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The Unaccusativity PuzzleExplorations of the Syntax-Lexicon Interface$
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Artemis Alexiadou, Elena Anagnostopoulou, and Martin Everaert

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199257652

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199257652.001.0001

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Unergative Adjectives and Psych Verbs

Unergative Adjectives and Psych Verbs

(p.84) 3 Unergative Adjectives and Psych Verbs
The Unaccusativity Puzzle

Hans Bennis

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that the concept of verbal ergativity is not monolithic structurally. It shows three different configurations in which the external argument is absent: (a) there is no v-layer on top of VP; consequences: no external argument, no accusative Case; (b) there is a v-layer on top of VP, and vcontains a passive morpheme; consequences: the passive morpheme absorbs the external argument and accusative Case; and (c) there is a v-layer on top of VP and no external argument is generated; consequences: accusative Case is available. These three configurations correspond to (simplex) ergative constructions, passive constructions, and experiencer object constructions, respectively. The theoretical assumptions required to reach this result are: the verb phrase is/can be a layered constituent; the external argument is the specifier of v; structural accusative Case is checked in vP; the passive morpheme is generated in v, it absorbs the thematic role and the Case features of v; and vmay or may not have a phrase generated in its specifier position. As to the concept of ‘unaccusativity’, the chapter concludes that it lacks any theoretical relevance. The availability of accusative Case is an automatic consequence of the presence of v.

Keywords:   verbal ergativity, VP, verb phrase, unaccusativity, accusative

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