Unaccusativity at the Interfaces
Patricia Irwin
September 2012

This dissertation contributes to our understanding of the ways in which syntactic structure has effects at the interfaces with syntax. It does so by focusing on unaccusativity, defined as a syntactic configuration in which a sentence has no external argument and a single VP-internal argument requiring structural case. This working definition picks out two structural "direct object" positions, and it is argued that VPs that contain these objects correspond to two well-known classes of unaccusative predicates: changes of state (e.g., 'break', 'freeze'), and motion and existence (e.g., 'arrive', 'drive up'). The syntactic analysis in the dissertation argues that the relationship of agreement or lack of agreement between the direct object and an event-introducing v head has consequences for the strong/weak determination of voice (or v, in a Chomskyan system) further along in the derivation. The two unaccusative structures are shown to have different effects at the phonological and interpretive interfaces. Starting from the long-standing observation that new discourse referents tend to occur as transitive direct objects rather than as subjects, it is argued that only one type of unaccusative structure satisfies the same syntactic and semantic requirements for discourse referent introduction that transitive direct objects do. This claim is supported by a corpus study using an annotated subset of the Switchboard Corpus. At the phonological interface, it is argued that both types of unaccusative VPs are selected for by a voice head that does not trigger spellout, and that this configuration results in just one domain for accent assignment in all-new unaccusative sentences. The presence of strong voice (Chomskyan v*) in unergative sentences results in either one or two domains for prosodic prominence in all-new unergative sentences.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/001617
(please use that when you cite this article)
keywords: unaccusative, unaccusativity, phases, licensing, internal arguments, small clauses, intransitive verbs, english, syntax, information structure, prosody, prosodic domains, syntax
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