Non-canonical grammatical relations in a modal construction

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The aim of the paper is to account for the pattern of grammatical relations with the debitive, an inflectional form of the Latvian verb expressing necessity. The authors argue that the debitive construction displays what they call diffuse grammatical relations. They show that neither of the arguments in the debitive construction shows clear subject or object properties, and introduce the notion of a demoted intransitive subject occurring alongside a less-oblique datival argument, in a configuration reminiscent of ditransitive structures with demoted direct objects. Such patterns with diffuse grammatical relations are also assigned lexically, not only in Latvian but also in Lithuanian, many Slavonic languages and some Germanic languages such as Icelandic; in the case of the debitive, the diffusemess of grammatical relations is associated with the modal character of the construction, a factor known to induce non-canonical argument marking. The authors also dwell on the diachronic implications of the issues raised in the article, introducing the notion of obliqueness adjustments, i.e., changes in the case-marking of arguments bringing it in line with syntactic obliqueness.


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