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Linguistics Argument Structure
by
Beth Levin

Introduction

The term “argument structure” is used to refer to the lexical representation of argument-taking lexical items—typically verbs, but also nouns (especially nominalizations), adjectives, and even prepositions—that specifies sufficient information about these items’ arguments to allow their syntactic realization to be determined. An argument structure typically indicates the number of arguments a lexical item takes (e.g., the core participants in the eventuality a verb denotes), their syntactic expression, and their semantic relation to this lexical item. The notion of argument structure, which was first adopted by researchers working in the Government-Binding framework around 1980, is a descendant of the subcategorization frame of 1960s transformational grammar, which acknowledges that a lexical item’s argument-taking properties may be driven in part by its meaning. Although its purpose might seem straightforward, there is no single conception of argument structure. The understanding of the notion as a theoretical construct varies with a researcher’s theoretical predispositions, especially with respect to how semantics and syntax interface with each other. Such variation in usage is reflected in controversies over the nature of argument structure. Furthermore, certain approaches, particularly lexicalist approaches, assume morphosyntactic processes that affect a predicate’s argument-taking potential operate over argument structure, while other approaches take such processes to operate on syntactic configurations, and still others propose that both the syntax and the lexicon can be domains for such processes. Finally, certain researchers now suggest that the empirical domain subsumed under the label “argument structure” derives from other facets of the syntactic context lexical items are found in, and some of them even question whether lexical items have an argument structure. Despite these controversies, “argument structure” is now adopted as a pretheoretical cover term to refer to those linguistic phenomena that involve the realization of a lexical item’s arguments, including morphosyntactic phenomena that affect the morphosyntactic realization of arguments. This use has become widespread and is not limited to researchers sharing the theoretical orientation of those who first introduced the term. This bibliography emphasizes research on the notion of argument structure as a theoretical construct referring to a lexical representation that captures a lexical item’s argument-taking potential; thus, much of the work cited here is from the 1980s and early 1990s. The bibliography also includes discussion of some major morphosyntactic phenomena discussed under the label “argument structure.”

Acknowledgments: For discussion of the material in this bibliography or comments on earlier versions, the author is grateful to John Beavers, Eve Clark, Itamar Francez, Roey Gafter, Andrew Koontz-Garboden, Jason Grafmiller, Scott Grimm, Francesca Masini, Maria Polinsky, Malka Rappaport Hovav, Ivan Sag, Peter Sells, Shiao Wei Tham, and two anonymous reviewers.

General Overviews

The notion of argument structure is important enough to have merited chapters in handbooks, encyclopedias, and comparable works, though it has not been the subject of a textbook. Comrie 1993 includes a useful introduction to the notion of argument itself. Andrews 1988 provides a historical perspective on changes in the conception of the lexical entries of verbs from the 1960s through the 1980s, covering a range of theoretical approaches. Moving forward in time, Alsina 2006 focuses on lexicalist approaches to argument structure, as does Butt 2006. Harley 2010 introduces the treatment of argument structure phenomena in the Minimalist Program. Sadler and Spencer 1998 provides an introduction to argument structure as it interacts with certain morphosyntactic processes, a topic also treated in Alsina 2006.

  • Alsina, Alex. 2006. Argument structure. In Encyclopedia of language and linguistics. 2d ed. Edited by Keith Brown, 461–468. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

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    A brief introduction to argument structure emphasizing lexicalist approaches, particularly lexical functional grammar; also discusses morphosyntactic operations that affect a verb’s argument structure.

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  • Andrews, Avery D. 1988. Lexical structure. In Linguistics: The Cambridge survey. Vol. 1, Linguistic theory: Foundations. Edited by Frederick J. Newmeyer, 60–88. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Surveys the changing conceptions of the lexical entries of verbs beginning with transformational grammar and moving to the government-binding framework, generalized phrase-structure grammar, generative semantics, lexical functional grammar, and relational grammar, as well as Montague grammar and categorial grammar.

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  • Butt, Miriam. 2006. Theories of case. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139164696Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This textbook, whose goal is to review the notion of case in all its forms, includes a chapter on linking theories—another term for theories of the syntactic realization of arguments. This chapter includes concise introductions to two theories discussed in this bibliography: lexical decomposition grammar and lexical functional grammar.

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  • Comrie, Bernard. 1993. Argument structure. In Syntax: An international handbook of contemporary research. Vol. 1. Edited by Joachim Jacobs, Arnim von Stechow, Wolfgang Sternefeld, and Theo Vennemann, 903–914. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

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    Provides valuable discussion of the linguistic notion of argument, comparing it with the corresponding mathematical notion. Reviews the distinction between arguments (constituents in a sentence selected by its verb) and adjuncts (constituents which are not so selected), and the challenges arising in determining a given constituent’s status.

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  • Harley, Heidi. 2010. A minimalist approach to argument structure. In The Oxford handbook of linguistic minimalism. Edited by Cedric Boeckx, 427–448. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Presents the approach to argument structure phenomena found in the minimalist program, which dispenses with argument structures for verbs and operations on argument structure in favor of elaborated syntactic structures where recurring argument types are found in the specifier positions of specific functional heads.

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  • Sadler, Louisa, and Andrew Spencer. 1998. Morphology and argument structure. In The Handbook of morphology. Edited by Andrew Spencer and Arnold M. Zwicky, 206–236. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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    This contribution to a morphology handbook reviews the notion of argument structure and its interaction with a range of morphological processes, distinguishing morpholexical operations that affect a verb’s semantics and, thus, its argument structure, from morphosyntactic operations that simply operate on a verb’s argument structure.

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Antecedents and Analogues

Although the term “argument structure” was introduced around 1980 within generative grammar, linguists have long recognized that an adequate theory of grammar must confront the representation of a verb’s argument-taking properties. The proposed form of these representations has varied over the years, with some being more syntactic and others more semantic in nature. This section reviews some alternative approaches, but since it cannot provide a comprehensive survey, it focuses on immediate precursors and analogues of argument structure. Outside the generative tradition, characterizing a verb’s potential to take dependents is a key concern of European valency theories. Their foundation is Tesnière 1959, an influential, posthumously published book; Tesnière’s theory and subsequent work is summarized in Allerton 2006. Turning next to antecedents within generative grammar, Chomsky 1965 introduces a lexicon into transformational grammar: a verb’s lexical entry represents its arguments in terms of their syntactic category and their phrase-structure position. Such entries provide considerably more syntactic information than the earliest argument structures (cited under Early Developments), which omit much of this syntactic information because it is independently derivable. Case grammar, introduced in the mid-1960s and best known from Fillmore 1968, proposes that a verb’s argument-taking properties should be represented via a list of its arguments’ semantic roles. The earliest argument structures also identified arguments by their semantic roles, although these labels were later argued to be unnecessary. At about the same time, Gruber 1976 also proposed that semantic roles figure in the characterization of a verb’s argument-taking properties, but Gruber’s representations were localist in inspiration; this set of roles was adopted in the government-binding framework, including early work on argument structure. This early work was also influenced by relational grammar, represented by Perlmutter and Postal 1983. This framework argues that grammatical relations must be taken as primitive, rather than being defined in terms of word order or syntactic configuration, as in transformational grammar and its descendants. Starting from a “deep” initial level of grammatical relations, which could be viewed as corresponding to an argument structure, relational grammar obtains surface grammatical relations by a series of derivational steps; further, argument structures as currently understood make prominence differences among arguments, and such differences are also implicit in their grammatical relations within relational grammar.

  • Allerton, D. J. 2006. Valency and valency grammar. In Encyclopedia of language and linguistics. 2d ed. Edited by Keith Brown, 301–314. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

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    Introduces the notion of valency as a predicate’s potential for combining with other sentential elements. Extensively reviews the essentials of Tesnière’s work on the valence of verbs, as well as later extensions. Concludes with a discussion of the limitations of valency.

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  • Chomsky, Noam. 1965. Aspects of the theory of syntax. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    This monograph, much-cited as it lays out Chomsky’s “standard theory” of transformational grammar, devotes considerable attention to the proper formulation of lexical entries and the nature of the lexicon. Verbs are associated with subcategorization features that characterize the syntactic contexts in which they can be found.

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  • Fillmore, Charles J. 1968. The case for case. In Universals in linguistic theory. Edited by Emmon Bach and Robert T. Harms, 1–88. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

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    Argues that a verb’s argument-taking properties are represented in its lexical entry via a list of semantic roles, called “cases.” In the syntax, argument noun phrases (NPs) are introduced as sisters of the verb, with rules sensitive to their semantic roles deriving the surface syntactic representation of a sentence.

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  • Gruber, Jeffrey S. 1976. Lexical structures in syntax and semantics. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

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    Part I, “Studies in Lexical Relations,” argues that all events can be analogized to events of motion or location, proposing that the argument-taking properties of verbs are best characterized in terms of decomposed representations of verb meaning, which involve localist notions, as well as notions of agency and causation. Revision of Gruber’s 1965 PhD dissertation, “Studies in Lexical Relations.”

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  • Perlmutter, David M., and Paul M. Postal. 1983. Towards a universal characterization of passivization. In Studies in relational grammar 1. Edited by David M. Perlmutter, 3–29. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Uses the passive as a vehicle to argue that grammatical relations should be taken as primitives and that statements of passivization in terms of word order and movement are inadequate. Revision of a paper with the same title in Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society, University of California, 1977), pp. 394–417.

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  • Tesnière, Lucien. 1959. Éléments de syntaxe structurale. Paris: Klincksieck.

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    Presents a comprehensive and wide-ranging theory of verb valency—basically, argument-taking potential. Introduces a distinction between arguments and adjuncts. After classifying verbs by number of selected arguments, surveys operations that augment or reduce valency and differences among languages in the valency of particular verbs.

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Early Development

Within Chomskyan generative grammar, the simplification of syntactic transformations and phrase-structure rules that gave rise to the government-binding framework also reshaped the understanding of the role of a lexical entry in the grammar: the encoding of a verb or other argument-taking lexical item’s arguments in its lexical entry—its argument structure—plays a critical part in determining the syntactic configurations that this element could be found in. Perhaps the earliest discussion of argument structure was provided by Williams 1981, with a fuller picture presented in Marantz 1984, which also discussed the effects of morphosyntactic operations on argument structure. Grimshaw 1990 was an especially influential monograph on argument structure, which extensively considered how a nominalization’s argument structure is derived from that of the base verb. As work on argument structure continued, there was a growing acknowledgment that a lexical item’s argument structure is determined by its meaning. This was implicitly acknowledged by listing arguments by their semantic roles in early argument structure representations. Rappaport and Levin 1988 argued that argument structures need not make reference to semantic notions, although their structure is shaped by such notions; this work provided one of the first discussions of how argument structure can mediate the mapping between an item’s semantic representation and its argument realization options by considering the locative alternation. Stowell 1992 provided an overview of the state of the art understanding of argument structure at the time of writing, and also reviewed key unresolved research questions. These ideas are further developed and elaborated in Pinker 1989.

  • Grimshaw, Jane. 1990. Argument structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Argues that argument structure is constituted of two representations, one thematic and one aspectual, which together determine the realization of a verb’s argument. Includes lengthy and much-referenced discussions of the argument structures of nominalizations and psych-verbs.

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  • Marantz, Alec P. 1984. On the nature of grammatical relations. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Presents a standard conception of argument structure, which distinguishes internal and external arguments, as well as direct and indirect internal arguments. Provides extensive discussion of how argument structure determines the syntactic configuration a verb is found in, and of how morphosyntactic processes affect argument structure and argument realization.

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  • Pinker, Steven. 1989. Learnability and cognition: The acquisition of argument structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Lays out an explicit theory of argument structure alternations in which each alternation represents two distinct verb meanings and the distribution of verbs is governed by general and verb-class specific constraints. Case studies include the causative, dative, and locative alternations.

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  • Rappaport, Malka, and Beth Levin. 1988. What to do with theta-roles. In Syntax and semantics. Vol. 21: Thematic relations. Edited by Wendy Wilkins, 7–36. New York: Academic Press.

