Lexical Perspectives on Transitivity and Ergativity: Causative Constructions in English (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 166)
By: Maarten Lemmens (author)Hardback
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Fusing insights from cognitive grammar, systemic-functional grammar and Government & Binding, the present work elaborates and refines Davidse's view that the English grammar of lexical causatives is governed by the transitive and ergative paradigms, two distinct models of causation (Davidse 1991, 1992). However, on the basis of extensive synchronic and diachronic data on verbs of killing (e.g. kill, execute, choke or drown), it is shown that 'transitivity' and 'ergativity' are not absolute but prototypical characteristics of verbs which may be overruled by the semantics of the construal in which they occur. The variable transitive or ergative character of the verbs reveals the complex interaction between the semantics of the construction and that of the verb. The diachronic analyses further illustrate how in the course of time verbs may change their paradigmatic properties, either temporarily (e.g. the ergativization of strangle, throttle and smother) or permanently (e.g. the 'causativization' of starve or the partial transitivization of abort).
The analyses show that these changes are semantically well-motivated and further illustrate the cognitive reality of the two causative models. The work explores the experiential basis of the prototypical paradigmatic behaviour of verbs (e.g. the ergative predilection of the SUFFOCATE verbs). In addition, it attempts to shed more light on the semantics and restrictions of certain constructions, such as the medio-passive, the derivation of adjectives in -able, or the derivation of agentive nominals in -er.
1. Part I: Theoretical Premises; 2. Chapter 1: Introduction; 3. 1.1 Constructional variation with causative verbs; 4. 1.2 Structural organization of this book; 5. 1.3 Theoretical framework; 6. 1.4 Empirical methodology; 7. Chapter 2: The semantics of causative constructions; 8. 2.1 Analytical versus lexical causatives; 9. 2.2 Transitive versus ergative lexical causatives; 10. Chapter 3: The semantics of causative verbs; 11. 3.1 The structure of lexical categories; 12. 3.2 The structure of lexical fields; 13. 3.3 Lexical versus constructional semantics; 14. 3.4 Conclusions to Part I; 15. Part II: Case Studies; 16. Chapter 4: Lexically determined flexibility and constraints; 17. 4.1 Introduction; 18. 4.2 A synchronic perspective on constructional constraints; 19. 4.3 A diachronic perspective on constructional flexibility; 20. 4.4 Conclusions; 21. Chapter 5: The Agent-centredness of the transitive paradigm; 22. 5.1 The experiential basis of agentivity; 23. 5.2 Lexical blueprints for agentivity: the MURDER verbs; 24. 5.3 Morphological blueprints for agentivity: agentive nominals; 25. 5.4 Constructional blueprints for agentivity: the objectless transitive; 26. 5.5 Conclusions; 27. Chapter 6: The Medium-centredness of the ergative paradigm; 28. 6.1 The experiential basis of ergativity; 29. 6.2 Lexical and constructional convergence in Early Modern English; 30. 6.3 Lexical and constructional differentiation in Contemporary English; 31. 6.4 Transitivity and force-dynamics: phrasal verbs; 32. 6.5 Conclusions; 33. Chapter 7: Complexities of the transitive-ergative interplay; 34. 7.1 The experiential basis of the transitive/ergative interplay; 35. 7.2 Lexical and constructional variation in Modern English; 36. 7.3 Ergativization of abort in Early Modern English; 37. 7.4 Transitivization of abort in Modern English; 38. 7.5 Conclusions; 39. Chapter 8: Summary and evaluation; 40. 8.1 Summary; 41. 8.2 Evaluation; 42. 8.3 Further Research; 43. References; 44. Dictionaries; 45. Corpus References; 46. Glossary; 47. Index of Names; 48. Index of Subjects
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