Bridget Copley, Heidi Harley
Linguistics and Philosophy 38.2, 103-158
Publication year: 2015

We propose an account of dynamic predicates which draws on the notion offorce, eliminating reference to events in the linguistic semantics. We treat dynamic predicates as predicates of forces, represented as functions from an initial situation to a final situation that occurs ceteris paribus, that is, if nothing external intervenes. The possibility that opposing forces might intervene to prevent the transition to a given final situation leads us to a novel analysis of non-culminating accomplishment predicates in a variety of languages, including the English progressive. We then apply the force-theoretic framework to the composition of basic Vendlerian eventuality types within a lexical-decomposition syntax. The difference between predicates of forces and predicates of situations is argued to underlie the dynamic/stative contrast, and also to allow for a formal treatment of the difference between be and stay. Consequences for the relationship between language and cognition are discussed.