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    Argues the structure of a verb’s argument structure is largely predictable from its meaning and determines the syntactic realization of its arguments. Uses the locative alternation to argue that argument structure alternations arise when a verb has two systematically related meanings, each determining a distinct syntactic realization of its arguments.

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  • Stowell, Tim. 1992. The role of the lexicon in syntactic theory. In Syntax and semantics. Vol. 26: Syntax and the lexicon. Edited by Tim Stowell and Eric Wehrli, 9–20. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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    An introduction to an edited volume, which presents the notion of argument structure within its historical context and discusses the issues that researchers were debating at the time the book was published—precisely the time when the notion was being taken most seriously.

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  • Williams, Edwin. 1981. Argument structure and morphology. The Linguistic Review 1.1: 81–114.

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    This paper, which perhaps can be viewed as introducing the notion of argument structure, considers how a verb’s argument structure carries over to morphologically related words. Takes argument structure to be a list of arguments, labeled by semantic roles, with a distinguished external argument.

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Syntacticized Approaches

Early work took argument structure to be an independent level of linguistic representation, but its structure in many ways mirrored the syntactic configurations it was projected onto. A series of papers by Hale and Keyser that culminated in a monograph (Hale and Keyser 2002) argued instead that the argument-taking properties of a predicate should be represented using a notion of l-syntax—roughly, syntactic structure in the lexicon. Hale and Keyser supported this move by arguing that syntactic principles could be used to constrain the set of available l-syntactic structures, explaining possible and impossible verb meanings. The syntactic representation of argument-taking properties—whether inside or outside the lexicon—received further impetus from Larson 1988. This paper introduced the much adopted notion of VP-shell, a syntactic construct that allows every argument to be uniquely identified by its own verbal predicate in a manner reminiscent of predicate decompositions. This consequence of VP-shells has been exploited in considerable research on argument structure–related phenomena. For instance, Ramchand 2008 uses event structure notions to motivate a set of verbal heads intended to define possible verb types. Syntacticized argument structures are a hallmark of the research cited under Neo-Constructionist Approaches, with Borer 2005 being particularly noteworthy and influential; however, the work listed in that section emphasizes the motivation for a constructionist rather than a lexical approach to argument structure, rather than the motivation for a syntacticized argument structure, the topic of this section.

  • Hale, Ken, and Samuel J. Keyser. 2002. Prolegomenon to a theory of argument structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Using morphosyntactic data from typologically diverse languages, the authors present a restricted set of syntactically instantiated argument structures defined by the notions of head, specifier, and complement, and the availability of heads belonging to different lexical categories.

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  • Larson, Richard K. 1988. On the double object construction. Linguistic Inquiry 19.3: 335–391.

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    Examines the notion of VP-shell, a syntactic projection, which allows an argument to be generated as the verb’s specifier, rather than as its complement.

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  • Ramchand, Gillian. 2008. Verb meaning and the lexicon: A first phase syntax. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511486319Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that a verb’s argument-taking properties are syntactically represented and defined in terms of a limited set of aspectually motivated syntactic heads; the various combinations of these heads serve to define verb classes.

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(NEO)-Constructionist Approaches

The 1990s saw a growing trend to question whether a verb has a lexically encoded argument structure at all. This questioning was sparked by the recognition that verbs and their arguments are found in diverse syntactic environments, suggesting that perhaps argument structure is not a property of lexical items. Instead, particular syntactic configurations are associated with specific, often general meanings, representing “argument structure constructions,” with verbs—or in neo-constructionist approaches, “roots”—being inserted into these constructions to fully instantiate them. Constructionist approaches were first introduced in Goldberg 1995 (cited under Constructionist Approaches), which took its inspiration from frame semantics and cognitive linguistics; such approaches represent constructions using a relatively superficial syntactic representation, which is paired with a more elaborated, often decompositional semantic representation. More recently, Borer and other researchers within the minimalist program have argued for so-called Neo-Constructionist Approaches, which use VP-shell-like structures in which functional heads provide the major components of the construction’s meaning. The two subsections provide references to work in the constructionist and neo-constructionist approaches.

Constructionist Approaches

Constructionist approaches take constructions to be form-meaning pairs. Proponents of this approach argue that constructions need to be recognized not only because a single verb can be found in a range of syntactic environments, each with their own meaning, but also because an individual construction has properties of its own, for instance, in regularly having multiple meanings associated with its defining syntactic form. Michaelis 2006 provides a general overview of this approach. Goldberg 1995 sets out and extensively argues for the constructionist approach, while Kay 2005 provides an alternative perspective. Michaelis and Ruppenhofer 2000 provides a comprehensive case study of a single argument-structure construction.

  • Goldberg, Adele E. 1995. Constructions: A Construction Grammar approach to argument structure. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    The first major study arguing for argument structure constructions as form-meaning pairs. Includes several extensive case studies; further motivates the notion of construction by showing that constructions themselves participate in regular patterns of polysemy from a central sense, just as words do.

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  • Kay, Paul. 2005. Argument structure constructions and the argument-adjunct distinction. In Grammatical constructions: Back to the roots. Edited by Mirjam Fried and Hans C. Boas, 71–98. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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    Presents a unification-based constructionist approach using head-driven phrase-structure grammar–inspired representations. Argues that what Goldberg has identified as multiple, independent senses of particular constructions actually are an artifact of unifying a verb’s idiosyncratic meaning with a construction’s own general meaning.

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  • Michaelis, Laura. 2006. Construction Grammar. In Encyclopedia of language and linguistics. 2d ed. Edited by Keith Brown, 73–84. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

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    Includes a succinct overview of the formal treatment of argument structure within construction grammar, emphasizing the motivations for taking a construction-based approach. Analyzes an argument structure construction to exemplify the approach.

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  • Michaelis, Laura A., and Josef Ruppenhofer. 2000. Valence creation and the German applicative: The inherent semantics of linking patterns. Journal of Semantics 17.4: 335–395.

    DOI: 10.1093/jos/17.4.335Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This comprehensive case study of the German applicative construction systematically illustrates how verbs of different semantic types are integrated into a complex construction. It pays careful attention to how the arguments in the verb-construction combination may vary from the arguments of the verb.

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Neo-Constructionist Approaches

Unlike the constructionist approach, the neo-constructionist approach sees the meaning of the construction as being instantiated by a syntactic configuration that, through the use of VP-shells (see Larson 1988, cited under Syntacticized Approaches), stands in for a predicate decomposition or “event structure.” Arguments are not associated with lexical items, but are identified by their relation to the functional heads that define the VP-shells making up the construction. Thus, this approach assumes abstract syntactic configurations that give rise to the “simpler” surface syntactic representation as a consequence of syntactic movement rules. Lexical items take the form of categoryless roots, whose lexical entries simply contain “encyclopedic” knowledge; these are inserted into particular constructions. The work of Borer presents perhaps the most detailed instantiation of the neo-constructionist approach to date. The general approach is presented in Borer 2003 and then considerably elaborated in Borer 2005. Harley and Noyer 2000 presents a distributed morphology approach to the differences in the argument-taking properties of categoryless heads in nominal and verbal environments, using richer lexical representations than Borer proposes. Cuervo and Roberge 2012 is a recent collection of papers illustrating the neo-constructionist approach.

  • Borer, Hagit. 2003. Exo-skeletal vs. endo-skeletal explanations: Syntactic projections and the lexicon. In The nature of explanation in linguistic theory. Edited by John Moore and Maria Polinsky, 31–67. Stanford, CA: CSLI.

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    Lays out the motivation behind the neo-constructionist approach, contrasts it with previous lexicalist approaches, and provides a concise introduction to how it works, using nominalizations as a case study.

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  • Borer, Hagit. 2005. Structuring sense. Vol. 2, The normal course of events. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199263929.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A book-length exposition of the neo-constructionist approach as it applies to a variety of phenomena that have come under the rubric of argument structure, including the contribution of internal arguments to telicity, unaccusativity, resultatives, and existentials.

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  • Cuervo, Maria Cristina, and Yves Roberge, eds. 2012. The end of argument structure. Bingley, UK: Emerald.

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    The papers in this volume argue for and illustrate neo-constructionist perspectives on argument structure–related issues and argument realization.

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  • Harley, Heidi, and Rolf Noyer. 2000. Formal versus encyclopedic properties of vocabulary: Evidence from nominalizations. In The lexicon-encyclopedia interface. Edited by Bert Peeters, 349–374. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

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    Presents a Distributed Morphology approach in which categoryless heads are lexically specified for their internal arguments. External arguments are not lexically specified, but occur when a head is lexically specified to occur as the complement of a functional head that introduces one.

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Conceptions in Theoretical Frameworks

Argument structure representations have been posited within various theoretical frameworks, with assumptions of the theory affecting the form these take. Andrews 1988 (cited under General Overviews) provides some brief comparative discussion. The subsections here cover major works that introduce argument structure as it is conceived of in several frameworks where it plays a particularly prominent part.

Head-Driven Phrase-Structure Grammar

Head-driven phrase-structure grammar (HPSG) is a lexicalist syntactic framework which posits that verbs have an argument structure that is distinct from the surface “valence,” the realization of those arguments as overt phrases, null arguments, or gaps in unbounded dependency constructions. Manning and Sag 1998 motivates the distinction between argument structure and valence. Davis and Koenig 2000 illustrates how another key property of HPSG, the organization of lexical items into inheritance hierarchies, bears on issues of argument structure. Sag, et al. 2003, an introductory textbook, covers the basics of the HPSG approach to verbs and their arguments. Both Davis and Koenig 2000 and Sag, et al. 2003 discuss the treatment of systematically related uses of verbs that differ in argument realization.

  • Davis, Anthony R., and Jean-Pierre Koenig. 2000. Linking as constraints on word classes in a hierarchical lexicon. Language 76.1: 56–91.

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    Shows how placing verbs into inheritance hierarchies allows lexical information specific to a verb to be integrated with information inherited from the lexical classes that it belongs to in order to ensure it shows attested argument realizations. Also discusses argument alternations, which are treated in the spirit of Pinker 1989 (cited under Early Development).

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  • Manning, Christopher D., and Ivan A. Sag. 1998. Argument structure, valence, and binding. Nordic Journal of Linguistics 21.2: 107–144.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0332586500004236Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for a syntacticized conception of argument structure within HPSG that distinguishes core from oblique arguments, organizing the members of each set according to a thematic hierarchy. Motivates it with data involving ergative case marking, passives, causatives, and binding phenomena from typologically diverse languages.

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  • Sag, Ivan A., Thomas Wasow, and Emily M. Bender. 2003. Syntactic theory: A formal introduction. 2d ed. Stanford, CA: CSLI.

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    Includes a treatment of the representation of the argument-taking properties of verbs, and the realization of arguments through valence features. Also illustrates the use of lexical rules to capture the relation between systematically related verb forms, via a case study of passivization.

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Lexical Decomposition Grammar

Lexical decomposition grammar (LDG) posits a semantic form, a predicate decomposition representation of verb meaning, with command relations over arguments in these decompositions determining a hierarchical ranking of a verb’s arguments. The ensuing ordered list of arguments constitutes the argument structure in this framework, and, in turn, constrains the possible realizations of arguments. Wunderlich 1997b presents the essentials of the overall approach with case studies of resultatives and lexical causatives, while Wunderlich 1997a focuses on the important operation of argument extension with case studies of particles, depictives, and resultatives. Wunderlich 2000 elaborates on both these papers, looking at a more extensive range of data from resultative constructions. Kaufmann 1995 explores the extension of this framework to unaccusativity.

  • Kaufmann, Ingrid. 1995. What is an (im-)possible verb? Restrictions on semantic form and their consequences for argument structure. Folia Linguistica 24.1–2: 67–103.

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    Explores the semantic foundations of the unaccusative versus unergative verb dichotomy to uncover semantic constraints on possible predicate decompositions that ensure the hierarchical relations between arguments in these decompositions allow appropriate argument structure effects to be derived. Discusses how conceptual structure interfaces with semantic form—the predicate decomposition representation.

