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Degrees of causivity in German lassen causitive constructions

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Abstract

In many languages, there is a morphological marker or a lexical expression for a situation in which an agent brings about a state of affairs or makes somebody else do something. In German, both variants of formal marking for causativity are found only very rarely. The main expression of causativity in German is the lassen construction. This is a complex predicate construction with the auxiliary lassen (‘let’), whose semantics can vary within a spectrum of meanings involving direct causation, but also permission and non-intervention. The paper introduces the construction in detail, and sets it in relation to variants of the expression of causativity across languages. The syntax and semantics of the construction is discussed extensively, and it is represented in a Constructional Schema that displays its features. It is argued that cultural knowledge is a useful resource to help the user resolve the semantic ambiguity of the construction. The paper discusses alternatives for the expression of causativity in German, as well, and it comments on the notion of ‘transfer’ and its relation to the expression of causativity.

References

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