Aspectual differences between agentive and non-agentive uses of causative predicates
Fabienne Martin
August 2019

This paper aims to provide an account for why, across languages, the zero-change (or failed-attempt) use of causative predicates is easier to obtain with agent subjects than with causer subjects. The paper is structured as follows. Section 2 reports experimental studies suggesting that the degree of acceptance of the zero-change at study varies across languages and across types of causative verbs, focusing on Mandarin run-of-the-mill (extensional) monomorphemic causative verbs on one hand, and French and English defeasible (modal) causative predicates on the other. This difference is accounted for in section 7. Section 3 identifies the source of the zero-change uses for these two sets of languages, namely outer aspect for Mandarin extensional causatives, and sublexical modality for English or French defeasible causatives. Section 4 spells out an issue raised by Martin’s (2015) account of the link between agentivity and non-culmination. Section 5 shows how the Voice head introducing agents vs. causers combines with causative vps, and how the semantic difference between these two voice heads infuences the interpretation of the vp-event, and, in particular, the way the causing event type denoted by the VP is tokenized. More precisely, it is argued that in the agentive use, the causative event type denoted by the VP is ‘fleshed out’ by complex events composed of an action of x and a change-of-state of the theme’s referent y, whereas in the non-agentive use, the very same causing event type is fleshed out by changes-of-state of the theme’s referent only, themselves caused by the eventuality denoted by the subject. On this view, if we abstract away from the external argument, a non-agentive causative VP is interpreted the same way as its anticausative counterpart. It is then argued that the semantic difference between the two Voice heads ultimately explains why typically, zero-change uses of causative VPs are acceptable with agents only, starting with extensional causative verbs in section 6.1, and then addressing defeasible (modal) causative verbs in section 6.2. Section 8 accounts for why the zero-change reading is occasionally accepted by some speakers even with a causer subject.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004667
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: to appear in Bar-Asher Siegal, Elitzur and Boneh, Nora (editors), Perspectives on Causation. Springer.
keywords: telicity, perfectivity, non-culminating accomplishments, agentivity, causation, extensional causative verbs, defeasible causative verbs, anticausative verbs, sublexical modality, agents, causers, voice, french, english, mandarin, semantics
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