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The Syntactic and Semantic Status of the Existential Verbs biti, imati and trebati


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Nazalević Čučević, Iva and Belaj, Branimir. (2018). The Syntactic and Semantic Status of the Existential Verbs biti, imati and trebati. Croatica: časopis za hrvatski jezik, književnost i kulturu, 42(62). pp. 179-204. ISSN 1849-1111

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Syntactic and semantic polysemy is a well-known characteristic of the verbs biti ‘be’, imati ‘have’ and trebati ‘need’. Thus, biti has no lexical meaning in itself when it is used as an auxiliary or as a copula, or as a periphrastic verb. However, it acts as a lexical verb when used in phrases in which it does not lose its lexical meaning, i.e., where its meaning is ‘to exist’, ‘to spend an amount of time at a location’, etc. (Silić and Pranjković 2005: 290). If it is used in such or similar contexts, biti is seen as an existential verb (e.g. Silić and Pranjković 2005, Kuna and Belaj 2013, Belaj and Tanacković Faletar 2014, Brač and Bošnjak Botica 2015), i.e., it is observed as an existential construction or predicate (Zovko Dinković 2011: 280). Existential verbs in Croatian have so far been considered from a categorial point of view (e.g. Birtić 2001, Kordić 2002, Zovko Dinković 2011, Kuna and Belaj 2013), while their syntactic status has not been analysed. For example, the analyses of the category of existentiality carried out so far, i.e., the analyses of existential verbs and their complements, have not included the syntactic status of the verb biti in the phrases such as Nije bilo struje ‘There was no power’, Luke nije bilo na nastavi (There was no Luka-G in class) ‘Luka was not in class’, Luka nije bio na nastavi ‘Luka was not in class’, Luka je u Zagrebu ‘Luka is in Zagreb’, etc. Is the status of the verb biti in all these examples the same? What is the syntactic status of its complements? The same questions arise with the verbs imati ‘have’ and nemati ‘not to have’ and their complements in sentences such as Ima / Nema struje ‘There is / There is no power’, Luke nema na nastavi (There is no Luka-G in class) ‘Luka is not in class’ and other, as well as with the verb trebati ‘need’ and its complements in sentences Luki treba kruh, Luki treba kruha ‘Luka needs bread’. This paper first includes the verb trebati in the discussion on existential verbs. Applying the methodology of cognitive grammar and the Russian and German traditions of dependency grammar and starting from the assumption that the loss of a verb’s lexical meaning results in its lesser independence, i.e. in its greater dependence on an obligatory predicate complement, we will attempt to determine the syntactic-semantic status of the Croatian verbs biti, imati (nemati) and trebati.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: verbs without lexical meaning, verbs with weakened meaning, predicative complement, adverbial complement, methodology of cognitive grammar, methodology of dependency grammar
Subjects: Slavic languages and literatures > Croatian language and literature
Departments: Department of Croatian Language and Literature
Date Deposited: 29 May 2019 11:44
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 11:44

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