Variations in non-canonical passives

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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 &#8211; 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 &#8216;bandwidths&#8217; along the spectrum, exhibiting lexical, contextual and idiolectal micro-variation &#8211; 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 &#8216;<i>give</i>-passives&#8217; in Mandarin, arguing that they are raising constructions involving an existential use of <i>gei</i> &#8216;give&#8217; and an implicit affectee which gives rise to their passive-like meanings.


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