Causation and serialization in White Hmong
William Johnston
June 2023

The first VoiceP constituent of the verbal extended projection (the so-called "first phase" of Ramchand 2008 or "domain of special meanings" of Marantz 1997, 2007) has a special status across a number of empirical domains, including both causative constructions and serial verb constructions. In this paper, I present data at the intersection of these two domains from White Hmong (Hmong-Mien), in which the direct causative is expressed by a productive serial verb construction, while the indirect causative requires a dedicated causal verb "ua" 'make'. A variety of diagnostics show that they instantiate the familiar "high/low" or "lexical/productive" causative paradigm already well-attested cross-linguistically. I argue that the differing syntactic and semantic properties of White Hmong causatives derive ultimately from the lexical-semantic content of the predicates that constitute them. I propose a principle governing the syntactic distribution of "rich lexical verbs", which limits them—and thus also limits the occurrence of serial verb constructions—to within the first phase. I then propose a unified semantics for direct and indirect causation, building on Kratzer's (2005) treatment of resultative constructions, under which such "rich lexical verbs" are compatible only with direct (and not indirect) causation. Finally, I suggest that this proposal also offers an explanation for cross-linguistic limits on the expressive power of serial verb constructions.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/007585
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: In revision
keywords: causatives, verb serialization, event structure, lexical/functional split, first phase, hmong, semantics, syntax
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