Variations in non-canonical passives
This paper shows that non-canonical passives (like English <i>get</i>- and Chinese <i>bei</i>-passives) exhibit a chameleonic character that makes them amenable to a control and/or a raising analysis – depending on context and lexical choice. Such passives are formed by superimposing on the main predicate a higher semi-lexical verb whose meaning may include one or more points in the causative-unaccusative spectrum. Such semi-lexical verbs may differ in their ‘bandwidths’ along the spectrum, exhibiting lexical, contextual and idiolectal micro-variation – accounting for the controversies that have often arisen in the literature. The paper demonstrates the need for fine-grained decomposition in argument structure theory by providing several concrete cases, and ends with a case study of so-called ‘<i>give</i>-passives’ in Mandarin, arguing that they are raising constructions involving an existential use of <i>gei</i> ‘give’ and an implicit affectee which gives rise to their passive-like meanings.