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  • Wunderlich, Dieter. 1997a. Argument extension by lexical adjunction. Journal of Semantics 14.2: 95–142.

    DOI: 10.1093/jos/14.2.95Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    While overlapping with Wunderlich 1997b, this article focuses on the operation of argument extension, which allows the semantic form of an additional predicate with its own arguments—a particle, depictive, or resultative—to be integrated with a verb’s semantic form, with principles of LDG determining the ensuing argument structure and argument realization.

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  • Wunderlich, Dieter. 1997. Cause and the structure of verbs. Linguistic Inquiry 28.1: 27–68.

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    Introduces the basics of LDG, including its notion of argument structure and principles of argument realization, and illustrates it with an extensive case study of German causatives and resultatives.

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  • Wunderlich, Dieter. 2000. Predicate composition and argument extension as general options: A study in the interface of semantic and conceptual structure. In The lexicon in focus. Edited by Barbara Stiebels and Dieter Wunderlich, 247–270. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

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    Further elaborates the operation of argument extension through an investigation of cross-linguistic variation in the range of allowable resultative constructions.

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Lexical Functional Grammar

Fundamental to lexical functional grammar (LFG) is predicate-argument structure—or, later, a-structure—which provides a representation of a verb or other predicator’s argument-taking properties; arguments in the a-structure are then associated with grammatical functions. The earliest conception of a-structure and its role in the grammar was presented in Bresnan 1980. The notion of a-structure was considerably elaborated in the late 1980s as part of a more explicit theory of argument realization known as lexical mapping theory (LMT). An early presentation of LMT is found in Bresnan and Kanerva 1989. LMT treatments of unaccusativity are provided in Bresnan and Zaenen 1990 and in Zaenen 1993, which also deals with psych-verbs. An LFG treatment of sentential complement-taking verbs is presented in Zaenen and Engdahl 1994. Given the lexicalist nature of this framework, grammatical-function-changing processes are modeled as lexical rules operating on predicate-argument structures or a-structures, as in Bresnan’s account (in Bresnan 1982) of passive or Bresnan and Kanerva’s account (in Bresnan and Kanerva 1989) of locative inversion.

  • Bresnan, Joan. 1980. Polyadicity: Part I of a theory of lexical rules and representations. In Lexical grammar. Edited by Teun Hoekstra, Harry van der Hulst, and Michael Moortgat, 97–121. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Foris.

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    Explicates the notion of predicate-argument structure found in early LFG work, arguing it constitutes an independent lexical level of representation. Treats predicates with multiple argument realization options, focusing on the unspecified object alternation. Reprinted in The mental representation of grammatical relations, edited by Joan Bresnan (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982), pp. 149–172.

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  • Bresnan, Joan. 1982. The passive in lexical theory. In The mental representation of grammatical relations. Edited by Joan Bresnan, 3–86. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Presents a comprehensive lexicalist account of the English passive. Introduces a passive rule that operates on a verb’s lexical entry, preserving its predicate-argument structure but changing the grammatical functions associated with particular arguments.

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  • Bresnan, Joan, and Lauri M. Kanerva. 1989. Locative inversion in Chicheŵa: A case study of factorization in grammar. Linguistic Inquiry 20.1: 1–50.

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    Introduces LFG’s lexical mapping theory—a theory that delineates how a verb’s lexical entry gives rise to its argument’s realization. Lays out the concomitant conception of argument structure, a-structure, in which a verb’s arguments are identified by their semantic roles and annotated with features—their “intrinsic classifications”—which distill their potential syntactic realizations.

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  • Bresnan, Joan, and Annie Zaenen. 1990. Deep unaccusativity in LFG. In Grammatical relations: A cross-theoretical perspective. Edited by Katarzyna Dziwirek, Patrick Farrell, and Errapel Mejías-Bikandi, 45–57. Stanford, CA: CSLI.

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    Shows how LMT can provide a lexical approach to unaccusativity by providing an analysis of the distribution of resultative phrases in English—a phenomenon that had been argued to be in the domain of the syntax rather than the lexicon.

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  • Zaenen, Annie. 1993. Unaccusativity in Dutch: Integrating syntax and lexical semantics. In Semantics and the lexicon. Edited by James Pustejovsky, 129–161. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-011-1972-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides an analysis of basic properties of unaccusative and psych-verbs in Dutch within a modified LMT that exploits the proto-role entailments of Dowty 1991 (cited under Factors Driving Alternations), rather than using unanalyzable semantic roles as a basis for argument realization.

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  • Zaenen, Annie, and Elisabet Engdahl. 1994. Descriptive and theoretical syntax in the lexicon. In Computational approaches to the lexicon. Edited by B. T. S. Atkins and Antonio Zampolli, 181–212. Oxford: Clarendon.

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    A comparative overview of the lexical representations of control and raising verbs from LFG and government-binding perspectives.

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Role and Reference Grammar

In role and reference grammar (RRG), the role of argument structure in mediating the mapping between semantic representations and argument realization is satisfied by a logical structure representation consisting of largely aspectually motivated predicate decompositions in combination with a notion of macrorole, which generalizes across the semantic roles defined by argument positions in the logical structures, identifying those arguments which are realized with core grammatical functions. The logical structures are inspired by the treatment of aspectual classes in Dowty 1979 (cited under Semantic Underpinnings). As part of a detailed volume introducing RRG, Van Valin and LaPolla 1997 provides an extensive introduction to the logical structures, as well as discussion of how macroroles are identified with respect to these structures. Van Valin 2005 presents a more concise introduction that covers the essentials of the approach. Van Valin 2004 explicates the notion of macrorole. Van Valin 2006 provides a brief, self-contained introduction to the logical structures.

Theta Theory

Theta theory makes use of argument structures reminiscent of those of the 1980s in that they consist of a list of arguments; however, the arguments are differentiated using two binary-valued features, c—cause change and m—mental state, with different combinations of these features standing in for conventionally recognized semantic roles. Argument structure alternations are defined as operations on these argument structures, which make reference to these features. Currently, Reinhart 2002 provides the most extensive introduction to theta theory. The papers in Salmond2002 provide considerable commentary on the approach, while Everaert, et al. 2012 brings together a set of papers that address and extend the approach.

Components of Argument Structure

Just as subjects are not included in the subcategorization frames of the 1960s, researchers have argued that argument structures do not include the verb’s external argument—the argument structure analogue of a subject. This position, which is now frequently assumed, is most commonly attributed to Kratzer 1996, which builds on discussion in Marantz 1984 (cited under Early Development). Marantz 1997 (cited under Nominalization) further develops this position using data from nominalizations. Horvath and Siloni 2002, however, explicitly rebuts Kratzer’s point of view, as does Wechsler 2008. Williams 2008 takes Kratzer’s idea further and argues that a verb’s argument structure includes neither its subject nor its object—basically, the position taken in (neo)-constructionist approaches. Another point of contention involves whether the positions in an argument structure should be identified by semantic role labels, as they are in some of the earliest proposals for argument structure, such as Williams 1981 (cited under Early Development), but other work, such as Levin and Rappaport 1986, argues that reference to these notions is not required.

  • Horvath, Julia, and Tal Siloni. 2002. Against the little-v hypothesis. Rivista di Grammatica Generativa 27:107–122.

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    Argues that there are neither thematic nor morphological reasons for positing a little-v head that introduces a verb’s external argument; rather, the external argument should be included in a verb’s argument structure.

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  • Kratzer, Angelika. 1996. Severing the external argument from its verb. In Phrase structure and the lexicon. Edited by Johan Rooryck and Laurie Zaring, 109–137. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-015-8617-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Drawing its inspiration from Davidsonian representations of events, this influential paper argues that a verb’s argument structure does not include its external argument. It proposes instead that the external argument is introduced by little v, a functional head distinct from the verb itself.

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  • Levin, Beth, and Malka Rappaport. 1986. The formation of adjectival passives. Linguistic Inquiry 17.4: 623–661.

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    Argues that linguistic processes that modify a verb’s argument structure make reference to the structure of argument structure and not to the semantic role labels associated with arguments in this structure. Based on a case study of how a verb’s argument-taking properties are carried over to its adjectival passive.

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  • Wechsler, Stephen. 2008. A diachronic account of English deverbal nominals. In Proceedings of the 26th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics. Edited by Charles B. Chang and Hannah J. Haynie, 498–506. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

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    Argues that lexical items have an argument structure, and that, further, it should include an external argument. Draws on a diachronic examination of English nominalizations.

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  • Williams, Alexander. 2008. Patients in Igbo and Mandarin. In Event structures in linguistic form and interpretation. Edited by Johannes Dölling, Tatjana Heyde-Zybatow, and Martin Schäfer, 3–30. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

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    Argues on the basis of resultative verb-verb constructions in Mandarin Chinese and Igbo that what appear to be selected objects of verbs should not be represented as part of their argument structure, even when the verbs describe an event with two participants.

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Semantic Underpinnings

Argument structure was introduced as a level of representation that allows a verb or other predicator’s argument realization options to be properly predicted. This argument realization potential is typically captured in the structure of the argument structure, which is itself taken to be semantically motivated. Thus, researchers have hotly debated how best to characterize the semantic underpinnings of argument structure. In the earliest work on argument structure, the relevant meaning elements were taken to be semantic roles. Further, semantic roles were sometimes ranked in a thematic hierarchy, with argument realization principles being sensitive to the relative ranking of the semantic roles associated with the arguments in an argument structure, as proposed in Grimshaw 1990 (cited under Early Development) and Bresnan and Kanerva 1989 (cited under Lexical Functional Grammar). Wechsler 1995 illustrates such an approach. Other researchers emphasize that semantic roles are derived notions: they label positions in predicate decompositions, as shown in Rappaport and Levin 1988 (cited under Early Development). Concomitantly, interest shifted to such representations, with “event structure” becoming the term of choice for a lexical semantic representation. In fact, the representations cited under Syntacticized Approaches and Neo-Constructionist Approaches are of this type. Dowty 1991 (cited under Factors Driving Alternations) takes a different tack, arguing that although certain lexically entailed facets of a verb’s meaning, the so-called proto-agent and proto-patient entailments, influence which of its arguments is its subject or object, no single entailment is either necessary or sufficient for determining this. Independent of the form of the semantic representation, equally debated are the appropriate semantic determinants of argument realization: are the determinants causal notions such as agentivity and affectedness, aspectual notions such as telicity or incremental theme, or localist notions such as theme and location? Levin and Rappaport Hovav 2005 discusses the merits and challenges facing these three approaches. Jackendoff 1990 presents a theory of predicate decomposition with localist and causal dimensions, showing how both enter into argument realization. Anderson 2004 argues for the relevance of the causal notion of affectedness, also recognized by Jackendoff, while Beavers 2011 provides this notion with an aspectual grounding. Dowty’s proto-role approach (in Dowty 1991, cited under Factors Driving Alternations) acknowledges both causal and aspectual notions, as does Grimshaw 1990. Croft 2012 provides well-worked-out representations that recognize both these dimensions. Overall, aspectual notions have become increasingly prominent following Tenny’s introduction of the Aspectual Interface Hypothesis (in Tenny 1992), with syntacticized approaches, such as Ramchand’s First Phase Syntax (see Ramchand 2008, cited under Syntacticized Approaches) typically being aspectual in nature. Discussions of aspectual notions as semantic determinants are considerably influenced by Dowty 1979.

  • Anderson, Mona. 2004. Affectedness. In The Blackwell companion to syntax. Vol. 1. Edited by Martin Everaert and Henk van Riemsdijk, 121–141. Oxford: Blackwell.

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    A handbook article that reviews analyses of a variety of argument structure–related phenomena, in a range of languages, which are purported to make reference to affectedness.

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  • Beavers, John. 2011. On affectedness. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 29.2: 335–370.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11049-011-9124-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Gives an aspectual grounding to the notion of affectedness by defining it in terms of a theme that may undergo a scalar change; accounts for intuitions that there are degrees of affectedness by identifying a hierarchy of monotonically weaker truth conditions that may hold of the result state of the theme.

