theory, or oil corporations reacting to evidence of global warming”. The reason for writing this is to establish a baseline of what a theory of linguistic structure must be responsible for. Despite the fact that methodologies are not flawless, there is nothing like a well-grounded theory and clearly defined nomenclature to guard against dadaistic approaches to language. Therefore, I believe that linguistic theory finds its most profound and most characteristic concerns in the study of structure that will naturally be delved into with principal focus with an attitude of a “linguist-botanist” rather than a “linguist-gardener”, to refer to the words of W. Pisarek quoted by Szumska (2006, 11) – while, at the same time, being aware of the vastness and intricacy of a garden.

The present chapter delineates the principal perspective for theoretical reflections and detailed analyses in this monograph. Specific sections ought to be perceived as an entry or a watchword, which in no way exhaust the issues ←19 | 20→discussed. In the first part of this chapter, the notion of a propositional structure is discussed. It is followed by an overview of the phenomenon of valency, Case Grammar and semantic roles. It also presents the classification of predicates and arguments and the discussion of the dichotomy of arguments and modifiers. Finally, the methodological foundations of semantic syntax and its adherent model of explicative syntax are presented, including the discussion on its current problems. Chapter one is concluded by a presentation of contrastive and corpus foundations of this study.

1.1. The concept of a propositional structure

This Section will concentrate on the contribution of logic to linguistic analyses as providing a scaffolding (ancillary basis) rather than the objective in itself. It will also present the basic symbols of predicate calculus which shall be adopted in this research work. The phenomena of predication and proposition is briefly introduced in order to build a foundation for further deliberations connected to the discussion on a sentence and its formal and conceptual compositionality as a sign encoding of a situation.

1.1.1. Logical foundations of linguistic semantics

The development of a logical thinking module has been an indispensable element in the evolution of human consciousness. Thought is often accompanied by language, which is a phenomenon that preoccupies not only linguists but also philosophers and logicians who are fascinated by it. This Section will concentrate on the conceptual framework and methods of description operating in the formal language of predicate logic, which to a great extent constitute the formal basis of the analysis in this research study.

It needs to be noted that every branch of science draws insight from many sources. Formal logic, which according to Stanosz (2004, 70) has two main sources, is no exception. One of them is a philosophical reflection over features and properties of language structures, which takes the sentence as a cardinal object of analysis. Another provenance can be traced back to the methodology of mathematical sciences. As Stanosz observes “the question suggests itself, whether these two epistemic objectives are sufficiently close to each other, so the conceptual framework and method of the same discipline could be optimal to fulfil each of them?” (ibid. 70). The question whether logic can adequately capture linguistic phenomena, which has been preoccupying scholars for many decades, has not been, and will not soon be resolved. Scientists have divided themselves into those who perceive logic as ←20 | 21→a discipline that is able to adequately capture structures of natural languages, and those who defend the so-called strictly linguistic stand, granting linguists authority to carry out the right and proper analysis of linguistic phenomena, including semantics. Metaphorically, we can compare it to an eternal fight between “the carnival and the lent”, where the symbolic form of “the lent” – with all its formality, rigorousness of description, and poverty of Humboldt’s thought2 – is inherent in logic. Adherents of “the carnival”, on the other hand, hold an opinion that the formal description of languages allegedly deprives the analysis of the potential to reconstruct the complexity of forms and functions hidden in abounding linguistic subtlety, which could be observed only by linguists (see Grzegorczykowa 2001, 106).

While in no way trying to resolve the aforementioned dispute, I would like to point out that in my opinion an attempt at capturing “the carnival” of the natural language in a coherent and disciplined form of description does not in any way diminish or prejudge the cognitive value of such a description (cf. Stanosz 2004, 70–74). Moreover, the operation of reconstructing meaning by means of logical formulas allows both linguistics and logic to achieve a certain degree of generality or abstractness. As a result, the adopted system of description will not be limited to a particular natural language, but will be able to form the basis for the description of all languages – natural and artificial, fulfilling the meaning conditions imposed by logic on particular symbols. In this situation, theoretical linguists use a kind of semi-finished product, which is extremely valuable in the description of semantic aspects of language. Additionally, logic plays the role of a “cooperant, supplier of raw material in the form of symbolism and rules combining its elements in formulas which should be a reflection of sentences as their logical forms” (Stanosz 2004, 29; see Section 1.7.1).

One of the first scholars to reflect on the above topics was German philosopher G. Frege. As A. Dąbrowski (2013, 133) notes, Frege, for whom the primary goal was to acquire true and comprehensive scientific knowledge, was aware of the numerous ambiguities and imperfections that characterise natural language. This has become the root source for the creation of an artificial language based on logical symbols, a language (code) with the most precise description possible – the “ideal language”. For Frege, “only such a language … can guarantee reliable scientific knowledge” (ibid., 133). In order to illustrate his linguistic ←21 | 22→and philosophical reflections, he used a comparison in which the human eye is a symbol of natural language, while the microscope is an artificial language. Frege expounded the main principles and guidelines for the description of the language system in Begriffsschrift (Frege 1879 in Dąbrowski 2013, 133).

1.1.2. Predicate calculus and predication

The term a logical constant is used to describe connectives (e.g., negation, conjunction etc.) and quantifying words or phrases (e.g., for every, there exists). These two types of expressions are characterised by a different syntactic role and semantic property, which determines their influence on the logical properties of sentences. For this reason, logic distinguishes between two different levels of description and notation – the first level (of connectives) known as sentential calculus (also known as propositional calculus) and the second level known as quantifying calculus or predicate calculus (Stanosz 2004, 19–20; see also Ziembiński 1996, 262–265).

