Transitivity of Phrasal verbs?

The analysis of phrasal verbs, such as ‘turn [the sound] up’, presents all kinds of problems and debate. H & M (p352) say that “Experientially, a phrasal verb is a single Process” but I’m wondering if there is in fact more than one type: one as a single process and another one as Process + Attribute. This may also explain why some phrasals are separable and some not.

The word ‘up’ may be used as an Attribute, especially with certain electrical or mechanical items. Here is an example from the British National Corpus:

The, the water is the water pressure’s definitely changed. Well it’s changed now cos it ‘s up now.

The analysis of ‘turn [the water] up’ seems to be ‘turn [the water] (to the point where it is) up‘.
H & M (p352) also point out the difference between behavioural ‘see [the sign]’ and material ‘see [my brother] off’ yet it could also be that this is related to the sense of ‘date’ (as in ‘Are you seeing anyone now?’) in which case the analysis might be:

  • I = Actor
  • ‘m seeing = Process
  • my brother = Goal
  • off = Attribute (cf. ‘I’m off now’)

If we compare this, however, with H & M’s analysis of ‘look for’ which would be the non-separable:

  • I = Actor
  • ‘m looking for = Process
  • a needle = Goal

Just a thought…

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About eflfunc

I'm an EFL teacher in Japan and this is a blog to record some thoughts on using Systemic Functional Linguistics in the foreign language classroom.
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