[Lingtyp] semantic role of participant that needs something

Volker Gast volker.gast at uni-jena.de
Sat Jul 2 10:00:38 UTC 2022

Hi Sebastian,
'need' is primarily a modal, of course. The question is whether 'I need 
a bike' means 'I need to have a bike' or something else. I suppose 
that's an empirical question. As I wrote in my other mail, 'I need a 
computer' seems to have different truth conditions from 'I need to have 
a computer', but I'm not sure about this. It would also make sense to 
look into the distribution of these elements relative to different types 
of polarity contexts, for instance:

(1) Few students need a computer. (sounds fine to my non-native ears)

(2) Few students need to have a computer. (no idea how good or bad that 
is, and whether it's equivalent to [1])

If 'need NP' has a different distribution from 'need to HAVE NP', that 
could point to different scope relations between the modal component and 
the semantic role. I (obviously) haven't thought this through, however.


On 02.07.22 10:41, Sebastian Nordhoff wrote:
> On 7/2/22 09:41, volker.gast at uni-jena.de wrote:
>> I would say that a Needer is a deontic Possessor while a Wanter is a 
>> bouletic possessor.
> Dear all,
> while I find the idea of modalized Possessors very attractive, they 
> run into problems with abstract concepts
> (1) I need sleep
> (2) I need a break
> (3) I want love
> Would we say that in (1), the speaker is a deontic possessor of sleep?
> the expressions for NEED and WANT can often take both nominal and 
> verbal compliments, and probably the semantic role would be the same 
> in both cases
> (1') I need to sleep
> (2') I need to rest
> (3') I want to be loved
> I wonder to what extent possessors can be used for catching this 
> generalization.
> Best wishes
> Sebastian
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