After reading Luchonachos’ previous post, whose Latin text contains an adjectival resultative predicate (claudus effectus est ‘he became lame’), the following question came to my mind:

Why is it the case that in Latin adjectival resultative constructions are (typically/basically) reduced to the ones we can find in Romance languages (e.g., Sp. Se quedó cojó ‘He went lame’; Dejó la silla vacía ‘He left the seat empty’, etc), the ones whose verb crucially lacks a manner component?

E.g., cf. Omnes consulares (…) partem istam subselliorum nudam atque inanem reliquerunt (Cic. Cat. 1, 7).

That is to say, why is it the case that Latin (consistently/systematically?) lacks adjectival resultative constructions like the complex ones typically found in Germanic languages, where the verb has a strong manner component? E.g., cf. He pushed the door open; He hammered the metal flat; He drank the teapot empty; He danced himself tired; The joggers ran the pavement thin; He shot the President dead, etc.

Probably, something similar happens with prepositional resultative phrases of the following kind: e.g., Cicero wrote his hands to the bone.

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    I'm not sure there's an answer to this other than that resultative constructions of the English type are rather unusual cross-linguistically -- there's no particular reason why we should expect Latin to have them.
    – TKR
    Jan 2, 2019 at 1:27
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    Maybe "rather unusual" is a slight overstatement (I'm not sure the Chinese and Japanese examples are of the same type as the English), but I don't think such constructions are common enough that we should expect a given language to have them a priori. It's an interesting question, but like many "Why does language X have feature Y" questions it may not be answerable.
    – TKR
    Jan 2, 2019 at 1:48
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    Of course, you're right: we should not expect a given language to have X a priori, where X can be a resultative construction of the "wipe-clean" type, an Ablative Absolute construction, a serial verb construction, whatever. But this is not the point. Notice that the question I raised has already been raised for other languages in works like the following one, which is downloadable: lingref.com/cpp/wccfl/27/paper1854.pdf Just read the first paragraph and you’ll see that these questions are typically formulated in linguistics.
    – Mitomino
    Jan 2, 2019 at 2:00
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    That's right. Linguistic variation is addressed differently by functional linguists like Haspelmath and by generative linguists like Chomsky (NB: the authors of the paper I mentioned above are also generativist). But do you know what? The important linguistic difference separating "wipe-clean/float-into" languages (e.g., English) from "clean-wiping/enter-floating" languages (e.g. Spanish) was put forward by a COGNITIVE linguist: Leonard Talmy, who is an anti-Chomskian linguist!
    – Mitomino
    Jan 2, 2019 at 2:16
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    Is Latin really "satellite-framed"? (I've always found Talmy's terminology unfortunately opaque, BTW; "path-centric" and "manner-centric" seem clearer.) It seems unlikely insofar as none of its descendants are, nor to the best of my knowledge are other early IE languages (at least, I've looked into this a bit in Greek and found very little in the way of satellite framing). But anyway why should we expect satellite framing to correlate with the existence of English-type resultatives?
    – TKR
    Jan 2, 2019 at 2:37

1 Answer 1


A comment of yours on another question led me to this interesting question and to an embryonic hypothesis inspired by reading a paper on "Aspect and Assertion in Mandarin Chinese" that discussed how Mandarin and English have different treatment of "2-phase verbs."

My hypothesis is that for Latin to create most 2-stage expressions it must either (1) use a prefix drawn from a limited set and add it to a verb with already inherent 2-stage semantics or (2) use two completely different verbs in some sort of subordinate relationship. To add a manner component would in effect be creating a 3-stage verb, and this Latin--and Spanish--cannot easily do.

In English, a verb rich in substantive "manner" content (a 1-stage verb) can be turned into a 3-phase expression by adding an adverb of result at the end, mimicking in an iconic way an action leading to a result.

Section 4.2 on pages 747-749 of the paper on Chinese has a good discussion of what these phase expressions are. In essence, the claim is that all languages have 0-stage expressions that express a permanent situation (e.g., "The number 3 is an odd number" is always true), 1-stage expressions that express a situation that should hold for only a limited time (e.g., "She is sleeping" implies another period of time when she is not sleeping), and 2-stage expressions that require a change from one state to another (e.g., "John arrived" requires that John was not here and then that John was here). Two-stage expressions can always be created by using two different verbs, but they can also be lexicalized in one verb, such as "arrive."

Chinese has a very productive means of creating 2-stage expressions by adding widely used co-verb suffixes from a limited set that basically translate as "on," "down," "up," "out," "into," etc. These are roughly as common as the similar English phrasal verbs, like "go on," "go down," "go up," etc. This structure, as in English, is also usable for an extremely wide variety of verbs and adjectives. Crucially, since the two stages are lexically separate, the first stage can be rich in manner content and thus add a 3rd stage. You can "wipe something clean" in Chinese (擦干净 ca ganjing) just as you can in English. Chinese makes extensive use of verbs in series for other purposes, so this use of resultative co-verbs is very natural and just as iconic as in English or even more so.

