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Book: Approaches to Systemic Functional Grammar

Chapter: 15. The Ideational Semantics of the Canonical Existential Clause in English

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.34276


This article challenges the locative interpretation of English unmarked existentials, according to which existential there is analysed as an adverb designating an abstract location, which may be specified by an adjunct predicating a specific location of the Existent NP (e.g. Lyons 1975). Existential there is argued to be a definite enclitic pronoun, pointing with weak cataphoric force to the entities designated by the Existent NP. It is proposed that the clause nucleus of unmarked existentials expresses quantification of the newly introduced instantiation of the type specifications conveyed by the Existent NP. This semantic target is restricted to the specifications of the search domain provided by the VP, any sentence adjuncts that may be present and relevant elements from the context.

Chapter Contributors

  • Kristin Davidse ( - davidse) 'Catholic University of Leuven'