Mixed Verbs in Code-Switching: The Syntax of Light Verbs

Ji Shim
2016 Languages  
This study investigates word order variation in Korean-English and Japanese-English code-switching, with specific focus on the relative placement of the object and the verb in two contrasting word orders, Object-Verb (OV) vs. Verb-Object (VO). The results of an experiment eliciting code-switching judgment data provides strong evidence indicating that the distinction between heavy vs. light verbs plays a major role in deriving different word orders in mixed verb constructions in Korean-English
more » ... in Korean-English and Japanese-English code-switching. In particular, an explanation pursued in this research supports the hypothesis that parametric variation is attributed to differences in the features of a functional category in the lexicon, as assumed in Minimalist Syntax. Languages 2016, 1, 8 4 of 31 9. a. Selection of light verbs results in OV~VO variation in both non-idiomatic (literal) phrases and compositional idioms. More specifically, when light verbs are selected from Korean or Japanese, OV is generated, following the grammar of Korean or Japanese. On the contrary, selection of English light verbs results in the English-style VO order in the derivation. b. Compositional idioms undergo aspectual composition, similar to non-idiomatic phrases, while non-compositional idioms do not undergo aspectual composition in the syntactic derivation. c. Non-compositional idioms undergo code-switching as a unit, and the internal order of the code-switched phrase is maintained throughout the derivation. Although (9) seems to correctly describe OV~VO variation in KE and JE CS, several questions arise regarding the design of the study and the analyses provided. First, the distinction between heavy and light verbs and also between light verbs and light verb constructions needs to be clarified. Failure to provide a clear distinction between light verbs and light verb constructions resulted in the mis-categorization of the verb in a few instances in the study. For instance, the verb catch in the phrase catch a cold was analyzed as a light verb, based on the assumption that the verb does not have its manner component, and thus conveys less idiosyncratic lexical meaning of its own. However, the verb catch clearly plays a role in determining the aspect of the phrase catch a cold, along with the object, which is distinguished from keep an eye, for instance, in which the aspectual properties of the verb phrase are not decided by the verb keep and its complement combined. Instead the aspectual constitution of keep an eye is the same as that of the corresponding 'simple' verb construction, in which the light verb's complement is used as the verb, (to) eye. Also, the notion of compositionality of idioms, which Shim adopts, has been contested by a number of researchers despite the fact that it is widely cited for studies on idioms. According to Nunberg, Sag, and Wasow [18], idioms are divided into two groups based on their semantic compositionality. Most idioms (e.g., take advantage of, pull strings) are in fact relatively 'compositional' in the sense that the idiomatic reading is composed fairly transparently from the sub-parts of the idiom. 'Non-compositional' idioms (e.g., kick the bucket, shoot the breeze), on the other hand, do not compose their meanings from those of their components, but the idiomatic meaning is assigned to the whole phrase. Nunberg, Sag, and Wasow propose that, while compositional idioms have the syntax of non-idiomatic expressions, non-compositional idioms are stored in the lexicon as complete phrases [18] (p. 497, 515). Following their proposal, Shim [8] argues that compositional idioms and non-compositional idioms are predicted to behave differently in CS and derive different word orders: while compositional idioms are not frozen as a chunk and their internal arguments are subject to CS, just like non-idiomatic/literal phrases, non-compositional idioms are listed in the lexicon and undergo CS as a whole. However, the distinction between compositional and non-compositional (or similarly, decomposable vs. non-decomposable) idioms does not hold uniformly among researchers [19] [20] [21] [22] . While the view on the semantic properties of idioms varies to a large extent from researcher to researcher, it seems that the syntactic behavior of idioms is less of a contentious issue. Researchers converge on the view that idiomatic expressions can be categorized into three groups based on their syntactic behavior: syntactically fully flexible, less flexible, and frozen, as shown by the examples in (10)-(12), taken from Horn [22] and Schenk [23] . The symbol # indicates the sentence is grammatical, but the idiomatic reading is unavailable. a. Care was taken care of all of the orphans b. Great care seemed to be taken of the refugees by the government c. The care that they took of the infants was more than adequate d. How much care did they take of the infants? Languages 2016, 1, 8 5 of 31
doi:10.3390/languages1010008 fatcat:okkgvf7ctnebvaoyoc3amrejne