In the case of Latin and Spanish, there is no ready means to add suffixes to create similar 3-stage expressions. You have to use prefixes and add them to what are already 1- or 2- stage verbs to change them to modify their semantics (e.g., ex + eo = exeo in Latin). Since this is a limited set of prefixes that cannot readily be extended to adjectives or verbs, as in Chinese and English, and since the main verb must already have 2-stage semantics, other complex action-result combination have to be expressed by using two verbs. Also, the addition of the prefix does not add an extra stage.

A crucial difference between Chinese and English, according to the paper and my personal feeling, is that Chinese can only add aspect morphemes to the result phase; whereas English can only add them to the action phase of 2- or 3-stage expressions. In English, you can say "he is going into the store," but in Chinese you cannot use such an expression (*ta zai qu shangdianli *他在去商店里 "he is going to the store"), even though it has a progressive expression very similar in feel to English (i.e., ta zai shuo 他在说 "he is speaking").

On the other hand, Chinese can add morphemes to the result phase, since they are technically verbs or adjectives derived from verbs; whereas English cannot, because it uses adverbs or adjectives similar to adverbs.

The result is that both Chinese and English readily create the type of 3-stage expressions represented by "wipe clean," but have a different treatment of them with respect to aspect and tense modification. For Chinese, they are just two verbs used in series, allowing for a rich possibility of collocations. For English, many possibilities are also possible because the first stage is unlimited and the second stage can be any verb or adjective compatible with the result semantics of a predicate. Any manner verb plus a resultative expression gives you a 3-stage expression including manner and result.

Latin and Spanish seem to have the same types of restrictions similar to those of Chinese in not being able to add tense and aspect morphemes to the first stage of 2-stage expression. Even though Spanish has a progressive construction quite like the English and Chinese ones (i.e. él está hablando "he is speaking"), as in Chinese, you cannot say: *"él está yendo" (except in very narrow circumstances to express a habitual event). You cannot use this construction as the normal equivalent of "he is on his way somewhere."

In Latin and Spanish, you can't easily get something wiped and get it clean, so you express the three stages by saying get it clean by wiping. This is the only way to make a 3-stage expression.

That leaves Latin with only bare 2-stage verbs without a manner component. So in Latin, you cannot wipe a seat clean, but you can leave a seat empty (subsellium vacuefacio)(or in Spanish, dejar la silla vacía). To add a manner component, you must add a separate manner expression.

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    +1! Thanks for this account based on Klein et al. (2001). As for Vmanner-Vresult compounds in Chinese, I recommend you Huang's (2006) work (dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3353765/…) and, more particularly, Fan's (2014): see chap. 4 of repositorio.uam.es/bitstream/handle/10486/661950/… Fan (2014) & Acedo-Matellán (2010) (diposit.ub.edu/dspace/bitstream/2445/42060/1/VAM_PhD_THESIS.pdf ) deal with Talmy's typology of motion events, which I consider fundamental to solve why Latin lacks complex resultative constructions.
    – Mitomino
    Feb 3, 2022 at 2:21
  • Thanks for the references. I am only a "self-taught linguistic" through exposure to a wide variety of languages and language families and so reading some of these works may be slow going with all the jargon and assumed knowledge of other linguistic frameworks. I'll try to spend some time digesting them, since I am quite interested in the Latin, Chinese, and Spanish. Feb 3, 2022 at 21:27
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    These three languages are very useful when studying Talmy's famous typology of lexicalization patterns (web.stanford.edu/~bclevin/lexpat15.pdf ): Latin is a weak satellite-framed language (see Acedo-Matellán's work above), Chinese is a strong satellite-framed one (see Fan's work above; see also benjamins.com/catalog/cogls.3.2.03fon), and Spanish is a verb-framed one (NB: Spanish is taken by Talmy as a prototypical example of this class). These three languages offer different semantic construals of space & aspect. So you made a very good choice!
    – Mitomino
    Feb 3, 2022 at 22:04
  • I really enjoyed the insights of your answer, just like I enjoyed Mitomino's postings on this topic; I have only one question: vacuafacio ??)) Feb 4, 2022 at 5:34
  • I assume you are pointing out that vacuafacio doesn’t exist. I meant vacuefacio with an “e.” My typing and editing is not always first rate, and I am only just now beginning to master typing in Chinese and typing Latin with the occasional macron or apex without having to go through Māori. I’ll edit the typo accordingly. Feb 4, 2022 at 10:11

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