Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 691–738 | Cite as

The semantics of partial control

  • Hazel Pearson


In a partial control configuration the denotation of the controller is properly included in the understood subject of the infinitive. This paper proposes a compositional semantics for partial control—the first such proposal that we are aware of. We show that an account of what determines whether a given predicate licenses partial control follows naturally from the analysis without additional syntactic assumptions. At the heart of the proposal lies the idea that partial control predicates are attitude verbs and as such, quantify over a particularly fine-grained type of modal base—so-called centred worlds. Unlike in traditional semantics for attitude reports, however, the lexical entry of these predicates requires that the property expressed by the control complement is applied not to the coordinates of this modal base, but rather to world, time and individual arguments that stand in a systematic relationship to those coordinates. This makes sense of the observation, going back to Landau (2000), that the ability of a control predicate to license partial control is intimately connected to its temporal properties.


Attitudes de se Centred worlds Obligatory control Partial control Tense and aspect 



This paper develops ideas originally presented in Chap. 6 of my Ph.D. dissertation (Pearson 2013). For helpful discussion I thank Gennaro Chierchia, Amy Rose Deal, Thomas Grano, Irene Heim, Norbert Hornstein, Manfred Krifka, Maria Polinsky, Jacopo Romoli, Uli Sauerland, Barbara Stiebels and audiences at the University of Maryland, NELS 43 and ZAS, Berlin. I am also grateful to three anonymous reviewers for extensive comments that significantly improved the manuscript. The research leading to these results has received funding from the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7 2007–2013) under grant agreement no 618871, and from the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) (Grant Nr. 01UG0711).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)BerlinGermany

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