Volume 23, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2211-6834
  • E-ISSN: 2211-6842



In several ancient and modern Indo-European languages, the partitive-genitive may be used in place of the accusative to encode the second argument of two-place verbs. In Ancient Greek the two types of object encoding can alternate with change-of-state verbs, alternation being viewed as connected with degrees of patient affectedness: the partitive-genitive encodes partially affected objects. Alternation also extends to experiential verbs, which are typically characterized by a low degree of transitivity and do not imply any change of state of the object-stimulus. Rather than concentrating on the implications of case alternation on the construal of the object, I consider the effects of variation on the whole construction, and argue that genitive vs. accusative marking of the object (NomGen vs. NomAcc constructions) reflects the construal of the subject-experiencer. While the different construal of the experiencer in terms of degrees of control cross-linguistically often results in non-nominative encoding of the experiencer, in Ancient Greek it is object encoding that affects the construal of the experiencer and reflects a scale based on possible control. The distribution of constructions with experiential verbs shows that NomAcc is typical of verbs of sight, thought, intellectual knowledge and emotions connected to sight and awareness, such as wonder and fear. NomGen is connected with touch, smell, taste, memory, forgetfulness, care and desire. In the in-between area, verbs of hearing, learning and verbs of affection may feature both accusative and genitive encoding, thus constituting a fuzzy transition area. The connection between sight and other experiential verbs that feature accusative encoding reflects an embodied conceptualization of experiential situations.

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