Current trends in analyzing syntactic variation
  • ISSN 0774-5141
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9676
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The causative-inchoative alternation has been a subject of much debate. It might also be a case where variation patterns that escape existing typological descriptions provide a new perspective on the problem. We analyze the variability and systematicity of alternative argument structure realizations, together with corresponding aspectual/event properties, by considering three different ways in which change-of-state verbs can be semantically and syntactically construed in Romance. Under the general assumption that the syntactic projection of arguments correlates non-trivially with event structure, we apply a novel theoretical approach to the semantics and syntax of the causative-inchoative alternation. We argue that different verbal heads can be independently combined to yield contrasting verbal configurations, with corresponding event/argument structure properties quite freely. Alongside standard cases such as causative and inchoative frames, we discuss what we call ‘stative-causative constructions’ [SCC], where the initiator appears as the sole argument. The general properties of this additional (third) variant suggest the availability of a null causative (external-argument-selecting) v producing original monoargumental structures with corresponding (simpler) event structure. These little-known Spanish data challenge current argument structure theories assuming that the causative v necessarily implicates the eventive (BECOME) component, or that the latter figures in the verb’s permanent lexical entry. SCCs provide empirical evidence suggesting that what is commonly described as a basic unaccusative/transitive verb may have unergative uses.


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