Current trends in analyzing syntactic variation
  • ISSN 0774-5141
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9676
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This paper presents a method for quantitative and qualitative analyses of the causative alternation in English, where verbs may alternate between a transitive (causative) construction (S) and an intransitive (non-causative) construction (). The aim of this paper is to present a method designed to measure the alternation strength of causative verbs, i.e. the extent to which they alternate between the two constructions. One of the central elements this paper investigates is the Theme, i.e. the participant that is in subject position in the intransitive construction and object position in the transitive construction. A distinctive collostructional analysis ( Gries and Stefanowitsch 2004 ) shows that certain verbs are significantly attracted to one of either two constructions while others are equivalently distributed in the two constructions. However, after careful analysis it appears that very few Themes actually overlap between the two constructions ( Lemmens forthcoming ) which indicates that each construction seems to be rather restrictive regarding which Themes they recruit. The low degree of alternation of the Themes leads us to ask ourselves the extent to which the alternation is part of a speaker’s knowledge of their language.


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