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Existential sentences in English and Lithuanian

A contrastive study


Violeta Kalédaité

Existential sentences in the world’s languages tend to develop specific morphological, syntactic, and lexical properties. The present work offers a contrastive functional analysis of these constructions in two typologically unrelated languages, English and Lithuanian. The study focuses on the relationship between the syntactic structure of different existential sentence types and their meaning; it also explores the semantic and pragmatic parameters relevant to the structural differences within a single language and across the two compared languages. Most importantly, a new definition of the existential sentence, which takes into account both semantic and syntactic criteria, is proposed for Lithuanian. The findings are drawn on the basis of the corpus and highlight conspicuous differences in the linguistic representations of the construction in the two languages. With respect to Lithuanian, communicative word order variations, language-specific structures (the BKI and the impersonal passive), and a wider use of lexical verbs present an area of special interest.
Contents: The English existential: definition and classification – General characteristics: structural patterns – Semantic types – Word order – The interpretation of there – Verbs in the construction – The definiteness restriction – Lithuanian existentials: the semantics of the basic sentence patterns – Types of ‘be’ existentials – Communicative types of existential sentences – Semantic classes of acceptable lexical verbs – Definite and indefinite subject NPs – Language-specific existential structures.