Complex-transitive verbs with adjectival object complement: Sample analysis

Místo vydání:

Rok vydání:




To an outside observer the number of valency patterns of the verb in language, specifically in English, may seem inadequately small. Quirk at al. (1985, CGEL henceforth) give only seven clause types based on verb valency. However, on closer inspection each type appears to display a rich tapestry of variations. To appreciate this richness, it is instructive to have a look at a representative sample of a particular valency type. For these purposes a classical, linguistically well-described dictionary such as Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OALD henceforth) in electronic form with a full text search proves to be an excellent fountainhead. The verb classification filter [Vn-adj] offers 199 finds in this dictionary or, to use a more technical language, 199 instances with the trivalent structure SVOC in which the object complement is realized by an adjective. The SVOC structure was chosen because it seems that object complement is semantically determined more than other types of valency inasmuch as it participates in two predication relationships - one with the verb, the other, copular (implied or secondary), with its controlling object. In agreement with Allerton, who claims that “In general we may say that while all valency functions have at least some semantic basis, some are more semantically coherent than others”, we believe that object complement is a case in point. We hold that verbs with this type of valency, in terms of meaning, form a group sui generis sharing distinct semantic features that allow the object to be attributed a property suggested by the complement.
Using the OALD sample, the aim of this study is to specify these features, or put more generally, to examine the syntactico-semantic characteristics of the sample verbs against the background of the existing semantic classifications of this valency type (especially the one in CGEL). By the same token, the study wants to check the reliability and completeness of the lexicographic labelling and, last but not least, to test whether the knowledge of these characteristics may allow predictions as to which other verbs belong to this valency type.


Allerton, D. J. (1982), Valency and the English Verb, New York, Academic Press.
Dušková, L. et al. (1994), Mluvnice současné angličtiny na pozadí češtiny (‘A Grammar of Contemporary English against the Background of Czech’), Praha, Academia, 2nd ed.
Dušková, L. (1999), Studies in the English Language, Part 2, Praha, Karolinum, Charles University Press.
Dušková, L. (forthcoming), Systemic Possibilities of Variable Word Order and Their Realization in Text.
Matthews, P. H. (1981), Syntax, Cambridge University Press.
Quirk, R. et al. (1985), A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, London and New York, Longman.
The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary on CD-ROM. Oxford University Press, 1997.