Monday, 8 October 2018

David Banks On "Complex Verbal Groups"

In answer to the query:
1. In a structure like: "Honey, don't forget to pay the bill before the week is over" should I say that 'forget to pay' is a complex verbal group? O should I say that 'forget' is a mental process that projects the clause complex 'to pay the bill before the week is over'? 
2. If I compare these two uses of "want":
1. "I want to visit the Vatican"
2. "I want Mary to visit the Vatican"
I'd say that in number 1, 'want to visit' is a complex verbal group, where 'want' shows inclination phase, while in number 2, 'want' is a process that projects 'Mary to visit the Vatican' am I right?  
3. Finally, a case similar to the one with 'forget': in a clause like "that afternoon, we decided to go over the wall" should I say that "decided to go" is a complex VG or should I say that "decided" is a mental process that projects "to go over the wall"

 David Banks wrote to sysfling on 5 October 2018 at 19:47:
1. It seems to me that you can only say that it is a complex verb group if there is only one process involved (e.g. continue to pay). Here, it seems obvious that forgetting and paying are quite separ[a]te processes, so it is not a complex verb group. 
2. It does not seem logical to have completely different analyses for these two examples. The fact that English "understands" the subject of "visit" in 1, to be the same as the subject of "want" does not alter the fact that it is basically the same structure as 2. 
3. The answer to this is the same as for No.1.

Blogger Comments:

[1] Trivially, a verbal group complex is not a complex verbal group.  The former is a complex of verbal groups, and a theoretical term, whereas the latter is a single verbal group deemed to be "complex".

[2] To be clear, it is important to distinguish between Process (clause rank) and Event (group rank).  A verbal group nexus construes two Events as one Process; examples provided by Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 569, 574, 580, 587) include:
  • decides to write
  • would like to paint
  • forget to do
  • remind to do
  • want to do
  • ask to do
  • anticipate doing
  • profess to do.

That is, the instances in question, forget to pay and decided to go, can be interpreted as verbal group complexes that construe two Events as a single Process.

[3] The two different analyses correspond to the preferred analyses of Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 584-6), who provide the reasoning on which the analytical distinction is based.

But, to be clear, the two instances do not have "basically the same structure", since, if both are interpreted as projecting clause nexuses, the second projected clause includes a topical Theme, an Actor and an explicit Subject, and so a Mood element, whereas the first has none of these.

However, a functional theory gives priority, in grammatical reasoning, to the view from above: to system and function, rather than to structure and form (Halliday & Matthiessen 2014: 49).  From above, the two instances differ in terms of the interpersonal meaning being realised.  In the first clause complex, I want to visit the Vatican, the desiderative Process projects an offer, whereas in the second, I want Mary to visit the Vatican, it projects a command.  Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 584) explain:
We saw in Chapter 7, Section that a mental process of desideration projects an exchange of the goods-&-services type, i.e. a proposal. If the Subject of the projection is the same as that of the mental process clause, the proposal is an offer, as in she wants to do it; if the two are different, then the proposal is a command, as in she wants you to do it. In the first type, the Subject is not repeated, but is carried over from the desiderative clause. (It can then be made explicit by a reflexive, as in she wants to do it herself.)
Moreover, the second clause complex is also an instance of an interpersonal metaphor of modality, being the metaphorical counterpart of Mary should visit the Vatican; see Halliday & Matthiessen (2014: 693).

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