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  • Croft, William. 2012. Verbs: Aspect and causal structure. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199248582.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Identifies causal and aspectual factors that contribute to argument realization through detailed case studies of the argument realization of verbs, as well as a variety of other argument structure phenomena, including argument structure alternations and complex predicates.

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  • Dowty, David R. 1979. Word meaning and Montague grammar: The semantics of verbs and times in generative semantics and in Montague’s PTQ. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Reidel.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-009-9473-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a thorough introduction to aspectual classes, sets out much-referenced diagnostics for class membership, and motivates a model-theoretic grounding for these classes. Presents illuminating discussions of agency, causation, and their interaction with aspectual classification. Later chapters give formal semantic treatments of various phenomena.

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  • Jackendoff, Ray S. 1990. Semantic structures. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Presents semantic representations termed “conceptual structures” of numerous English verbs, which distinguish localist from “actional” components of meaning. Those arguments in the conceptual structures that are syntactically expressed are indicated, and linking rules are introduced to associate them properly with their syntactic realization, making an independent argument structure unnecessary.

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  • Levin, Beth, and Malka Rappaport Hovav. 2005. Argument realization. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511610479Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    While not strictly on argument structure, this volume provides a critical overview and evaluation of the semantic notions that enter into argument realization—precisely the notions relevant to formulating argument structures. Includes introductions to semantic roles and thematic hierarchies—two constructs that figure prominently in work on argument structure.

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  • Tenny, Carol L. 1992. The aspectual interface hypothesis. In Lexical matters. Edited by Ivan A. Sag and Anna Szabolcsi, 1–27. Stanford, CA: CSLI.

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    Argues for the aspectual interface hypothesis—that the principles of mapping from semantics to argument structure are governed by aspectual properties—and identifies the relevant aspectual property as “measuring out,” a cousin of the notion “incremental theme” introduced in Dowty 1991 (cited under Factors Driving Alternations).

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  • Wechsler, Stephen. 1995. The semantic basis of argument structure. Stanford, CA: CSLI.

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    Proposes and extensively illustrates a model of a verb’s argument structure as an ordered list of semantic roles, chosen to cover a wider range of transitive verb types than typically considered. Also introduces principles for mapping from argument structure onto head-driven phrase-structure grammar (HPSG) style subcategorization frames.

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Verbs with Noteworthy Argument Structures

Considerable attention has been devoted to understanding the argument-taking properties of particular semantic classes of verbs. Concomitantly, the notion of argument structure itself receives added value if distinctive properties of verbs of particular types can be traced to their argument structures. This section contains subsections each of which reviews work on an especially well-studied verb class. Other semantic classes of verbs whose argument structures have received considerable attention are those that participate in the causative, dative, or locative alternations; work on these verbs is included in Argument Structure Alternations.

Unaccusative and Unergative Verbs

The unaccusative hypothesis states that there are two types of intransitive verbs: one whose single argument is an underlying object, and one whose argument is an underlying subject. An introduction to the notion of unaccusativity and to the grammatical phenomena that are used to diagnose an intransitive verb’s classification is provided by Zaenen 2006. The unaccusative hypothesis is introduced by Perlmutter 1978 in relational grammar, as also described by Pullum 1988, and then extended by Burzio 1986 to the government-binding framework. Bresnan and Zaenen 1990 (cited under Lexical Functional Grammar) provides an analysis within lexical functional grammar’s (LFG’s) lexical mapping theory. Levin and Rappaport Hovav 1995 confronts the semantic underpinnings of the unaccusative hypothesis, arguing that unaccusativity is syntactically represented but semantically determined. Based on contrastive studies of unaccusative phenomena in European languages and patterns of second-language acquisition, Sorace 2000 argues for a gradient approach to the classification of verbs in various semantic classes as unaccusative or unergative. Alexiadou, et al. 2003 collects papers that address diverse facets of unaccusativity, including a much-cited paper, Chierchia 2003. Since many verbs show both unaccusative and unergative behavior, some researchers have proposed that a verb is not lexically classified as unaccusative or unergative, but rather that there are unaccusative and unergative constructions, as discussed in Borer 2003 (cited under Neo-Constructionist Approaches).

  • Alexiadou, Artemis, Elena Anagnostopoulou, and Martin Everaert, eds. 2003. The unaccusativity puzzle: Explorations of the syntax-lexicon interface. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This volume collects papers presenting varied perspectives on the nature of unaccusativity, based on data from a range of languages.

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  • Burzio, Luigi. 1986. Italian syntax: A government-binding approach. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Reidel.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-009-4522-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The foundational treatment of unaccusativity within the government-binding framework, although it is not couched explicitly in argument structure terms. Introduces what is now known as Burzio’s generalization, which links external arguments and accusative case.

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  • Chierchia, Gennaro. 2003. A semantics for unaccusatives and its syntactic consequences. In The unaccusativity puzzle: Explorations of the syntax-lexicon interface. Edited by Artemis Alexiadou, Elena Anagnostopoulou, and Martin Everaert, 22–59. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This much-cited paper, published fifteen years after it first circulated in manuscript form, argues that unaccusative verbs are underlying reflexives; that is, The boat sank should be analyzed as “The boat sank itself.” It includes a postscript affirming that the analysis still stands at the time of publication.

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  • Levin, Beth, and Malka Rappaport Hovav. 1995. Unaccusativity: At the syntax-lexical semantics interface. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Argues that unaccusativity is syntactically represented but semantically determined, using case studies from the resultative construction, the causative alternation, and locative inversion. Identifies specific semantic determinants of unaccusativity and formulates rules about the associations of semantic determinants and unaccusative/unergative argument structure.

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  • Perlmutter, David M. 1978. Impersonal passives and the unaccusative hypothesis. In Proceedings of the 4th Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, February 18–20, 1978. Edited by Jeri Jaeger, 157–189. Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society, Univ. of California.

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    The first published paper claiming that there are intransitive verbs selecting for an object based on data from impersonal passivization. Sets out a still referenced list of semantic predicate types that determine unaccusative versus unergative classification.

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  • Pullum, Geoffrey. 1988. Citation etiquette beyond Thunderdome. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 6.4: 579–588.

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    This brief column illuminates the origins of the notion of unaccusativity, which it attempts to trace as part of a case study of good and bad citation practices. Reprinted with a new introduction by the author in Pullum’s The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax and Other Irreverent Essays on the Study of Language (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991), pp. 147–158.

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  • Sorace, Antonella. 2000. Gradients in auxiliary selection with intransitive verbs. Language 76.4: 859–890.

    DOI: 10.2307/417202Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows that semantic classes of intransitive verbs form a hierarchy, with languages choosing different cutoff points along it to distinguish which verbs will pattern as unaccusative with respect to diagnostics such as auxiliary selection. Argues that neither projectionist nor constructionist approaches to unaccusativity can accommodate this data.

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  • Zaenen, Annie. 2006. Unaccusativity. In Encyclopedia of language and linguistics. 2d ed. Edited by Keith Brown, 217–224. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

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    A handbook article giving an overview of unaccusativity, reviewing diagnostics for unaccusativity, and presenting challenges for theories of unaccusativity, such as the viability of providing semantic underpinnings for the class and the existence of unaccusative mismatches.

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Psych-Verbs

Verbs of psychological state, such as fear and frighten, often known as psych-verbs, have long elicited interest because the “flipped” argument realization of members of this pair suggests there is arbitrariness in argument realization, and thus such verbs present an important domain for exploring issues in argument structure. Some researchers claim that all psych-verbs share at least some facets of argument structure, but allow for variation in the realization of their arguments, as in Belletti and Rizzi 1988, a much-cited study. Landau 2010 ties a range of noteworthy properties of these verbs to cross-linguistic differences in the realization of their experiencer argument. Alternatively, other researchers propose that fear-type and frighten-type psych-verbs are fundamentally different in their semantics and, hence, have distinct argument structures, giving rise to their distinct argument realization, as seen in Grimshaw 1990, Pesetsky 1995, and Reinhart 2002 (cited under Theta Theory). Wechsler 1995 (cited under Semantic Underpinnings) also discusses the semantic and argument realization differences between the two types of psych-verbs, relating them in part to whether the experiencer has a “notion” of the stimulus. For an illuminating, brief discussion of the semantics of psych-verbs in a cross-linguistic context and its correlations with argument realization, see Croft 1993.

  • Belletti, Adriana, and Luigi Rizzi. 1988. Psych-verbs and θ-theory. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 6.3: 291–352.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00133902Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This widely cited study, written in the Government-Binding framework, proposes lexical representations for three classes of psych-verbs. These representations share a common core, with differences in argument realization arising from the way the experiencer is projected and case-marked. Its treatment of frighten-type psych-verbs as covert unaccusatives has been criticized in later work.

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  • Croft, William. 1993. Case marking and the semantics of mental verbs. In Semantics and the lexicon. Edited by James Pustejovsky, 55–72. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-011-1972-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    While not explicitly on argument structure, this brief paper bears on controversies over whether all psych-verbs have the same argument structure. It lays out the semantic subtypes of psych-verbs, and using a causal model of events suggests why each type is associated with distinct argument realization properties.

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  • Grimshaw, Jane. 1990. Argument structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Argues that certain frighten-type psych-verbs are causative and, thus, have an external argument, contra Belletti and Rizzi 1988. Accounts for their unique properties by giving them two-tiered argument structures, distinguishing aspectual and causal components of meaning.

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  • Landau, Idan. 2010. The locative syntax of experiencers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Proposes that many of the unique and puzzling properties of psych-verbs, in a range of languages, dissolve if experiencers are taken to be locations and are instantiated as prepositional phrases, which show locative inversion covertly or overtly in the syntax.

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  • Pesetsky, David. 1995. Zero syntax: Experiencers and cascades. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    This study of psych-verbs, which covers considerable other ground, too, argues that the fear-type and frighten-type verbs are semantically distinct and, hence, should not have the same syntactic analysis, contra Belletti and Rizzi 1988. Posits complex syntactic representations named “cascades” to handle some unique properties of psych-verbs.

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Argument Structure Alternations

Researchers have identified systematically recurring alternations in the expression of the arguments of verbs of certain semantic types; these are referred to here as “argument structure alternations.” As this name suggests, these alternations have often been analyzed in terms of the argument-taking properties of verbs and, hence, argument structures, although they have also received analyses where the label “argument structure alternation” makes reference to “argument structure” in its descriptive sense. Many argument structure alternations originally received transformational analyses, which essentially assumed the alternating verbs have a single meaning and, hence, argument structure, with a transformation giving rise to an alternative realization of their arguments. However, differences in the meanings of the variants making up an alternation suggest that lexical treatments, where an alternating verb had two distinct meanings and, hence, two distinct argument structures, each with its own realization of arguments, might be preferable. More recently, these differences in meaning have been attributed to distinct constructions associated with each variant of an alternation, rather than to the verbs showing the alternation, as argued in Goldberg 2002. Key references to varying types of account are provided in subsequent subsections, each devoted to an argument structure alternation that has received particular attention. An overview of the full range of English argument structure alternations is presented in Levin 1993. As this book is a rich source of bibliographic references, in the section on each alternation, the focus is on work since 1993, with minimal earlier references. The sections on specific alternations are followed by a section that reviews the general semantic factors thought to drive argument structure alternations.

  • Goldberg, Adele E. 2002. Surface generalizations: An alternative to alternations. Cognitive Linguistics 13.4: 327–356.

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    Argues that it is fruitful to consider each variant in an alternation in its own right as an argument structure construction, even when paraphrase relations exist between variants—a property that has promoted describing them jointly as alternations.

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  • Levin, Beth. 1993. English verb classes and alternations: A preliminary investigation. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Part I provides a detailed inventory of English argument structure alternations, with short descriptions of noteworthy features and lists of relevant verbs. Part II presents English verb classes, annotated with the alternations their members do or do not show. Includes extensive bibliographic references.