Having in mind the prevailing methodology (i.e. semantic syntax and explicative syntax) adopted in this thesis, where the predicate-argument structure is of utmost importance, I will concentrate on predicate calculus as most relevant to the following research.

In the formal and logical description of the predicate logic of language, we can distinguish the following symbols: x1, x2, x3, x4, … (individual variables); a1, a2, a3, a4, … (individual constants, representing individual names); P1, P2, P3, P4, … (one-place predicates); R1, R2, R3, R4, … (two-place predicates); S1, S2, S3, S4, … (three-place predicates); T1, T2, T3, T4, … (four-place predicates); and ˜, ~ (truth functors); Π, ∑ (quantifiers: large and small) (after Ziembiński 1996, 265). The language analysis covering the scope of the research in this study will use only some of the symbols that will be further explained in the following theoretical sections and applied in the empirical chapters. The notational system in this work is based on the symbols employed by Karolak (2002) and later adjusted in the methodology of explicative syntax by Kiklewicz and Korytkowska (2010) (see Section 1.5).

At this point, I will attempt to describe a category that is most probably considered as one of the most profound yet ambiguous notions – the category of a predicate and predication. L. Zawadowski (1966, 55) states that “in the description of language, predication has long been associated with the sentence, but as little is known of a decent definition of a sentence, just as little is known of a decent definition of predication”. The confusion may arise from the fact that the term predicate may refer to logic, philosophy and linguistics. In logic, following ←22 | 23→Ziembiński’s definition (1996, 264), a predicate is a “sentence-forming functor (Pol. ‘funktor zdaniotwórczy’) with arguments that are individual names” (see also Czarnota 1970, 245–250).3

P. H. Mathews in the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Linguistics provides two definitions of a predicate. The first one is “a part of a sentence traditionally seen as representing what is said of, or predicated of, the subject.” The example given states My wife bought a coat in London, where the subject my wife refers to someone (some entity) of whom it is said, in the predicate – that she bought a coat in London (Mathews 2005, 291). The second sense, not used by logicians, refers to “a verb or other unit which takes a set of arguments within a sentence”. Consequently, in the same sentence ‘buy’ is a two-place predicate whose arguments are realised in the elements my wife and a coat (Mathews 2005, 291). The concept of predication should automatically connote the names of properties or relations that belong to the objects (entities) that represent them (Stanosz 2004, 44, see also Gamut 1991, 65).

For the purpose of this research, I will adopt Karolak’s definition of a predicate that is “a property, feature of a specified object or relation binding those specified objects” (Karolak 1993b, 421). The latter are called arguments, that is words or expressions that are “bound together in a complex entirety” by the predicate (Ziembiński 1996, 19). Moreover, it is stated that sentences denote certain situations. Objects and their properties, which are the building blocks of a situation, will be called arguments, while the relation between the properties of these objects and expressions, which denote these properties, will be called a predicate. In other words, following Karolak (1984, 20–22) predicates open positions for arguments or implicate arguments and arguments fill those positions. The above definitions more or less refer to the predicate calculus formula, the basic elements of which are predicative symbols and argument variables, which reflect an interconnected structure that is called a predicate-argument structure (PAS).

It should be made clear that semantic differences between predicates determine the number of arguments implicated by them and their particular types (with a different potential reference). Therefore, predicates can be classified into what we can distinguish as one-place predicates (with one variable: P (x)), two-place predicates: P (x, y), three-place predicates: P (x, y, z), as well as four-place predicates: P (x, y, z, v) etc. (Karolak 1984, 23; Świrydowicz in Ziembiński 1996, 264). (For different types of predicates and arguments see Section 1.2).←23 | 24→

In the aforementioned model, formulas are realised in the following sentences; examples in Polish were taken from Karolak (1984, 23) and Świrydowicz (1996, 264).

P (x)

Janek śpi.

‘Janek is sleeping.’

P (x, y)

Piotr ożenił się z Anią.

‘Piotr married Ania.’

P (x, y, z)

Jan przedstawił mnie Barbarze.

‘Jan introduced me to Barbara.’

P (x, y, z, v)

Kazik wymienił z Jankiem scyzoryk na znaczki.

‘Kazik exchanged a pocket knife for stamps with Janek.’

At present, it would be hard to imagine a semantic-syntactic description without referring to the notion of predicate and argument. Many scholars distinguish between semantic and syntactic (structural) predication. In generative grammar for example, semantic predication is concerned with the interpretation and thematic role assignment and falls under the scope of Theta Theory (Dowty 1991; Croft 1998). That theory describes semantic relations holding between arguments and predicates, syntactically implementing the lexical properties of heads. Lexicon determines which theta roles (participant roles) are associated with a predicate.

Lexical entries of predicative elements specify their argument structure in terms of the number of arguments and their semantic roles. Whereas, syntactic predication deals with structural relations between nodes defined on phrase markers (Stalmaszczyk 1998, 101–104). The appropriate context for semantic predication in a sentence, such as,

Susan gave the food to Biff.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (June)
predicate REWARD contrastive studies nagradzać/nagrodzić corpus analysis semantic-syntax semantic category
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 422 pp., 27 fig. b/w, 25 tables.

Biographical notes

Katarzyna Góra (Author)

Katarzyna Góra holds a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Warmia and Mazury in Poland. She works as an assistant at the Institute of Linguistics at UWM. She is interested in the philosophy of language, lexical representation, semantics and linguistic research in autism spectrum disorders.


Title: Predicates of Gratification in English and Polish
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424 pages