The 'Directional+with+DP' construction and the empty verb GO

Chris Wilder (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim)

The construction (1), with the surface format (2), has the force of an imperative, although it contains no overt verb. It is found in all major Germanic languages but not (to my knowledge) in any of the Slavic languages.

(1) a. Into the bag with the money! (English)

b. In die Tasche mit dem Geld! (German)

in the.acc bag with the.dat money

c. Ned i sekken med pengene! (Norwegian)

down into bag-the with money-the

(2) DIR + 'with' + DP

(DIR = directional locative PP or AP; DP = its theme argument)

This is not an elliptical construction of the sort illustrated by (3a) (with Mary = comitative) - there is no overt verb in the relevant languages that fits the frame (3b).

(3) a. And so to London with Mary. (diary ellipsis; = I went to London with Mary.)

b. V + PP(directional) + with DP(theme)

This paper argues that the cross-linguistic distribution of (2) reflects a wider parameter discussed by Riemsdijk (2002) with respect to the construction in (4). In West (OV) Germanic and the Scandinavian languages, modal verbs, which otherwise generally take VP complements, can govern a 'verb-less' directional complement (usually PP, but AP is also possible: e.g. Ger. Es muss höher 'It must higher'):

(4) a. Das Geld soll in die Tasche. (German)

the.nom money should in the.acc bag

b. Pengene må ned i sekken. (Norwegian)

money-the must down into bag-the

Riemsdijk argues that the complement to the modal in (4) is in fact a VP, whose head is a silent verb (notation: GO) with a meaning similar to that of Engl. 'go':

(5) [ModP MOD [VP DP(theme) [ GO PP(directional) ] ] ] (abstracting away from order)

Languages lacking GO do not permit (4). In languages having GO, the distribution of phrases headed by GO is restricted by the need for GO to be licensed by (Riemsdijk suggests) an appropriate governing head: modal verbs in the case of (4).

I take the construction in (1) to involve a VP headed by the same empty verb GO, governed by the functional head IMP (silent in Germanic) that heads ordinary imperatives. In other words, not only MOD but also IMP licenses GO:

(6) [ImpP IMP [VP DP(theme) [ GO PP(directional) ] ] ] (abstracting away from order)

So like the modal complements in (4), the imperatives in (1) are not in fact 'verb-less'; like the modals, IMP uniformly takes verbal complements.

In this approach, the occurrence of (1) or (4) in a language is contingent on it having the empty verb GO. In a language having GO, their occurrence further depends on MOD and IMP acting as licensors. In modern English, IMP is a licensor but MOD no longer is (expressions like The truth will out were possible in relatively recent (Shakespeare's) English).

This analysis provides an explanation for two further facts. Firstly, the construction (1) only occurs as a root expression - this simply reflects the distribution of ImpP. Secondly, both the modal construction and Directional+with+DP are possible only with canonical directional locatives, i.e. those that describe a complete physical change in location of the theme argument. This restriction is attributable to the semantics of GO. None of the 'noncanonical' uses of directional PPs in (8)-(10) is possible with either construction:

(8) a. They turned the mirror towards the sun. (change of orientation, not location)

b. * Towards the sun with the mirror!

c. * Der Spiegel soll zur Sonne. (German)

the mirror should to-the sun

(9) a. They built the path up to the door. (change of extent, not location)

b. * Up to the door with the path!

c. * Der Weg soll hinauf zur Tuer. (German)

the path should up to-the door

(10) a. She turned the frog into a prince. (change of identity, not location)

b. * Into a prince with the frog!

c. * Der Frosch soll in einen Prinzen. (German)

the frog should in a.acc prince

With regard to the realisation of the theme argument, Directional+with+DP differs from the modal construction and from regular imperatives. In the modal construction, the theme surfaces as a subject external to ModP: nominative or infinitive (PRO). This is explained by the fact that GO and the modal are unaccusatives embedded under Tense (finite or non-finite). In the Directional-with-DP construction, the theme is marked by a semantically empty 'with'. This differs from ways of licensing subjects associated with overt imperative verbs, i.e. empty subject (pro/PRO come here!) or overt subject without preposition (You come here!). Moreover, the Directional-with-DP construction lacks the restriction to 2nd person subjects accociated with overt imperatives. I speculate that lack of 2nd person restriction and special licensing by with are related to a special property of GO vis-a-vis overt verbs; and that the choice of with is related to the use of with to mark the theme DP in the locative (spray-load) alternation.

Other special properties of Directional-with-DP are its marked order (directional < theme) and marked intonation (main stress on the initial, not the final constituent). These properties suggest a construction-specific obligatory inversion of the directional to a position to the left of the theme. That the theme c-commands the directional at some stage of the derivation (cf. (6)) is indicated by binding facts: obviation in (11), reciprocal licensing in (12):

(11) ?? Into the lionj's cage with itj ! (cf. ok: Into itsj cage with the lionj ! )

(12) Into each otherj's rooms with the boysj !


Riemsdijk, H. van, 2002. The unbearable lightness of going: the projection parameter as a pure parameter governing the distribution of elliptic motion verbs in Germanic. Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 5: 143-196.