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Anticausatives are semantically reflexive in Norwegian, but not in English

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Original languageEnglish
Article number47
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalGlossa
Volume1
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2016

Abstract

In this paper we will discuss cross-linguistic variation in semantic entailment patterns in causative alternations. Previous work has probed this issue with data from elicited semantic judgements on paired linguistic forms, often involving linguistic negation and contradiction. We contribute to the debate in the form of a related psycholinguistic experiment that taps into direct judgements of truth conditions based on visualized scenarios. The stimulus consisted of video sequences of agents causing events, and the task involved answering a Yes-No question based on the anticausative/inchoative alternant. We were therefore able to test two languages, Norwegian and English, with the very same stimuli and directly compare the judgements. Based on our results, we will argue that the causative alternation is qualitatively different in the two languages. More specifically, the results support an entailment relation between the causative and its anticausative counterpart in English, as predicted by the whole class of “causer-less” analyses (Levin and Rappaport Hovav 1995, Ramchand 2008, Reinhart and Siloni 2005) in the literature. In contrast to this, our results support a reflexive analysis of anticausatives in Norwegian (Chierchia 2004, Koontz-Garboden 2009), where no such entailment holds.

    Research areas

  • anticausative, inchoative, unaccusative, causation, Norwegian, reflexive

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