The posture verb progressive in Icelandic

  • Kristín M. Jóhannsdóttir


In this paper I focus on a construction in Icelandic in which a coordination of two simple present/past verbs, where the first verb is a posture verb, gets a progressive reading. Those sentences indicate that the ‘two events’ take place simultaneously (at the reference time). That is, there is an event, which consists of two components, such as sitting and reading. The main question is: How does coordination with a posture verb yield a progressive reading? The proposed solution to this posture-verb progressive puzzle involves the claim that the conjunction og ‘and’ does not have the semantics of conjunction here, and that we do not have two events but one. Furthermore, I argue that the fact that posture verb coordinations get a progressive reading comes from a mismatch in the status of the external argument, building on Kratzer (1994). ‘Sitting’ is a state and calls for a ‘holder’ external argument, whereas ‘reading’ is an event which calls for an ‘agent’ argument. I assume that external arguments cannot at the same time be an agent and a holder of an event. However, this can be solved in two ways. One is by adding an external argument, such that we have both an agent-argument and a holder-argument. That results in two separate events, and doesn’t get a progressive reading. The other way of solving this is by coercing ‘read’ to be a state. Now one external argument, a holder, satisfies both verbs. Because of this coercion of an event to a state, the reading we get is that an event that is both a sitting and a reading holds at a certain time. As all states are imperfective this coercion of the event verb to a state makes it imperfective and as Icelandic doesn’t have an imperfective construction separate from the progressive Icelanders understand these sentences as progressive. This is why these posture verb co-ordinations result in a progressive reading rather than a perfective one.
How to Cite
Jóhannsdóttir, K. M. (2019). The posture verb progressive in Icelandic. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 11, 361-374.