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GENGO KENKYU (Journal of the Linguistic Society of Japan)
Vol. 1996 (1996) No. 109 P 94-116



The present study concerns sentences in which the prepositional phrase can be interpreted as a modifier of the object following it, as in (1).
(1) I1 a dessiné de Jean un portrait caricatural.
Restrictions on this type of sentences (VPN's, henceforth) will be made clear.
First, the object must not be anaphoric. Definite nouns are therefore less acceptable.
(2) ? I1 a dessiné de Jean le portrait caricatural.
VPNs admit a definite object, when it can determine its referent independently of the preceding context, due to sufficient modification.
(3) Cette règle présente sur les précédentes l'avantage d'être exhaustive, […]
(4) s'il n'avait pas eu de sa fonction la haute idée que l'on sait.
(5) I1 a dessiné de Jean le portrait le plus caricatural que je connaisse.
(6) On peut donner de cette opération la représentation suivante: […]
Second, VPN's prefer verbs which mean the existence or appearance of the referent of the object in the scene, as compared with those which presuppose its existence in the scene.
(7) I1 a {dessine/acheté/? jeté} de Jean un portrait caricatural.
(8) 11 a {fait/? critiqué} sur le langage une théorie abstraite.
However, even verbs of the latter kind become acceptable if they bring pragmatically little information because of context.
These facts show that VPN's introduce the referent of the noun into the world of the discourse, as is the case with French il + VP + NP type impersonal sentences and English existential sentences.

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