Aspect matters in the middle

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This paper addresses the variation that the middle construction attests<br />cross-linguistically. In one class of languges middles behave as passives,<br />whereas in another class they pattern with unergative structures. My<br />proposal is that this variation is not accidental, and that it reduces to<br />variation in the morphosyntax of aspect. I put forward a semantic treatment<br />of middles as disposition ascriptions to a Patient/Theme argument. I then<br />show how the morphosyntax of the dispositional generic operator that is<br />argued to be present in such structures determines the syntactic behaviour<br />of middles. Genericity may be morphosyntactically encoded by means of<br />grammatical aspect, in particular in languages where such aspectual<br />distinctions as perfective/imperfective exist. The proposal is that the level<br />at which the generic operator is present correlates with the level at which<br />middles are derived. For instance, in Greek and French, genericity is<br />morphosyntactically encoded and middles are parasitic on passives. In<br />such languages, middles are derived in the syntax, in virtue of the availability<br />in the syntax of the relevant operator. In Germanic languages, by contrast,<br />aspectual distinctions are not encoded in the morphosyntax, and middles<br />are syntactically unergative. This is implemented in terms of a presyntacticderivation.


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