Peter sang a song to Julie.

It seems that the verb "sang" selects the preposition, but to Julie is optional. And if we apply it to an X' Schema, how shall we do it? To Julie is the dependent of sang a song?

  • 1
    The NP "a song" and the PP "to Julie" are complements (dependents) of "sing", the difference being that the former is a core complement, the latter a non-core one. "Sing", in this sense, selects the prep "to". "Julie" is a semantic argument of the verb in that she is one of the entities involved, and it follows that the PP containing "Julie" together with the governing prep "to" is also a complement of the verb. The whole PP "to Julie" is licensed by "sing", and hence is not an adjunct, such as the locative one in "sing a song in the bath" or the temporal one in "sing a song at tea-time".
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 13:52
  • It's probably not the intended meaning of the sentence, but for completeness, I'll point out that "a song to Julie" can stand on its own legs, in which case the sentence would mean that Peter sang a song dedicated to Julie, and then the PP "to Julie" would be a dependent of the NP "a song".
    – LjL
    Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 14:40
  • Hi,BillJ,thank you for your reply. I thought in the same way as you. But I found it is difficult to draw an X' tree, because the compliment is not stackable. If both two parts"a song" and "to Julie" are compliment, it violates the rule. But I'm not sure whether it is correct or not. Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 16:22
  • Anything that works for this sentence will work for any 3-place transfer predicate with the Dative Alternation -- He sang Julie a song/a song to Julie; He gave his book to the library/the library his book; He told Julie the secret/the secret to Julie, as well as Benefactive mimics -- He dug Julie a clam/a clam for Julie; He fixed Julie supper/supper for Julie. The term "Indirect Object" (or "3", the last and least of the core arguments) gets confused with sentences like this.
    – jlawler
    Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 17:17
  • I don't do x-bar stuff (I find it unintuitive), so I've no idea why the two-complement analysis violates the rule. Examples abound where a verb has two complements, e.g. "She informed me that she had been insulted", where both "me" and "that she had been insulted" are complement of "inform". I can draw you a 'standard' (i.e. non-x-bar) tree of your example, but I'm not sure it will be of much help.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 18:34


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