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Romance object-experiencer verbs

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Abstract

The present paper deals with Romance Objective-Experiencer verbs (OE-verbs). I will show that the different subclasses fit into a continuum between a causative and an unaccusative pole. In order to describe their varying syntactic behaviour, a finer-grained analysis of the subevents they denote will elucidate that a traditional approach following the Vendler-Dowty classes of aktionsart will reach its limit when it comes to OE-verbs. My claim is that case assignment to the experiencer does not straightforwardly follow from the aktionsart class, but from the activity contrast between the two arguments of the verb. The presence or absence of causativity explains the differentiation between two types of ­experiencer: (a) a more passive causatively affected experiencer and (b) a less passive experiencer undergoing a change of state in a particular situation without being affected by an external causer. In addition, we find a third type of OE-verb: prototypically unaccustative (ergative) verbs, such as verbs of liking, which select a more active experiencer expressing a subjective judgement. These three types constitute prototypical categories with fuzzy edges. Romance languages differ in the way they code the three types at the lexical level and at the level of the constructional inventory. The results can be formalized following the activity hierarchy approach (Kailuweit 2013).

References

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