The <i>unconscious, irresponsible construction</i> in Modern Icelandic

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The Icelandic language possesses a number of constructions whose function it is to express the degree of agentivity or lack of agentivity of a process. This paper analyses a specific construction built with the auxiliary verb <i>verða</i> ‘to become’ plus an experiencer or affected entity in the dative and a lexical verb in the neuter form of the past participle; the construction is used to mean that the human experiencer is unconscious of the onset of the process leading to a new state as a result. For instance, <i>mér verður litið</i>, meaning ‘I happened to look’. The assumed agent of the resulting state is conceptualized as an involuntary experiencer, not responsible for the resulting action or process. This construction has not been the object of systematic analysis before and this paper intends to offer a preliminary analysis from a semantic perspective. The construction is set in relation with the other Icelandic constructions of ‘reduced agentivity’.


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