Publication details [#1792]

Allan, Quentin. 1998. Delexical verbs and degrees of desemanticization. Journal of Language Teaching, Linguistics and Literature 47 : 1–17. 17 pp.
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The semantics of the word "delexical" in the term "delexical verbs" suggests that the verb is functioning as little more than a lexically empty auxiliary, with most or all of the semantic content being carried by the deverbal noun. But to what extent is this the case? Following Gabriele Stein's vehement rejection of the idea that the delexical verbs 'give, have, take' are "mere connective" or "light" verbs, I am responding to her challenge (1991: 15) to specify the extent to which the core meaning is "weakened" or "eroded". Basing my findings on an exhaustive analysis of the delexical verbs 'give, have, make' and 'take' as they occur in a one million word corpus of academic writing, I isolate distinct meanings for each verb, and attempt to determine the degree to which these verbs are truly desemanticized. Evidence emerges: in support of Stein's assertion that each delexical verb brings its own unique meaning to the construction in which it occurs, 'make' and to a lesser extent 'give' and 'have' typically retain most of their full, intuitive meaning, whereas 'take' is largely, and at times fully devoid of its intuitive meaning. (Adapted from Quentin Allan)