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Understanding Predication


Edited By Piotr Stalmaszczyk

This book investigates the linguistic status of predication, especially within the generative paradigm. The topics discussed include minimalist accounts of predication, types of predication, copular constructions, topic and focus, theticity and transitivity. The contributions analyze constructions from a wide variety of languages, including English, Polish, Irish, Welsh, Norwegian, German, Arabic, Ostyak, Mongolian, Japanese and Chinese. This book contributes to contemporary debates on understanding predication in linguistics and in the philosophy of language.

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On the Linguistic Status of Predication (John Collins)


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John Collins

University of East Anglia

On the Linguistic Status of Predication

Abstract: The paper offers a case against any general philosophical or conceptual account of predication that seeks to explain or otherwise undergird the semantic significance of linguistic structure. First, a traditional philosophical approach that analyses the subject/predicate distinction in terms of a primitive notion of ‘aboutness’, i.e., a predicate expresses something about the subject, is rejected on the grounds that it fails to respect the structure of natural language in fairly trivial ways. Secondly, a more sophisticated account of predication offered by Liebesman (2015) is assessed. The phenomena Liebesman presents as evidence for his account are readily explicable in ways that precisely turn on the particular linguistic structures at issue rather than upon the general notion of predication Liebesman offers. We have, the paper concludes, good reason to give up on a substantive account of predication as one that tells us, semantically or conceptually, what predication amounts to in general, for all cases, but none of the foregoing affects the potential for structural accounts of predication that tie the relation to particular otherwise sanctioned semantic-syntactic relations.

Key words: Subject/predicate distinction; syntax; argument structure; nominalisation

1. Introduction

Traditional logic and grammar were in agreement on how to divide up a sentence or a thought (the proposition it expresses); it consists of a subject, which refers to what the sentence/thought is about, and a predicate,...

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