Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 313–359 | Cite as

Implicit complements: a dilemma for model theoretic semantics

  • Brendan S. Gillon


I show that words with indefinite implicit complements occasion a dilemma for their model theory. There has been only two previous attempts to address this problem, one by Fodor and Fodor (1980) and one by Dowty (1981). Each requires that any word tolerating an implicit complement be treated as ambiguous between two different lexical entries and that a meaning postulate or lexical rule be given to constrain suitably the meanings of the various entries for the word. I show that the positing of such an ambiguity runs counter to the facts and propose an alternative solution which does not appeal to ambiguity, meaning postulates or lexical rules. Indeed, I show that the dilemma posed by indefinite implicit complements is posed by all implicit complements and that a general solution to the problem of implicit complements follows from an independently motivated, single treatment of five other problems, that of subcategorization, that of phrasal projections of words, that of defining a model theoretic structure for phrase structure grammars, that of complement polyvalence and that of complement polyadicity.


Model theory Implicit arguments Optional complements Subcategorization Meaning postulates Deixis Reciprocal Reflexive Passive Context sensitivity 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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