The benefactive semantic potential of ‘caused reception’ constructions

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English, German, French and Dutch all exhibit a ditransitive construction in which the verb is combined with a subject and two NP objects (either unmarked or with overt dative and/or accusative case), which typically encode the agent, theme and recipient of a ‘caused reception‘ event. In construction grammar terms, Goldberg (1995) posits ‘Agent successfully causes Recipient to receive Patient’ as the basic sense of the (English) ditransitive. Each of these ditransitive constructions, however, can also be used to encode a variety of other scenes in addition to basic transfer of possession events. This paper investigates the extent to which they can be used to encode benefactive events, i.e. events where an agent carries out an action (involving a patient) for the benefit of another person. The constructions in question will be shown to be subject to distinct constraints in this respect. Kittilä’s (2005, this volume) distinction between recipientbeneficiaries and other beneficiaries, for instance, turns out to be an important factor in English and (certain varieties of) Dutch, but not (or to a much lesser extent) in German and French. In addition, it will also be shown that in several of the languages under discussion, the semantic range of the benefactive ditransitive is subject to language-internal variation.


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