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Causative Alternation

One of the most studied argument structure alternations, and perhaps one of the most widely attested across languages, is the causative alternation represented by The stagehand dimmed the lights/The lights dimmed. A review of the properties of this alternation and the theoretical approaches to it can be found in Schäfer 2009. Much of the theoretical discussion of this alternation has focused on the question of which variant is basic, the transitive or the intransitive variant? The answer has repercussions for the basic argument structure representation of these verbs. Levin and Rappaport Hovav 1995 and Koontz-Garboden 2009 both argue that in terms of argument structure these verbs are basically two-argument, causative verbs, but they provide different accounts of the anticausative use. Alexiadou, et al. 2006 argues instead for a syntacticized approach in which change-of-state roots occur with different functional heads, giving rise to the causative alternation. Arguments for which variant is basic have been made in part based on morphosyntactic considerations, so Haspelmath 1993, which provides typological data bearing on these considerations, is also included here.

  • Alexiadou, Artemis, Elena Anagnostopoulou, and Florian Schäfer. 2006. The properties of anti-causatives crosslinguistically. In Phases of interpretation. Edited by Mara Frascarelli, 187–211. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110197723Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proposes an analysis of the causative alternation in which change-of-state roots combine with functional heads that may introduce explicit causer or agent arguments in the syntax. Cross-linguistic differences in the available heads accounts for differences in the morphology associated with the alternation across languages.

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  • Haspelmath, Martin. 1993. More on the typology of inchoative/causative verb alternations. In Causatives and transitivity. Edited by Bernard Comrie and Maria Polinsky, 87–120. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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    While not about the argument structure of the causative alternation, this paper presents a study of the morphological encoding of the alternation in a range of languages, which has influenced and should continue to influence subsequent analyses of the alternation.

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  • Koontz-Garboden, Andrew. 2009. Anticausativization. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 27:77–138.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11049-008-9058-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides an analysis of the alternation in which the anticausative variant is derived from the causative variant via an operation of reflexivization, along the lines proposed by Chierchia 2003 (cited under Unaccusative and Unergative Verbs). Shows how it accounts for a wide range of data, both known and new, while having conceptually desirable properties.

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  • Levin, Beth, and Malka Rappaport Hovav. 1995. Unaccusativity: At the syntax-lexical semantics interface. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Chapter 3 provides an analysis of the causative alternation that takes the causative variant as basic, with the anticausative variant being derived by “lexically binding” the causer argument.

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  • Schäfer, Florian. 2009. The causative alternation. Language and Linguistics Compass 3.2: 641–681.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-818X.2009.00127.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introduces the causative alternation, balancing discussion of its empirical properties with overviews and assessments of leading analyses. Pays special attention to the proper treatment of the external argument of causative alternation verbs, drawing contrasts to apparently comparable constructions, such as passives and middles, which these verbs are also found in.

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Dative Alternation

Perhaps one of the most studied alternations, the dative alternation involves the alternate realization of two VP-internal arguments (give Pat a present/give a present to Pat). Since there is no change in the number of arguments, it has often been assumed that the alternate realizations of the arguments are simply that, leading to purely syntactic analyses of the alternation, many of which are reviewed in Emonds and Whitney 2004, which also lays out the basic facts about this alternation. Moving beyond early transformational accounts of this alternation, Larson 1988 (cited under Syntacticized Approaches) provides an updated transformational account that makes use of VP-shells. However, other researchers point to differences in the meaning of the two variants as evidence against such accounts, and they suggest instead that each dative verb has a distinct meaning in each variant. Such an analysis is implemented by associating two argument structures or lexical semantic representations with each dative verb, each giving rise to a distinct argument realization. Pinker 1989 (cited under Early Development) and Harley 2003 provide different instantiations of this approach, with Pinker focusing on a fine-grained explanation of the set of verbs that show the alternation, and Harley focusing on the properties that distinguish one variant from the other. Goldberg 1995 (cited under Constructionist Approaches) proposes a constructionist analysis, which attributes the two perceived meanings to the constructions that dative verbs are found in. However, since the late 1970s there have been studies that raise questions about the adequacy of analyses that attribute variant choice to distinct meanings, whether constructionist in nature or not. Arnold, et al. 2000 and Bresnan, et al. 2007 are representative of such studies, which argue that multiple factors affect variant choice, including information structure and weight considerations. In this context, Rappaport Hovav and Levin 2008 argues that the relation between a verb’s core meaning and the variants is more complex than earlier semantically driven approaches make out, proposing a “verb-sensitive” analysis, which also recognizes a place for information structure and grammatical weight.

  • Arnold, Jennifer E., Thomas Wasow, Anthony Losongco, and Ryan Ginstrom. 2000. Heaviness vs. newness: The effects of structural complexity and discourse status on constituent ordering. Language 76.1: 28–55.

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    Presents corpus and experimental studies that show that both grammatical weight and newness affect constituent order and, hence, variant choice with dative alternation verbs. Shows that multiple, interacting constraints need to be integrated into processing and production models of such phenomena.

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  • Bresnan, Joan, Anna Cueni, Tatiana Nikitina, and Harald Baayen. 2007. Predicting the dative alternation. In Cognitive foundations of interpretation. Edited by Gerlof Bouma, Irene Krämer, and Joost Zwarts, 69–94. Amsterdam: Royal Netherlands Academy of Science.

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    Using naturally occurring conversation data, shows the space of dative alternation possibilities is wider than intuition-based studies suggest. Presents a multifactorial probabilistic model of this data that predicts variant choice; key factors include givenness and grammatical weight, as well as factors correlated with givenness such as animacy and definiteness.

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  • Emonds, Joseph, and Rosemarie Whitney. 2004. Double object constructions. In The Blackwell companion to syntax. Vol. 2. Edited by Martin Everaert and Henk van Riemsdijk, 73–144. Oxford: Blackwell.

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    This lengthy and detailed handbook article lays out the central properties of the dative alternation and reviews the major generative accounts of the alternation.

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  • Harley, Heidi. 2003. Possession and the double object construction. In Linguistic variation yearbook 2. Edited by Pierre Pica and Johan Rooryck, 31–70. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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    Proposes that dative alternation verbs have two distinct configurationally represented meanings—one in terms of change of position and one in terms of change of possession—projecting different elaborated syntactic structures, where each syntactic position represents a particular semantic interpretation for the argument occupying it.

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  • Rappaport Hovav, Malka, and Beth Levin. 2008. The English dative alternation: The case for verb sensitivity. Journal of Linguistics 44.1: 129–167.

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    Reassesses the empirical foundations of previous uniform multiple meaning approaches and shows that they cannot be maintained for all dative verbs. Argues the alternation has distinct sources: with give-type verbs it reflects information structure and weight considerations, while with send- and throw-type verbs it may also reflect distinct meanings.

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Locative Alternation

Like the dative alternation, this alternation involves the alternate realization of two VP-internal arguments, but it involves notions of putting and covering (spray paint on the wall/spray the wall with paint) or removing (clear the dishes from the table/clear the table of dishes), rather than giving. An overview of its properties and previous accounts is found in Arad 2004. The key property of the alternation is that the location is understood as “affected,” as argued in Anderson 1971, or is an “incremental theme,” as argued in Dowty 1991 (cited under Factors Driving Alternations) when it is expressed as object—the best characterization being the subject of ongoing debate. Like the dative alternation, this alternation was first given a transformational account; however, Anderson 1971 shows such an account cannot handle the affectedness effects. Gropen, et al. 1991 presents psycholinguistic studies that show the reality of these effects, and argues that the variants encode different meanings, each giving rise to a distinct argument structure, along the lines of Pinker 1989 and Rappaport and Levin 1988 (both cited under Early Development). Iwata 2005 provides an account that brings together a verb’s lexical meaning with constructionally based meanings assigned to each variant. Segal and Landau 2012 analyzes the removing form of the alternation in Hebrew, while Dowty 2000 explores the characteristic of the intransitive form of the alternation—the swarm alternation—in English.

  • Anderson, Stephen R. 1971. On the role of deep structure in semantic interpretation. Foundations of Language 7.3: 387–396.

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    Identifies the holistic/partitive effect that characterizes the location argument of locative alternation verbs; discusses the implications of this effect for the analysis of the locative alternation, concluding that a transformational account of the locative alternation is untenable, setting the stage for argument structure–based accounts.

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  • Arad, Maya. 2004. The spray-load alternation. In The Blackwell companion to syntax. Vol. 4. Edited by Martin Everaert and Henk van Riemsdijk, 466–478. Oxford: Blackwell.

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    A handbook article that introduces the distinctive properties of the locative alternation and reviews several accounts of the alternation.

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  • Dowty, David. 2000. “The garden swarms with bees” and the fallacy of “argument alternation.” In Polysemy: Theoretical and computational approaches. Edited by Yael Ravin and Claudia Leacock, 111–128. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Provides a careful semantic analysis of the swarm alternation—the intransitive form of the locative alternation; argues that each variant has its own semantics, with the locative subject variant (The garden is swarming with bees) arising from a form of metonymic semantic extension.

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  • Gropen, Jess, Steven Pinker, Michelle Hollander, and Richard Goldberg. 1991. Affectedness and direct objects: The role of lexical semantics in the acquisition of verb argument structure. Cognition 41.1–3: 153–195.

    DOI: 10.1016/0010-0277(91)90035-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using experimental evidence from children and adults, argues that affectedness defined as either change of location or change of state is key to determining which argument of a locative alternation or related verb is expressed as its object.

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  • Iwata, Seizi. 2005. Locative alternation and two levels of verb meaning. Cognitive Linguistics 16.2: 355–407.

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    A cognitive grammar–inspired account of the English locative alternation that pays careful attention to the respective contribution of the verb’s own meaning and the meaning of the construction representing each variant to account for restrictions on alternating verbs.

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  • Segal, Zehavit, and Idan Landau. 2012. Clear from and clear of: The asymmetric syntax of detaching. The Linguistic Review 29.2: 223–278.

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    Analyzes the removing form of the locative alternation in Hebrew, with some reference to English, using the notion of scalar change to account for why some verbs do and others do not show the alternation, as well as for the meaning encoded by each of the variants of the alternation.

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Factors Driving Alternations

If alternations arise because the variants reflect distinct meanings, whether attributable to their verb or to the construction they represent, the question is, what elements of meaning are relevant? There are two major hypotheses concerning these elements of meaning. One takes the variants to differ in some way in affectedness, as shown in Gropen, et al. 1991 (cited under Locative Alternation) and Beavers 2010; see also Semantic Underpinnings. The second takes them to involve aspectual differences; specifically, differences in telicity or in the argument identified as incremental theme, as in van Hout 2000. Dowty 1991 introduces a theory of object alternations based on which of two arguments better qualifies as a “proto-patient”; this approach acknowledges both types of factors. Ackerman and Moore 2001 extends Dowty’s approach to the alternate realizations of a single argument as either subject or object, or else oblique, arguing that on the nonoblique realization, the argument better qualifies as a proto-agent, if subject, or proto-patient, if object, than on the oblique realization. Beavers 2010 focuses on object-oblique alternations and argues that object realizations involve a higher degree of affectedness of an argument than its oblique realization, based on a hierarchy of affectedness formalized in Beavers 2011 (cited under Semantic Underpinnings). However, since the late 1980s there has been a line of work that takes a different approach to the dative alternation and related phenomena (e.g., active versus passive sentence choice or placement of a particle with respect to an object), which proposes that variant choice is not determined solely by verb meaning, but is also governed by information structure and grammatical weight considerations. This approach is illustrated by Arnold, et al. 2000 and Bresnan, et al. 2007 (both cited under Dative Alternation).

  • Ackerman, Farrell, and John Moore. 2001. Proto-properties and grammatical encoding: A correspondence theory of argument selection. Stanford, CA: CSLI.

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    Argues for a paradigmatic argument selection principle inspired by Dowty 1991 to account for an argument’s realization as an oblique versus as a subject or object: this argument is a subject or object when it has more of the relevant proto-role entailments (agent for subject, patient for object) than when it is an oblique.

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  • Beavers, John. 2010. The structure of lexical meaning: Why semantics really matters. Language 86.4: 821–864.

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    Argues that alternations involving the direct object versus oblique realization of a particular argument such as the conative and locative alternations reflect differences in degree of affectedness attributed to that argument, with the stronger degree corresponding to its object realization.

