I looked at the posts for January and February and while there are many passing references to the distinction between ‘intentional’ and ‘non intentional’ verbs, there is no specific post about it. So I’m writing one now. I’m going to use a new terminology and distinguish between ‘logically transitive’ and ‘logically intransitive verbs. A logically transitive verb is one which takes a logical as well as a grammatical accusative, such that there must be an object that verifies the accusative. That is, if ‘S V O’ is true, there must be an object corresponding to the accusative noun phrase ‘O’. All the verbs in the following propositions – note the last – are logically transitive.
1. Tom owns a house in the desert
2. Tom is building a house in the desert
3. Tom / has / a thought about a house in the desert
That is, if Tom owns a house in the desert, at least one house (Tom’s) is in the desert. So ‘owns’, in this context, is logically transitive. If he is building a house in the desert, there must be at least one house in the desert that he is building. And if he has a thought about the house, there must be at least one thought that he has, namely the one about a house in the desert. The verb ‘has’ is logically transitive in this context.
A logically intransitive verb is one which may have a grammatical accusative, but does not need a logical accusative to verify it. I.e. ‘S V O’ may be true without there being any object that satisfies 'O'. Thus all the verbs in the following are logically intransitive.
4. Tom wants a house in the desert
5. Tom is looking for a house in the desert
6. Tom / has a thought about / a house in the desert
If Tom wants or is looking for a house in the desert, it does not follow there is any such house. The verbs ‘want’ and ‘looking for’ are logically intransitive. Note well that proposition (3) is the same as proposition (6). But there are two different verb phrases: ‘has’ and ‘has a thought about’. The object of ‘has’ is ‘a thought’, and that must exist in order for there to be a thought. The object of ‘has a thought about’ is ‘a house in the desert’, but no such house has to be in order for there to be such a thought. So ‘has a thought about’ is logically intransitive.
Tomorrow, as we approach the problem of proper names, I will talk about verbs of reference and individuation.