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Explorations of Phase Theory: Features and Arguments

  • Erscheinungsdatum: 26.02.2009
  • Verlag: De Gruyter
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Explorations of Phase Theory: Features and Arguments

Phase Theory is the latest model of modern syntactic theorizing in the generative tradition, the larger research enterprise known as the 'Minimalist Program.' This volume collects current research of scholars who investigate the role of formal features in the grammar, address licensing of grammatical properties in the theoretical model, and critically inspect particular aspects of the expression of arguments within Phase Theory. The chapters provide a wealth of empirical data from typologically different languages and novel syntactic analyses drawing from all aspects of the grammar (syntax, semantics, morphology, and phonology).

Kleanthes K. Grohmann , University of Cyprus, Cyprus.


    Format: PDF
    Kopierschutz: watermark
    Seitenzahl: 314
    Erscheinungsdatum: 26.02.2009
    Sprache: Englisch
    ISBN: 9783110213966
    Verlag: De Gruyter
    Größe: 2010kBytes
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Explorations of Phase Theory: Features and Arguments

How to become passive (S. 231-232)

Berit Gehrke and Nino Grillo

In this paper, we propose that movement of a stative subevent of a structurally complex event to a discourse-related position at the edge of the verb phrase is the fundamental characteristics of passive constructions. This assumption is supported not only by the semantics of passives but also by the fact that it provides a natural account of many of their syntactic properties some of which are left unaccounted for in previous approaches. More generally we give a principled explanation, based on the availability of a consequent state reading, of why some predicates do not form good passives. Psycholinguistic data provide further arguments to support our hypothesis.

1. Introduction

Since early works in generative syntax (see Chomsky 1957) passivisation has been analysed as an operation on argument structure. Such analyses single out the most typical property of this construction, namely the inversion in the mapping of argument type and syntactic relation in actives and passives. The internal argument (the understood object) appears in the (syntactic) subject position, whereas the logical subject is demoted and (optionally) surfaces in a by-phrase.

In this paper, we will defend a different perspective on passives. It places the complex structure of events at the centre of this transformation and takes it to be responsible for determining not only core properties of passive formation but also its availability in general. This change in perspective allows us to distinguish predicates that can form good passives from those that cannot. In particular, we argue that passivisation is an operation on event structure, more precisely a secondary predication referring to a transition into a consequent (result or inchoative) state.

We propose that a semantic requirement, some kind of topicalisation, singles out this consequent state and assigns it a feature that will determine its movement to Spec, VoiceP, projected by by at the edge of the verb phase, which we take to be endowed with discourse-related properties reminiscent of the low focal projection proposed by Belletti (2004a). We support this claim with evidence from the syntactic and semantic properties of passives, some of which are unaccounted for in previous approaches.

The paper is structured as follows. Section 2 discusses previous NPbased approaches to passive formation that treat it as an operation on argument structure and points out some of their disadvantages. Section 3 outlines our own proposal, according to which a stative subevent moves to a position above VP in passive constructions. To support this analysis, empirical data and psycholinguistic data from comprehension patterns in agrammatic Broca's aphasics are provided in section 4. In section 5, we propose that the position which the stative subevent moves to in passives, is needed independently also for actives, since it allows the creation of a link between the genuinely atemporal event structure and the temporal and discourse domains of the clause. Finally, section 6 concludes.

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