Functional Constraints in Grammar

On the unergative–unaccusative distinction

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This book examines in detail the acceptability status of sentences in the following five English constructions, and elucidates the syntactic, semantic, and functional requirements that the constructions must satisfy in order to be appropriately used: <i>There</i>-Construction, <i>(One’s) Way </i>Construction, Cognate Object Construction, Pseudo-Passive Construction, and Extraposition from Subject NPs. It has been argued in the frameworks of Chomskyan generative grammar, relational grammar, conceptual semantics and other syntactic theories that the acceptability of sentences in these constructions can be accounted for by the unergative–unaccusative distinction of intransitive verbs. However, this book shows through a wide range of sentences that none of these constructions is sensitive to this distinction. For each construction, it shows that acceptability status is determined by a given sentence's semantic function as it interacts with syntactic constraints (which are independent of the unergative–unaccusative distinction), and with functional constraints that apply to it in its discourse context.

Subjects: Germanic linguistics; Theoretical linguistics; Syntax; Functional linguistics; English linguistics; Cognitive linguistics

  • Affiliations: 1: Harvard University; 2: Tokyo Metropolitan University

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