Contact, animacy, and affectedness in Germanic

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This paper takes as its starting point the striking and systematic variation in the expression of direct objects in English, Swedish and German with respect to verbs of surface contact like &#8216;kick&#8217;. While in English, <i>kick</i> can easily appear with an inanimate object as in <i>kick the door,</i> in Swedish and German the corresponding sentence must be expressed using a preposition. We propose that this difference between the languages reduces to an independent difference in the presence or absence of a null particle <sc>At</sc><sub><i>loc</i></sub> of central coincidence. Concentrating on the comparison between English and Swedish, we argue that this small difference in the availability of a lexical item has consequences for a range of different, apparently unrelated constructions across the languages. In addition, we argue for the central role of animacy in both languages in mediating the ability of an argument to appear in direct object positions interpreted as affected.


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