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  • Dowty, David R. 1991. Thematic proto-roles and argument selection. Language 67.3: 547–619.

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    As part of a larger theory of subject and object selection for transitive verbs, Dowty argues that object alternations arise when verbs impose the same number of lexical semantic entailments on two arguments qualifying both as patients. These entailments include the aspectual notion of incremental theme, as well as causal notions such as “causally affected” and “changes state.”

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  • van Hout, Angeliek. 2000. Event semantics in the lexicon-syntax interface. In Events as grammatical objects: The converging perspectives of lexical semantics and syntax. Edited by Carol Tenny and James Pustejovsky, 239–281. Stanford, CA: CSLI.

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    Proposes that certain argument realization alternations are instances of “event type-shifting”—i.e., a change in whether the construction is aspectually telic or atelic; specifically, argues that the argument that a change of state or location is predicated of must be realized as an object.

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Manifestation across Lexical Categories

Although argument structures were first posited for verbs, items from other lexical categories also take arguments, and their argument-taking properties have also received attention. This section points to some basic references on the argument structure of items in other lexical categories, with an emphasis on those members of these categories that are not deverbal and, thus, would not simply be inheriting their argument structure from a base verb. Allerton 2006 (cited under Antecedents and Analogues) includes a brief discussion of adjectives and nouns from a valency perspective. The argument structure of nouns has received particular attention, in part because there are productive processes of deriving deverbal nouns, that is, nominalizations, and in part because possession, which sets up a relation between a possessor and a possessum, is ubiquitous within the nominal domain. Alexiadou, et al. 2007 surveys issues in the argument structure of a wide range of nominal types as part of a larger treatment of noun phrases. Anderson 1983–1984 discusses possessors from a Government-Binding perspective. Barker and Dowty 1993 considers various types of relational nouns within Dowty’s proto-role perspective (Dowty 1991, cited under Factors Driving Alternations). Adjectives have been taken to uniformly have an external argument—the argument that they are predicated of; however, Cinque 1990, a much-cited paper, argues that some adjectives lack external arguments. Stowell 1991 examines the distinctive argument structure of mental property adjectives. Svenonius 2007 discusses the argument structure of adpositions, drawing parallels between adpositions and verbs. Finally, Amith and Smith-Stark 1994, a paper that focuses on kinship relations, is included as a case study of repercussions for argument structure and argument realization when certain semantic notions are instantiated using lexical items in more than one lexical category.

  • Alexiadou, Artemis, Liliane Haegeman, and Melita Stavrou. 2007. Noun phrase in the generative perspective. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110207491Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The fourth part of this comprehensive work on the structure of noun phrases examines the expression of arguments within noun phrases. It includes a chapter on nominalizations, as well as a chapter on possessors in nominals, both alienable and inalienable, as types of arguments.

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  • Amith, Jonathan D., and Thomas C. Smith-Stark. 1994. Predicate nominal and transitive verbal expressions of interpersonal relations. Linguistics 32.3: 511–547.

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    Kinship relations necessarily involve a relation of possession between two individuals; though typically encoded nominally, there are languages where the relation may be encoded verbally, with the individuals treated as arguments of a verb. This paper reviews the two strategies, as well as the factors involved in choosing between them when both coexist in a language.

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  • Anderson, Mona. 1983–1984. Prenominal genitive NPs. The Linguistic Review 3.1: 1–24.

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    Proposes an account within the government-binding framework of the varied semantic relations that prenominal possessors can bear to their head noun; while many of the examples involve nominalized verbs as head nouns, other types of examples are also discussed.

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  • Barker, Chris, and David Dowty. 1993. Non-verbal thematic proto-roles. In Proceedings of the North Eastern Linguistic Society 23. Edited by Amy J. Schafer, 49–62. Amherst: Graduate Linguistics Student Association, Univ. of Massachusetts.

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    Extends Dowty’s proto-role approach (See Dowty 1991, cited under Factors Driving Alternations) to relational noun phrases, proposing that the choice of head versus prenominal possessor/of complement is determined by proto-part and proto-whole semantic entailments.

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  • Cinque, Guglielmo. 1990. Ergative adjectives and the lexicalist hypothesis. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 8.1: 1–39.

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    Argues against the claim that all adjectives have an external argument (see Williams 1981, cited under Early Development), demonstrating that there are unaccusative adjectives, which lack an external argument, as well as unergative adjectives, which have such an argument. Further argues that adjectives derived from unaccusative verbs are not themselves unaccusative.

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  • Stowell, Timothy. 1991. The alignment of arguments in adjective phrases. In Syntax and semantics. Vol. 25, Perspectives on phrase structure: Heads and licensing. Edited by Susan D. Rothstein, 105–135. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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    A detailed case study of the argument structure and argument realization options characteristic of mental property adjectives (e.g., clever, imprudent), as well as some semantically related adjectives.

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  • Svenonius, Peter. 2007. Adpositions, particles and the arguments they introduce. In Argument structure. Edited by Eric Reuland, Tanmoy Bhattacharya, and Giorgos Spathas, 63–103. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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    Proposes adpositions take a location internal argument and a theme (i.e., located or moved entity) external argument based on cross-linguistic data. Based on a comparison of adpositions to verbs, proposes a syntacticized instantiation of adpositional argument structure where a little-p functional head introduces the theme (see Kratzer 1996, cited under Components of Argument Structure).

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Morphology

The notion of argument structure was first introduced in works such as Williams 1981 (cited under Early Development), which explores how a verb’s lexical properties carry over to morphologically related forms. This topic continues to interest researchers, and there is now a significant literature on it. After presenting a subsection reviewing references on whether morphological processes that affect argument structure should be explained within the domain of the syntax or the lexicon, subsequent subsections review the areas of compounding, nominalization, and grammatical relation changing affixes.

The Domain of Argument Structure Affecting Morphology

There has been an ongoing debate concerning whether the effects of morphological processes that affect argument structure are best characterized within the domain of the lexicon or the syntax. The transformational treatments of such affixes considered any effects to involve the syntax, but the burden shifted away from the syntax with the introduction of lexicalism. Wasow 1977 addresses the issue of the appropriate locus of morphological processes, presenting explicit criteria for determining whether a phenomenon is in the domain of the lexicon and syntax. Bresnan 1982 presents a lexicalist account of the passive, which continues to be an important source of arguments for such accounts. Nevertheless, Baker 1988 proposes that morphological operations are in the domain of the syntax, arguing that independently needed syntactic principles account for the effects of morphology on the realization of a verb’s arguments. In a series of papers represented here by Reinhart and Siloni 2005, Reinhart and her colleagues argue that certain affixes can have effects either in the syntax or in the lexicon.

  • Baker, Mark. 1988. Incorporation: A theory of grammatical function changing. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Argues that grammatical-relation-changing affixes should not be analyzed as operating on the lexical entry of a verb, but rather should be treated as syntactic heads that combine with a verb via head movement, subject to general syntactic constraints, with concomitant effects on argument realization.

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  • Bresnan, Joan. 1982. The passive in lexical theory. In The mental representation of grammatical relations. Edited by Joan Bresnan, 3–86. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    This comprehensive lexical functional grammar (LFG) analysis of the English passive makes key arguments for why this phenomenon should receive a lexicalist account. It further demonstrates that a lexicalist treatment can be provided for data taken to support a transformational account of the passive.

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  • Reinhart, Tanya, and Tal Siloni. 2005. The lexicon-syntax parameter: Reflexivization and other arity operations. Linguistic Inquiry 36.3: 389–436.

    DOI: 10.1162/0024389054396881Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proposes that operations which affect argument structure, and hence argument realization, may apply within the lexicon or the syntax, with languages differing in this respect; this paper makes this point with reflexivization, with some reference to other detransitivization processes.

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  • Wasow, Thomas. 1977. Transformations and the lexicon. In Formal syntax: Proceedings of the 1976 MSSB-UC Irvine Conference on the Formal Syntax of Natural Language, June 9-11, 1976. Edited by Peter Culicover, Thomas Wasow, and Adrian Akmajian, 327–360. New York: Academic Press.

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    Argues for a lexical approach to the causative alternation, adjectival passives, and -able adjectives, setting the stage for argument structure–based analyses of these phenomena. Simultaneously, it delineates a much-used set of diagnostics for distinguishing lexical from syntactic phenomena.

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Compounding

Argument structure considerations play an important part in determining the possible interpretations of compounds, particularly compounds whose head is a deverbal noun. This point is effectively made by Roeper and Siegel 1978 with respect to deverbal compounds. Selkirk 1982 and Lieber 1983 build on this work, each proposing an argument structure–based account of compound interpretation; Selkirk’s account focuses on deverbal compounds, while Lieber’s is broader in scope, encompassing compounds whose head is either morphologically simple or deverbal. Lieber 2004 provides an updated account of compound interpretation as part of a more extensive study of English word formation.

  • Lieber, Rochelle. 1983. Argument linking and compounds in English. Linguistic Inquiry 14.2: 251–285.

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    Proposes an account of possible English compounds—both deverbal and other—and their interpretation in terms of the satisfaction of the argument structure of the head of the compound.

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  • Lieber, Rochelle. 2004. Morphology and lexical semantics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511486296Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Drawing on the detailed theory of the lexical semantics of English word formation presented in this book, chapter 2 introduces a principle of coindexation that determines how the parts of a compound are integrated into a whole, giving rise to observed semantic interpretations.

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  • Roeper, Thomas, and Muffy Siegel. 1978. A lexical transformation for verbal compounds. Linguistic Inquiry 9.2: 199–260.

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    Although written before the advent of argument structure, this paper provides a lexical account of why the left-hand member of an English deverbal compound is typically understood as an argument of the base verb—an empirical generalization that the authors call the “First Sister Principle.”

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  • Selkirk, Elisabeth O. 1982. The syntax of words. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Chapter 2 proposes an argument structure-based account of English deverbal compounds embedded in a lexical functional grammar–style framework.

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Nominalization

Since the earliest work on argument structure, nominalizations have attracted attention because their argument structures show considerable similarities, as well as some striking differences, to those of their base verbs. Rappaport 1983 confronts these issues from an argument structure perspective, drawing attention to restrictions on the expression of experiencers in nominalizations. Grimshaw 1990, a seminal monograph on argument structure, distinguishes two fundamental types of nominalizations, proposing an argument structure–based analysis. Marantz 1997 presents a treatment of nominalizations and their arguments within the context of distributed morphology; this account is developed somewhat further by Harley and Noyer 2000 (cited under Neo-Constructionist Approaches). Alexiadou 2001 revisits the argument-taking properties of nominalizations in the context of syntactic theories that place much of the explanatory burden on the syntactic functional structure that a lexical item is found in.

  • Alexiadou, Artemis. 2001. Functional structure in nominals: Nominalization and ergativity. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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    Argues that the two types of nominals distinguished by Grimshaw 1990 differ in terms of whether they do or do not include verbal functional structure, and uses this difference to account for their distinct argument-taking properties.

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  • Grimshaw, Jane. 1990. Argument structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Chapters 3 and 4 focus on nominalizations and their argument structure. Distinguishes two types of nominalizations: result nominalizations, which do not inherit the base verb’s argument structure, and complex event nominalizations, which do, providing an argument structure-based analysis of the latter.

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  • Marantz, Alec. 1997. No escape from syntax: Don’t try morphological analysis in the privacy of your own lexicon. In Proceedings of the 21st Annual Penn Linguistics Colloquium. Edited by Alexis Dimitriadis, Laura Siegel, Clarissa Surek-Clark, and Alexander Williams, 201–225. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 4.2. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania.

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    Considered a foundational work in distributed morphology, this paper argues that category-neutral roots become nouns in nominal environments and verbs in verbal environments. The root’s semantic class plus properties of the categories noun and verb determine the constellation of arguments found with the root’s noun versus verb instantiation.

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  • Rappaport, Malka. 1983. On the nature of derived nominals. In Papers in Lexical-Functional Grammar. Edited by Lori Levin, Malka Rappaport, and Annie Zaenen, 113–142. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Linguistics Club.

