Syntactic distribution of English denominal verbs
Denominal verbs have been at the forefront of English word formation and lexical semantic literature. A common approach to deriving the structural representation of a denominal verb’s meaning involves using the canonical thematic role the parent noun plays to choose what type of event structure it should be slotted into. This predicts that the nominal role interpretation should constrain what type of argument structures the corresponding denominal verb can occur in. Specifically, locative denominal verbs should show evidence of being associated with accomplishment event structures, while instrument denominal verbs should show evidence of being associated with activity event structures. The present study empirically tests this prediction by first subjecting denominal verbs to a range of telicity tests and then looking at tokens of different types of denominal verbs in a large corpus to quantify the range of their argument structures and semantic entailments. Ultimately, the results provide modest evidence for attributing accomplishment event structures to locatives and activity event structures to instrumentals, especially for literal uses of these verbs.