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In semantics, a predicand is an argument in an utterance, specifically that of which something is predicated. By extension, in syntax, it is the constituent in a clause typically functioning as the subject.: 76
In the most typical cases, the predicand corresponds to the subject of a clause, and the predicate corresponds to a verb phrase (VP) that is the head of the clause. But there are also form-meaning mismatches, where the predicand is not a subject or where the predicate is not the head of the clause. Also, not every utterance has a predicand.
When predicates correspond to the head of the clauseEdit
Predicands are usually expressed in the utterance, and they are typically the subject. In the English example (1), the predicand is the person being spoken to, which corresponds to the subject you.
In many languages, pronomial subjects can be dropped, but this doesn't drop a predicand. For instance, in the Spanish example (2), there is no subject, but the predicand is still the person being spoken to.
|"Do you want a coffee?"|
If the subject is not included, the predicand can be ambiguous, as shown in the Japanese example (3).
When (3) is spoken, it can be interpreted as "it's hot" where the predicand is the ambient temperature, or it can mean that an object is hot to the touch, in which case, the predicand would be the object in question.
Predicands are usually unexpressed in imperative clauses, but they are usually the person or people being addressed.: 32
There are cases in which the predicand has a syntactic function other than subject. This happens in raising constructions, such as (4).
Another example is in object predicands such as (5).: 9
Predicates other than head of the clauseEdit
Adjuncts with subject predicandsEdit
|6a||Sitting next to her, I was happy.|
|b||I kept quiet, happy just to be there.|
In both cases, the predicand is the speaker, which corresponds to the subject. Note that the predicand has two predicates in each case: the modifier and the head VP.
Adjuncts with unexpressed predicandsEdit
Like (2 & 3), adjunct can have unexpressed predicands. In (7), the underlined adjunct VP has no expressed predicand. The predicand in this case is the protagonist, Orlando. This kind of construction has traditionally been seen as a dangling modifier, though Donaldson argues otherwise.
|7||Driving past Buckingham Palace last night, there was not a trace of that vast erection.|
|(Orlando: A Biography)|
Adjuncts with non-subject predicandsEdit
Similar to (4), adjuncts can take non-subject predicands. In (8), even though several things is the subject of the clause and John is the object of the preposition to, the underlined adjunct VP has John as its predicand.
|8||Approaching the front of class, several things stood out to John.|
In cleft sentences such as It's you who was right, the subject is the dummy pronoun it, but the predicand is the person being addressed, which corresponds to a complement in the VP. The predicate here is the VP in the relative clause modifier was right.
|9||My hands in my pockets, I waited.|
Here, the predicand is the hands of the speaker, denoted by the subject of the verbless clause my hands in my pockets.
Utterances without a predicandEdit
Utterances need not have a predicand. For example, an exclamation of Putain! in French after a painful bump has no predicand.
Predicands and thematic rolesEdit
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