Crítica, Revista Hispanoamericana de Filosofía, Volume 31, number 93, diciembre 1999
Semántica aspectual y predicación secundaria
[Aspectual Semantics and Secondary Predication]
Víctor Sánchez Valencia
Facultad de Letras
Universidad de Groningen

Abstract: In this paper we outline the semantics of the class of sentences represented below:

María llegó contenta
María arrived happy
María habló dormida
María spoke in her dreams
María escribió la carta nerviosa
María wrote the letter nervous

The term depictive is generally used to refer to the secondary predicate that occur in these sentences -the adjectives contenta, dormida, nerviosa- in agreement with the subject term. We adopt this terminology and in this papers we shall speak of depictive predicates, predication and sentences. We assume, uncontroversially, that each depictive sentence expresses a temporal relation between its primary predicate (the verbal predicate) and its secondary predicate (the adjectival predicate). We then show that this temporal relation is closely related to the formal semantics of temporal when-clauses.

The theoretical background for our treatment is found in the works of Donald Davidson and David Dowty. We shall rehearse the most basic features of Davidson's treatment of adverbial modification. After that we present Dowty's view on depictive predication. The central task of our presentation is to unify the two previous themes. Roughly speaking, the proposal we develop in this lecture casts Dowty's basic intuition within an event based semantics.

We also discuss the role of the Spanish imperfective past in the understanding of depictive sentences and its consequences for our semantics. In addition to that, we address the question of the low acceptability of the so-called ser adjectives in depictive sentences. We point out that this question is related to the (cross-linguistically attested) low acceptability of individual-level predicates in such sentences.

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