I'm done my homework: Complement Coercion and Aspectual Adjectives in Canadian English


  • Patrick Murphy




Self-paced reading and eye-tracking studies have generally found that combining aspectual verbs (like ‘begin’ and ‘finish’) with entity nouns (like ‘the book’ or ‘the coffee’) is associated with increased reading times on and around the noun (McElree et al. 2001; Traxler et al. 2002; Pickering et al. 2005). This processing cost is widely interpreted as evidence of complement coercion—aspectual verbs semantically select for an event (like ‘dancing’ or ‘the dance’) and can take entity objects only if they are coerced into an event through a computationally costly process of type-shifting (Pustejovsky 1995; Jackendoff 1997). This paper presents an eye-tracking study of the Canadian English ‘be done NP’ construction, e.g., ‘I am done/finished my homework’ (not to be confused with the dialect-neutral ‘I am done/finished WITH my homework’) to mean ‘I have finished my homework’. Results suggest a processing penalty for entity-denoting nouns like ‘the script’ (compared to event description nouns like ‘the audition’) in this construction, which supports Fruehwald & Myler’s (2015) proposal that ‘done’ and ‘finished’ in this construction are aspectual adjectives that behave like aspectual verbs in requiring complement coercion and type-shifting for entity-denoting nouns.