Resultative and goal phrases in Polish and English: Interaction with aspect

Piotr Gulgowski 1
  • 1 Institute of English Studies: Center for General and Comparative Linguistics University of Wrocław Wrocław, Poland


The article examines the interaction of resultative and goal phrases with aspect in Polish and English. The first research problem concerns the ability of resultative and goal phrases to aspectually delimit (telicize) an atelic predicate. Data from English shows that resultative and goal phrases systematically make an atelic predicate telic in non-progressive sentences, but they fail to do so in progressive constructions. In Polish, imperfective (atelic) constructions can never be aspectually delimited by such phrases. It is argued that resultative and goal phrases lose their telicizing potential when in the scope of an aspectual functional head Asp specified as [-telic]. This is the case in English progressive and Polish imperfective sentences. The Asp head is able to override the telicity specification established compositionally within VP. The Asp head in Polish is obligatory and the value of its telicity feature ([+telic] for perfective and [-telic] for imperfective) is responsible for the interpretation of the VP selected by Asp as a complement. In English such projection is optional. When it is absent, the telicity of a predicate can be computed from the default aspectual type of the lexical verb combined with other elements inside VP, including resultative and goal phrases. A related problem also addressed in the article concerns the meaning of progressive / imperfective resultative and goal constructions. The problem is presented as part of a larger task of finding a proper analysis for accomplishment predicates combined with a progressive / imperfective operator. The proposed solution is based on the notion of directionality. It is suggested that resultative and goal constructions denote a process of some entity changing in the ‘direction’ of a new state. When the process is understood as having a culmination, the ‘direction’ of the transition indicates a new state actually holding of the entity undergoing transition. When a progressive / imperfective operator is introduced, it can remove the culmination leaving just the directed-transition process. A formalization of this analysis is provided.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Bennett, M and Partee, B. (1972). Toward the logic of tense and aspect in English.

  • Bloomington: Indiana University Linguistics Club.

  • Borik, O. (2006). Aspect and reference time. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Bott, O. (2010). The processing of events. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.

  • Bowers, J. (2003). Predication. In M. Baltin and Ch. Collins (Eds.), The handbook of contemporary syntactic theory (pp. 299-334). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

  • Cornilescu, A. (2004). Complementation in English: A minimalist perspective. Bucharest: EUB.

  • Davidson, D. (1967). The logical form of action sentences. In N. Rescher (Ed.), The logic of decision and action (pp. 81-94). Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

  • Dimitrova-Vulchanova, M. (2002). On two types of result: resultatives revisited. Retrieved from

  • Dowty, D. R. (1979). Word meaning and Montague Grammar. The semantics of verbs and times in Generative Semantics and in Montague’s PTQ. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.

  • Engelberg, S. (2002). The semantics of the progressive. In Cynthia Allen (Ed.), Proceedings of the 2001 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society. Retrieved from

  • Ettlinger, M. (2008). The syntactic behavior of the resultative: Evidence for a constructional approach. Proceedings of 41st Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society.

  • Chicago Linguistics Society: Chicago. Retrieved from

  • Filip, H. (2003). Prefixes and delimitation of events. Journal of Slavic Linguistics, 11(1), 55-101.

  • Folli, R. and Ramchand, G. (2005). Prepositions and results in Italian and English: An analysis from event decomposition. In H. J. Verkuyl and A. van Hout (Eds.), Perspectives on aspect (pp. 81-105). The Netherlands: Springer.

  • Fontanals, J. M. (2000). Why can’t we wipe the slate clean? A lexical-syntactic approach to resultative constructions. CatWPL, 8, 71-95.

  • Goldberg, A. E. and Jackendoff, R. (2004). The English resultative as a family of constructions. Language, 80(3), 532-568.

  • Landman, F. (1992). The progressive. Natural Language Semantics, 1, 1-32.

  • Lasersohn, P. N. (2006). Event-based semantics. Retrieved from

  • Levin B. and Rappaport Hovav, M. (1995). Unaccusativity: At the syntax-lexical semantics interface. Cambridge: MIT Press.

  • Łazorczyk, A. A. (2010). Decomposing Slavic aspect: The role of aspectual morphology in Polish and other Slavic languages. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

  • Maienborn, C. (1996). On the meaning of sentence modifiers: Semantic indeterminacy and its grammatically induced specification. In R. van der Sandt, R. Blutner, and M. Bierwisch (Eds.), From underspecification to interpretation: Proceedings of the Berlin Workshop on Underspecification (pp. 183-201). IBM Deutschland: Working Papers of the Institute for Logic and Linguistics, Heidelberg.

  • Mezhevich, I. (2003). English resultatives: State versus location. In S. Burelle and S. Somesfalean (Eds.), Proceedings of the 2003 Annual Conference of the Canadian Linguistic Association (pp. 166-177). Quebec: Universite du Quebec a Montreal.

  • Nam, S. (2005). Directional locatives in event structure: Asymmetry between Goal and Source. Eoneohag (Linguistics), 43, 85-117.

  • Naumann, R. and Pinon, C. (1997). Decomposing the progressive. In P. Dekker et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 11th Amsterdam Colloquium (pp. 241-246). Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam.

  • Pylkkanen, L. (2000). Representing causatives. In B. Jackson and T. Matthews (Eds.), Proceedings of SALT X (pp. 132-148). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University.

  • Rappaport Hovav, M. and Levin, B. (2001). An event structure account of English resultatives. Language, 77(4), 766-797.

  • Rappaport Hovav, M. and Levin, B. (2010). Reflections on manner / result complementarity. In M. Rappaport Hovav, E. Doron, and I. Sichel (Eds.), Lexical semantics, syntax and event structure (pp. 21-38). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Slabakova, R. (2005). Perfective prefixes: What they are, what flavors they come in, and how they are acquired. In S. Franks, F. Y. Gladney, and M. Tasseva-Kurktchieva (Eds.), Formal approaches to Slavic linguistics 13: The South Carolina meeting (pp. 324-341). Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan Slavic Publications. Retrieved from

  • Swart de, H. (2000). Tense, aspect and coercion in a cross-linguistic perspective. In M. Butt and T. Holloway King (Eds.), Proceedings of the Berkeley Formal Grammar Conference. University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved from

  • Takamine, K. (2007). Resultative Predicates in Japanese. In M. Basić, M. Pantcheva, M. Son, and P. Svenonius (Eds.), Nordlyd: Tromsø Working Papers on Language and Linguistics, 34.2. Special issue on Space, Motion, and Result (pp. 102-125). Tromso: University of Tromso.

  • Tenny, C. L. (1994). Aspectual roles and the syntax-semantics interface. London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

  • Verkuyl, H. J. (1996). A theory of aspectuality: The interaction between temporal and atemporal structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Washio, R. (1997). Resultatives, compositionality and language variation. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 6, 1-49.


Journal + Issues