Case alternations and the Icelandic passive and middle
Peter Svenonius
November 2006

In Icelandic, accusative case is lost under passivization, but dative is retained. However, a simple distinction between "inherent" dative and "structural" accusative cannot capture the full range of facts. For one thing, middles, inchoatives, and adjectival passives of dative-taking verbs lose dative, with their thematic argument showing up as a nominative subject, in contrast to the passives. For another thing, there are verbs in Icelandic which take accusative subjects, but no accusative objects remain accusative under passive promotion; this applies even to causative-inchoative pairs in which the inchoative has an accusative subject, providing a minimal pair with the passive of the causative and its nominative subject. I propose an analysis in which both accusative and dative are structural, but dative is assigned lower in the VP than accusative. The middle, which is equally low, disrupts dative assignment, but the passive, which is higher, cannot.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/000124
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Submitted for consideration to a volume on passives: Preliminary title: Passives and Impersonals in European LanguagesEditors: Satu Manninen, Katrin Hiietam, Elsi Kaiser and Virve Vihman
keywords: passive, case, icelandic, accusative, dative, deadjectival verb, morphology, syntax
previous versions: v2 [March 2005]
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