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    Offers a lexical functional grammar (LFG) analysis in which English nominals inherit their argument structure from the base verb, but as nominals and verbs have different grammatical functions available for argument realization, there are differences between verbs and their nominalizations. Cited for the generalization that an experiencer cannot be expressed in the ’s genitive in nominals.

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Grammatical-Function-Changing Affixes

Despite this section’s title, the relevant affixes affect a verb’s argument-taking potential and, thus, potentially its argument structure, with this being the source of the grammatical-function changes that have been taken to be characteristic of these affixes. Most often studied are applicative, causative, passive, reflexive, and reciprocal affixes, but there are other affixes of this type, including antipassive and stativizing affixes. The literature on such affixes and their effects and interactions is vast, and most of the work focuses on specific languages. This section presents a small number of studies chosen both to introduce the most often cited types of affixes and to represent major theoretical approaches to such affixes. For instance, Bresnan and Moshi 1990 presents a lexicalist account of the effects of the applicative affix on a verb’s argument structure. In contrast, Pylkkänen 2008 takes a syntactic approach, which is representative of syntactic approaches to such affixes in taking its inspiration from Baker 1988 (cited under The Domain of Argument Structure Affecting Morphology). Comrie 1976 sets out the basic empirical generalizations about the effects of causative affixes on the realization of the arguments of verbs of various types, while Alsina 1992 presents a lexicalist account of such affixes. Reinhart and Siloni 2003 reviews the preponderant unaccusative analysis of verbs with reflexive affixes, rejecting it in favor of an unergative analysis. Further studies that touch on such affixes are listed elsewhere in this bibliography, including Bresnan 1982 on the passive (cited under Lexical Functional Grammar), Michaelis and Ruppenhofer 2000 on the German be- construction—sometimes considered an applicative construction (cited under Constructionist Approaches), and Manning and Sag 1998 on a variety of such phenomena (cited under Head-Driven Phrase-Structure Grammar).

  • Alsina, Alex. 1992. On the argument structure of causatives. Linguistic Inquiry 23.4: 517–555.

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    Provides an account of causatives that attributes their properties to the combination of the argument structure of the causative verb and the base verb. Differs from other lexical analyses in attributing three arguments, including a patient, to the causative predicate, which Alsina claims gives his account better cross-linguistic coverage.

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  • Bresnan, Joan, and Lioba Moshi. 1990. Object asymmetries in comparative Bantu syntax. Linguistic Inquiry 21.2: 147–185.

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    Proposes the argument introduced by an applicative affix is integrated into a verb’s argument structure, with the argument realization rules of lexical functional grammar’s (LFG’s) lexical mapping theory operating on this expanded argument structure. The rules allow for some languages where not only the introduced object, but also the verb’s original object, shows object properties.

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  • Comrie, Bernard. 1976. The syntax of causative constructions: Cross-language similarities and divergences. In Syntax and semantics. Vol. 6, The grammar of causative constructions. Edited by Masayoshi Shibatani, 261–312. New York: Academic Press.

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    Although not on argument structure per se, this article sets out the basic generalizations about the effects of causativization on the realization of arguments of the base verb that subsequent accounts, including argument structure-based accounts, build on.

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  • Pylkkänen, Liina. 2008. Introducing arguments. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Argues that an applicative affix is a functional head that introduces an extra argument as its specifier. Such affixes may be found in low or high syntactic positions, explaining certain differences in the properties of applicative constructions across languages. Also extends the approach to causative morphemes.

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  • Reinhart, Tanya, and Tal Siloni. 2003. Against an unaccusative analysis of reflexives. In The unaccusativity puzzle: Explorations of the syntax-lexicon interface. Edited by Artemis Alexiadou, Elena Anagnostopoulou, and Martin Everaert, 159–180. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Proposes an analysis of reflexivization as an operation on argument structure that eliminates a transitive verb’s internal argument, creating an unergative verb. Concomitantly, presents evidence against the unaccusative analysis of reflexivization adopted in much previous work.

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Complex Predicates

This section reviews studies of the argument structure of complex predicate constructions, which are constructions with multiple predicates that appear in many respects, including their argument structure, as if they involved a single predicate. Müller 2006 provides an introduction to such constructions. Ackerman and Webelhuth 1998 confronts the question of what a predicate is from a lexicalist perspective. This section is divided into subsections that review work on the major subtypes of complex predicate constructions, including those that involve two verbal elements (i.e., serial verb constructions) and those that involve one verbal element (i.e., resultative, verb-particle, and light verb constructions). Although causative constructions are considered a type of complex predicate construction, they are considered under Grammatical-Function-Changing Affixes. Analyses of these phenomena often encompass more than argument structure considerations, but given the scope of this bibliography, works on these facets are not included.

  • Ackerman, Farrell, and Gert Webelhuth. 1998. A theory of predicates. Stanford, CA: CSLI.

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    Presents a lexicalist theory of predicates inspired by head-driven phrase-structure grammar (HPSG) and lexical functional grammar (LFG), which allows predicates to be realized as single, morphologically complex words or as co-occurring, independent words. Discusses interactions with argument realization. Includes case studies of passive, causative, and verb-particle constructions.

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  • Müller, Stefan. 2006. Complex predicates. In Encyclopedia of language and linguistics. 2d ed. Edited by Keith Brown, 697–704. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

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    Reviews major issues facing the analysis of complex predicates and the way they are confronted in lexicalist and nonlexicalist approaches, including issues of argument structure.

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Light Verb Constructions

These complex predicate constructions are composed of a verb and a nominal complement. The hallmark of the verb is that it has lost much of its own lexical content; hence the label “light verb.”Instead, the verb provides a “scaffold” for expressing the arguments of a nominal complement, which provides the lexical content of the light verb-nominal combination. Butt 2010 provides an overview of light verb and related constructions drawing on data from Indo-Aryan languages. Grimshaw and Mester 1988 presents a truly argument structure–based account of light verb constructions drawing on data from Japanese, which continues to be widely cited. Folli and Harley 2013 proposes an account of Italian light verb constructions that uses a syntacticized notion of argument structure.

  • Butt, Miriam. 2010. The light verb jungle: Still hacking away. In Complex predicates: Cross-linguistic perspectives on event structure. Edited by Mengistu Amberber, Brett Baker, and Mark Harvey, 48–78. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511712234.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An updated version of a 2003 paper that clarifies the distinction between light verb and complex predicate constructions, drawing on synchronic and diachronic evidence from Urdu, with supporting evidence from other languages.

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  • Folli, Raffaella, and Heidi Harley. 2013. The syntax of argument structure: Evidence from Italian complex predicates. Journal of Linguistics 49.1: 93–125.

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    Presents an analysis of Italian light verb constructions within a syntacticized approach to argument structure.

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  • Grimshaw, Jane, and Armin Mester. 1988. Light verbs and theta-marking. Linguistic Inquiry 19.2: 205–232.

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    Provides an argument structure-based account of argument realization in Japanese constructions headed by the light verb suru. The light verb has a minimal argument structure, with some of the argument-taking properties of its nominal complement being transferred to it to give a full argument structure.

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Resultatives

Although not always analyzed with other complex predicate constructions, the resultative constructions of English and other Germanic languages qualify as such, as they consist of two predicates, a verb and an adjective. Although in some instances the result phrase—the phrase headed by the adjective—is predicated of an argument of the verb, in others the result phrase is predicated of a noun phrase that is not an argument of the verb, and in still others it is predicated of a reflexive pronoun, itself coreferent to the verb’s subject. These distributional facts, brought together under the label direct object restriction by Simpson 1983, have led to widespread discussion of this construction in the literature on argument structure. Carrier and Randall 1992 proposes an account that is truly argument structure-based; Carrier and Randall’s analysis is sensitive to the argument structure of the base verb, leading to distinct analyses of resultatives where the result phrases is or is not predicated of an argument of the verb. In contrast, Hoekstra 1988 proposes a uniform analysis of all resultatives in which the verbs take a small clause complement consisting of a noun phrase and the result phrase; this account denies that the result phrase is ever predicated of an argument of the verb, even in those instances where it might be so understood. Levin and Rappaport Hovav 1995 (cited under Unaccusative and Unergative Verbs) presents an analysis of resultatives that takes into account that this construction is one of the strongest diagnostics for unaccusativity in English, which like the Carrier and Randall 1992 analysis is sensitive to the argument structure of the base verb. Rappaport Hovav and Levin 2001 revisits this analysis in light of additional empirical data, as well as advances in the understanding of argument structure phenomena; these authors propose an event structure–based account, which allows for certain exceptions to the direct object restriction. Mateu 2005 argues that the direct object restriction should be maintained and proposes a syntacticized account that builds on Hale and Keyser 2002 (cited under Syntacticized Approaches). Goldberg and Jackendoff 2004 provides a constructionist approach to resultatives and their argument structure. Boas 2003 suggests a refinement on this type of account, which acknowledges that verbs may be lexically associated with multiple conventionalized senses that influence the types of resultative constructions they are found in. This section limits itself to work that discusses how the arguments of a verb carry over to a resultative construction; thus, studies that focus primarily on the nature of the result phrase are not included.

  • Boas, Hans C. 2003. A constructional approach to resultatives. Stanford, CA: CSLI.

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    Using data from the British National Corpus, presents a comprehensive account of English resultative constructions with lexical and constructional facets. Differentiates conventionalized resultatives, based on specific verb senses represented as mini-constructions, from nonconventionalized resultatives, formed on analogy with conventionalized resultatives.

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  • Carrier, Jill, and Janet H. Randall. 1992. The argument structure and syntactic structure of resultatives. Linguistic Inquiry 23.2: 173–234.

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    Asks what the appropriate argument structure of verbs and adjectives should be to properly describe the distribution and interpretation of English resultative phrases. Argues that differences between transitive and intransitive verb headed resultatives are captured at the level of argument structure rather than syntax.

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  • Goldberg, Adele E., and Ray Jackendoff. 2004. The English resultative as a family of constructions. Language 80.3: 532–568.

    DOI: 10.1353/lan.2004.0129Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for a constructionist approach to resultatives that recognizes several related “subconstructions.” Proposes that argument realization is primarily determined by the construction’s own meaning, with the proviso that the verb’s own obligatory arguments must be realized in conformity with general argument realization principles.

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  • Hoekstra, Teun. 1988. Small clause results. Lingua 74:101–139.

    DOI: 10.1016/0024-3841(88)90056-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that all resultative constructions in English involve a verb with a small clause complement, an analysis that takes the noun phrase that a result phrase is predicated of never to be an argument of its verb—counter to the analysis in Carrier and Randall 1992, for instance.

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  • Mateu, Jaume. 2005. Arguing our way to the Direct Object Restriction on English resultatives. Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 8.1–2: 55–82.

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    Adopting Hale and Keyser’s syntacticized representations of a verb’s argument-taking properties (see Hale and Keyser 2002, cited under Syntacticized Approaches), argues that the Direct Object Restriction can be maintained despite empirical challenges that have been raised, as in Rappaport Hovav and Levin 2001.

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  • Rappaport Hovav, Malka, and Beth Levin. 2001. An event structure account of English resultatives. Language 77.4: 766–797.

    DOI: 10.1353/lan.2001.0221Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Develops an account of English resultatives that appeals to principles governing the well-formedness of event structure and the event structure-to-syntax mapping. This account covers the intransitive verb data, which motivated the direct object restriction, while predicting that there are some subject-predicated result phrases with transitive verbs.

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  • Simpson, Jane. 1983. Resultatives. In Papers in lexical-functional grammar. Edited by Lori Levin, Malka Rappaport, and Annie Zaenen, 143–157. Bloomington: Indiana Linguistics Club.

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    Introduces and motivates the direct object restriction: result phrases are predicated of underlying direct objects. This distributional generalization is typically the starting point for all subsequent analyses.

