Agentless presuppositions and the semantics of verbal roots
RyanWalter Smith, Jianrong Yu
April 2021

Bale (2007) proposes that agentive intransitives differ semantically from agentive transitives, in that while the agent of a transitive is introduced by a functional projection and composes with its verb via Event Identification (Kratzer 1996), intransitives lexically encode their agent arguments and compose with them via Function Application. This is based on the availability of agentless repetitive presuppositions with again, with transitives permitting a repetitive presupposition excluding the agent while intransitives do not. In this paper, we challenge Bale’s claim and show that typically intransitive verbs like dance and bark, which do not usually allow agentless presuppositions, permit agentless pre- suppositions when they appear with an optional internal argument. To account for this, we propose that verbal roots possess an underspecified thematic role argument, along with individual and event arguments. Combined with a conservative syntax for introducing agents via VoiceP (Kratzer 1996), the analysis captures the dependence of agentless presuppositions on the presence of an internal argument without recourse to any distinction between transitive and intransitive eventive verb roots. The analysis contributes a new theory of roots lying between two theoretical poles, one that argues that roots take internal arguments (e.g., Harley, 2014) and one that severs internal arguments syntactically and semantically from the verb (e.g., Schein 1993; Borer 2003, 2005).
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005384
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Submitted
keywords: roots, argument structure, again, agentless presuppositions, semantics, syntax
previous versions: v1 [August 2020]
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