An ergative analysis of French valency alternations

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The French anticausative is attested in two separate constructions: one focuses on the result (Res-AC), e.g. <i>Le rameau s&#8217;est fl&#233;tri</i>; the second focuses on the process (Proc-AC) &#8211; <i>Le rameau a fl&#233;tri</i>, both translated to English as &#8216;The branch withered&#8217;. The paper proposes to explain the differences between the two constructions as follows. Res-AC results from the merge of <i>se</i> under non-active Voice, coupled with the absence of a vP projection, whereas Proc-AC results from the use of active Voice with a v projection lacking a specifier. Anticausative derivations from typologically distinct languages, Hebrew and Neo-Aramaic (an ergative language) provide support for the analysis. In these languages, the merge of v is overtly detectable, whether or not v has a specifier. In Hebrew this is indicated by a dative reflexive clitic, and in Neo-Aramaic, by ergative agreement. The analysis proposed for French extends naturally to these languages, providing support for it.


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