For my semantics homework we are asked to test different verb phrases in different environments. I am asked to categorize the different verb phrases (on the basis of their distributions. I am not entirely sure what to do?

So some sample test items would be like:

X climb a mountain

X know French

X see a thing

And some possible environments would be:

will, episodic

present, episodic

present, habitual

present, progressive, episodic

So I have gathered that something like: present, progressive, episodic (X is knowing French) doesn't seem to work. While saying: (X is climbing a mountain) is fine. How exactly am I supposed to figure out what the distributions of the verb phrases are? Not exactly sure what it means for verb phrases to have a certain distribution means, as well.

  • Let me know if I can improve my question by adding more examples or in any other way.
    – lmeninato
    Apr 30, 2018 at 2:01

1 Answer 1


As I understand the terms, the distribution of a VP would be the X and Y in a constituent [ X VP Y ]. However, affixes associated with auxiliary verbs might count as part of the X rather than part of the VP (looking before the affix-hopping transformation, that is).

The list of things you call environments seem to me rather to be descriptions of verbs or VPs.

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