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English up can be used to express completion or thoroughness: eat it up 'eat all of it', beat him up 'beat him thoroughly'. What research exists on this construction, from any angle (syntax, historical semantics, Construction Grammar, etc.)? How did it arise and when? What are its exact semantics? How is it that up can function as an argument for verbal valency purposes ('He swept the dirt up' but *'He swept the dirt') given that it appears to lack any of the usual semantics of arguments?

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    Huh? What does that last sentence mean? You'll have to specify why you think up functions as an argument (I certainly wouldn't, and don't understand the examples' relevance to the issue), and what you think the usual semantics of arguments are.
    – jlawler
    Sep 14 '13 at 17:55
  • I mean that the grammaticality asymmetry between He swept it up and *He swept it looks to me like the grammaticality asymmetry between He put it on the table and *He put it, suggesting that completive up fills a valency requirement of the verb in the former example just as the PP on the table does in the latter.
    – TKR
    Sep 14 '13 at 19:32
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    You could say there is a predicate frame where an adverbial constituent and an object are both complements, so you need both up and it in that predicate frame. In other predicate frames around the verbs put or sweep, there are other complements. You could say up is often not literally a direction any more, but has acquired other senses as a conceptual metaphor. Or you could say that, regardless of its history, sweep up is best considered a separate verb different from simple sweep. The you could analyse what up as part of a phrasal verb does to its meaning, like suffixes.
    – Cerberus
    Sep 14 '13 at 21:09
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    Note also that this sense of completion probably already existed in Proto-Germanic, considered that it also exists in Dutch and German.
    – Cerberus
    Sep 14 '13 at 21:12
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    Tons of research on this topic. Take a look at Denison 1985 escholar.manchester.ac.uk/uk-ac-man-scw:1b2567 or Thim 2012.
    – Alex B.
    Sep 15 '13 at 0:05

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