On inchoative states. Evidence from modification of Polish perfective psych verbs by degree quantifiers

Ewa Willim 1
  • 1 Jagiellonian University Institute of English Studies Al. Mickiewicza 9, 31-120 Kraków, Poland


The special properties that psych(ological) verbs manifest cross-linguistically have given rise to on-going debates in syntactic and semantic theorizing. Regarding their lexical aspect classification, while verbal psych predicates with the Experiencer argument mapped onto the subject (SE psych predicates) have generally been analyzed as stative, there is little agreement on what kinds of eventualities object Experiencer (OE) psych predicates describe. On the stative reading, OE psych predicates have been classified as atelic causative states. On the (non-agentive) eventive reading, they have been widely analyzed as telic change of state predicates and classified as achievements or as accomplishments. Based on Polish, Rozwadowska (2003, 2012) argues that nonagentive eventive OE psych predicates in the perfective aspect denote an onset of a state and that they are atelic rather than telic. This paper offers further support for the view that Polish perfective psych verbs do not denote a change of state, i.e., a transition from α to ¬α. The evidence is drawn from verbal comparison and the distribution of the comparative degree quantifier jeszcze bardziej ‘even more’ in perfective psych predicates. It is argued here that in contexts including jeszcze bardziej ‘even more’, the perfective predication denotes an onset of a state whose degree of intensity exceeds the comparative standard. While a degree quantifier attached to the VP in the syntax contributes a differential measure function that returns a (vague) value representing the degree to which the intensity of the Experiencer’s state exceeds the comparative standard in the event, it does not affect the event structure of the perfective verb and it does not provide the VP denotation it modifies with a final endpoint. As the perfective picks the onset of an upper open state, perfective psych predicates typically give rise to an atelic interpretation.

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