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Serial Verbs

There has been continuing interest in serial verb constructions—apparently monoclausal constructions in which a series of two or more verbs are used in the description of a single event. This section references two important papers, Baker 1989 and Durie 1997, that consider how the argument structures of the verbs composing the serial verb come together to give the argument structure of the larger construction; there is also a considerable literature on the argument structure of serial verb constructions in a wide range of languages. In terms of argument structure, a major question is whether serial verb constructions composed of two transitive verbs must share their object, as proposed by Baker 1989, or need not, as Durie 1997 argues.

  • Baker, Mark C. 1989. Object sharing and projection in serial verb constructions. Linguistic Inquiry 20.4: 513–553.

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    Provides a government-binding account of object sharing—a hallmark of serial verb constructions—in which this property arises because a single noun phrase (NP) realizes an argument found in the argument structure of each of two verbs.

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  • Durie, Mark. 1997. Grammatical structures in verb serialization. In Complex predicates. Edited by Alex Alsina, Joan Bresnan, and Peter Sells, 289–354. Stanford, CA: CSLI.

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    Provides an extensive review of properties of serial verb constructions, presents data that is problematic for the Baker 1989 analysis of such constructions, and proposes an alternative account in terms of the fusion of the argument structures of the verbs constituting a serial verb construction.

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Verb-Particle Constructions

Verb-particle constructions are constituted of a verb plus an “objectless” preposition. Although in many instances the meaning of the verb-particle combination follows compositionally from the verb and particle, often the combination has an idiosyncratic meaning. Thus, much research focuses on issues of semantic transparency and, relatedly, productivity—issues outside the scope of this article. Not unrelatedly, another focus of previous research is the “wordhood” of a verb-particle combination, especially in those Germanic languages where in some instances the particle clearly forms a word with the verb. Verb-particle constructions have been extensively investigated in the Germanic languages, but there is a growing literature on the emergence of such constructions in Romance languages, particularly Italian, though its focus again is on these same considerations. Nevertheless, argument structure considerations have received some attention. McIntyre 2007 provides an excellent introduction to issues of argument structure and verb-particle constructions in Germanic languages. As part of a larger study of German verb-particle constructions, Stiebels and Wunderlich 1994 offers a case study of their argument structure within Lexical Decomposition Grammar. Neeleman and Weerman 1993 provides a comparative study of Dutch resultative and particle constructions that explains the similarities and differences between them. Svenonius 2007 (cited under Manifestation across Lexical Categories) also briefly discusses the argument structure of particles as part of a larger consideration of the argument structure of prepositions.

  • McIntyre, Andrew. 2007. Particle verbs and argument structure. Language and Linguistics Compass 1.4: 350–367.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-818X.2007.00013.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Synthesizes and taxonomizes observations about the argument structure of particle verbs in the Germanic languages. Reviews the implications of the taxonomy for analyses of particle verbs.

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  • Neeleman, Ad, and Fred Weerman. 1993. The balance between syntax and morphology: Dutch particles and resultatives. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 11.3: 433–475.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00993166Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proposes that in Dutch resultative constructions are formed in the domain of the syntax and verb-particle constructions in the domain of the morphology. Analyzes their argument structures in terms of “percolation” of arguments from the verb and the particle or resultative.

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  • Stiebels, Barbara, and Dieter Wunderlich. 1994. Morphology feeds syntax: The case of particle verbs. Linguistics 32.6: 913–968.

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    Although much of this paper concerns the morphological analysis of verb-particle constructions in German, it provides an explicit lexical treatment within lexical decomposition grammar of the various effects of particles on the argument structure of the verb they combine with.

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First- and Second-Language Acquisition

Argument structure has figured prominently in research on both first- and second-language acquisition. Representative work in each of these areas is reviewed in the subsections here.

First-Language Acquisition

Argument structure provides an arena for exploring longstanding questions about the nature of first-language acquisition, such as what kind of knowledge children bring to the language acquisition process. There is considerable research in this area that can be roughly subdivided into research on the basic acquisition of verbs and their arguments (e.g., does a verb take one argument or two) and research into the acquisition of argument structure alternations. Some references are given here, but see also the separate article Acquisition of Language. A major question confronted in the literature on verb acquisition is whether very young children initially learn argument structure on a verb-by-verb basis, or whether innate principles guide their acquisition of verb argument structure. There is a significant literature on both sides of the debate, with the positions having become more nuanced as knowledge of the acquisition process has increased. Tomasello 1992 makes the case that argument structure is initially learned in a verb-specific way. Two further representative studies are listed that take alternative perspectives on this issue: McClure, et al. 2006 argues for the primary importance of verb-specific knowledge in early acquisition of argument structure, while Fernandes, et al. 2006 argues that general principles are already being exploited. Argument structure alternations have also received attention because the acquisition process could shed light on big questions—such as the role of syntax versus semantics or lexical items versus constructions—not only in acquisition, but also in the appropriate analyses of alternations. Bowerman 1982, in pointing out that children initially attribute argument structure alternations to more verbs than adults do, sets out the key challenge for subsequent work. Pinker 1989 confronts Bowerman’s challenge in the context of a “semantic bootstrapping” approach to the acquisition of argument structure alternations, while Gleitman and colleagues take the alternative “syntactic bootstrapping” position, represented here by Lidz and Gleitman 2004. Goldberg, et al. 2004, adopting a constructionist account of argument structure alternations, argues that verb frequency plays a part in the acquisition of argument structure constructions. Ambridge, et al. 2012 brings various approaches together, arguing that both semantics and frequency have a role to play.

  • Ambridge, Ben, Julian M. Pine, Caroline F. Rowland, and Franklin Chang. 2012. The roles of verb semantics, entrenchment, and morphophonology in the retreat from dative argument-structure overgeneralization errors. Language 88.1: 45–81.

    DOI: 10.1353/lan.2012.0000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Representative of a line of research by Ambridge and colleagues that argues that children’s overgeneralization errors with respect to the distribution of verbs in one or the other variant in an alternation can best be modeled using the approach of Pinker 1989 together with verb frequency information.

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  • Bowerman, Melissa. 1982. Reorganizational processes in lexical and syntactic development. In Language acquisition: The state of the art. Edited by Eric Wanner and Lila R. Gleitman, 319–346. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Sets the stage for ensuing research on the acquisition of argument structure alternations by using diary data to show that children systematically overgeneralize argument realization patterns beyond the verbs that adults use them with; this suggests that children do not initially appreciate the semantic constraints on argument alternations.

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  • Fernandes, Keith J., Gary F. Marcus, Jennifer A. Di Nubila, and Athena Vouloumanos. 2006. From semantics to syntax and back again: Argument structure in the third year of life. Cognition 100.2: B10–B20.

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    On the basis of an experimental study with three-year-olds, argues that toddlers show an understanding of general principles of argument structure in their comprehension, even if this is not evident in their own speech.

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  • Goldberg, Adele E., Devin M. Casenhiser, and Nitya Sethuraman. 2004. Learning argument structure generalizations. Cognitive Linguistics 15.3: 289–316.

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    Using corpus and experimental evidence, observes that usually one verb predominates in a particular argument structure construction and proposes that children learn the form-meaning correlations that constitute argument structure constructions by generalizing away from the meaning of these constructions when they are instantiated by the most frequent verbs.

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  • Lidz, Jeffrey, and Lila R. Gleitman. 2004. Argument structure and the child’s contribution to language learning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 8.4: 157–161.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2004.02.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This brief article, through a review of some of the authors’ previous studies, argues that children bring general linguistic knowledge to bear in acquiring verb argument structures and argument structure alternations. It represents the “syntactic bootstrapping” position, where a verb’s syntactic environment guides children to a knowledge of its meaning.

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  • McClure, Kathleen, Julian M. Pine, and Elena V. M. Lieven. 2006. Investigating the abstractness of children’s early knowledge of argument structure. Journal of Child Language 33.4: 693–720.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0305000906007525Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    On the basis of a study that followed children about two years of age for a year, this paper shows that at this age knowledge of verb argument structure is predominantly verb-specific, but that limited verb-general knowledge begins to come into play over the course of the year.

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  • Pinker, Steven. 1989. Learnability and cognition: The acquisition of argument structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Argues that acquiring an argument structure alternation requires learning the meaning associated with each of its variants and the specific narrow semantic verb classes that show that alternation. Overgeneralization errors arise when children have not yet learned the narrow classes. Supports this position with experimental and corpus studies of several alternations.

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  • Tomasello, Michael. 1992. First verbs: A case study in early grammatical development. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511527678Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on a detailed analysis of one child’s early verb usage, proposes the verb island hypothesis, which posits that children initially learn each verb in one or more specific argument-taking contexts; that is, they lack the ability to generalize argument structures across verbs.

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Second-Language Acquisition

Argument structure also provides a fertile domain for investigating critical issues about the nature of second-language acquisition, many of them also of relevance outside this domain. White has carried out some of the earliest work in this area from a generative perspective, investigating the perennial question of the effects of the first language on the acquisition of the second language, as in White 1991. White 2003 includes a chapter on the second-language acquisition of argument structure. As Juffs 2000 reviews, Pinker 1989 (cited under First-Language Acquisition), a work on the first-language acquisition of argument structure alternation, has inspired a line of work on second-language acquisition of argument structure alternations. Researchers in second-language acquisition are drawn to the proposal in Pinker 1989 (cited under Early Development) that the acquisition of an argument structure alternation requires learning both the meaning associated with each of the variants that characterize the alternation and the specific narrow semantic verb classes consistent with variant meaning that do show the alternation. Bley-Vroman and Joo 2001 considers whether this factorization might illuminate the second-language acquisition of the locative alternation in languages that differ in the narrow semantic verb classes showing the alternation. The acquisition of the unaccusative-unergative distinction in a second language also receives considerable attention because of the distinctive errors that second-language learners of English make with such verbs; Oshita 2001 offers a unified account of such errors. More recently, the debate as to whether constructions, including argument structure constructions, are most easily learned with high-frequency verbs that reflect the meaning of the construction has been extended from the domain of first-language acquisition to that of second-language acquisition research; Year and Gordon 2009 is one contribution to this debate.

  • Bley-Vroman, Robert, and Hye-Ri Joo. 2001. The acquisition and interpretation of English locative constructions by native speakers of Korean. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 23.2: 207–219.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0272263101002042Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Investigates the second-language acquisition of the locative alternation in English by native speakers of Korean—languages with somewhat different distributions of verbs in the alternation. Authors found that the learners showed knowledge of the semantics of each variant, but not of the specific verbs that show the alternation in English.

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  • Juffs, Alan. 2000. An overview of the second language acquisition of links between verb semantics and morpho-syntax. In Second language acquisition and linguistic theory. Edited by John Archibald, 187–227. Oxford: Blackwell.

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    Surveys research on the second-language acquisition of various argument structure phenomena in work that adapts the leading ideas in Pinker 1989 (cited under First-Language Acquisition) to second-language acquisition; concludes with a review of shortcomings of this approach and their implications for future work.

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  • Oshita, Hiroyuki. 2001. The unaccusative trap in second language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 23.2: 279–304.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0272263101002078Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proposes that a constellation of errors involving the acquisition of unaccusativity in a second language arise because learners treat unaccusative as well as unergative verbs as having an external argument. Also reviews considerable literature on the second-language acquisition of such verbs.

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  • White, Lydia. 1991. Argument structure in second language acquisition. Journal of French Language Studies 1.2: 189–207.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0959269500000983Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An early investigation of the effect of the first language on the acquisition of the second language in the domain of argument structure, focusing on properties where the first language is more permissive than the second, and vice versa. Data are drawn from the domain of dative verbs.

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  • White, Lydia. 2003. Second language acquisition and universal grammar. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511815065Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Chapter 7 of this textbook reviews research on the acquisition of argument structure in a second language, and discusses how work in this area bears on theories of second-language acquisition.

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  • Year, Jungeun, and Peter Gordon. 2009. Korean speakers’ acquisition of the English ditransitive construction: The role of verb prototype, input distribution, and frequency. Modern Language Journal 93.3: 399–417.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.2009.00898.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that verb frequency does not play a facilitating role in the second-language acquisition of the English double-object construction, a construction that presents difficulty for Korean learners of English.

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LAST MODIFIED: 05/28/2013

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199772810-0099

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