'Break' + theme combinations and the causative alternation
Erika Petersen
February 2020
 

'Break' is the epitome of change of state verbs that participate in the causative alternation. However, for certain choices of theme argument, this verb does not alternate. Concentrated on the transitive-only 'break' + theme combinations, previous literature on the topic has argued that these combinations are obligatorily transitive because they describe events that necessarily require the intervention of an agent to be brought about (Alexiadou, Anagnostopoulou, and Schäfer 2006; Levin and Rappaport Hovav 1995; Piñón 2001; Schäfer 2008). I show that this explanation is empirically unmotivated. The paper proposes a different account of the causative alternating behavior of 'break' + theme combinations: these combinations differ as to whether they prohibit, allow, or require the addition of a second participant at the lexical semantic level. Those combinations that prohibit the addition of a second participant will be obligatorily intransitive; those that allow the addition of a second participant will show the alternation; whereas those that require the addition of a second participant will be obligatorily transitive. Following Van Valin and Wilkins (1996), I suggest that the agentive interpretation of the latter combinations is pragmatically derived.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006822
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Manuscript
keywords: 'break', causative alternation, theme arguments, semantics
Downloaded:85 times

 

[ edit this article | back to article list ]