GO + present participle

Benjamin Torbert btorbert at GMAIL.COM
Thu Oct 24 19:56:33 UTC 2013

Hey y'all, is there an name for this?  (IANA real syntactician).

1) We went sledding.
2) They went bowling.
3) Let's go shopping.

Someone asked me what this is.  I said I wasn't sure, but my initial
instinct was that *go* is being used as an linking verb, and the participle
is acting as an adjectival subject complement.  After all, *go* can be used
as a linking verb with an adjective phrase as a subject complement.

4) I went crazy in sixth grade.
5) Reagan went senile.
6) I go nuts when I see Reese Witherspoon.

I think this construction may be restricted to states of mind.  Thus,

6) *Lebron James went tall in sixth grade.
7) *Reese went pretty during college.

There are probably some other selectional restrictions of which I'm not

I think the participle usually has to be used intransitively.  So these are

8) We went shopping.
9) We went skiing.

And these aren't:

10) *I went watching birds. (monotrasitive)
11) *I went shooting deer. (monotransitive)
12) *Let's go tipping cows. (monotransitive)
13) *She went telling us stories again. (ditransitive)

(10) through (13) all feel "pretty much mostly not well-formed" to me,
although perhaps not 100% ungrammatical.  (12) can be fixed by
incorporating the direct object into the participle itself:

14) Let's go cow-tipping.
15) Let's go apple-picking.

But, there are apparently intransitive and optionally-transitive verbs that
cannot participate in the structure.  I think the semantics of the
participle dictate that the action has to be something like [+ activity].
So these are no good.

16) *Fafner went sleeping.
17) *Cookie Monster went eating.
18) *Elizabeth K├╝bler-Ross went dying.

And sometimes, I'm not sure.

19) ? Ted Bundy went killing again.

(19) smells halfway okay to me; it seems to have an understood direct
object, *people*.  And (20) is counter-evidence for the participle having
to be used intransitively:

20) Hitler went invading countries all over Europe.

Anyway, is there any literature on this?

Benjamin Torbert
UM-Saint Louis

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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