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Conference Information

Full Title: Agent Control Over Non-Culminating Events

Location: Pisa, Italy
Start Date: 16-Jun-2014 - 18-Jun-2014
Contact: Fabienne Martin
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL:
Meeting Description: In many languages from typologically unrelated families such as Mandarin (Koenig & Chief 2008), Thai (Koenig & Muansuwan 2000), Korean (Park 1993, van Valin 2005), Skwxwúmesh, St'at'imcets, or Saanich Straits Salish (Bar-el 2005, Bar-el et al. 2005, Kiyota 2008, Jacobs 2011), Tagalog (Dell 1983), Japanese (Ikegami 1985), Hindi (Singh 1998, Altshuler 2013), Tamil (Pederson 2008), Russian, Karachay-Balkar, Mari and Bagwalal (Tatevosov & Ivanov 2009), Adyghe (Arkadiev & Letuchiy 2009), sentences with perfective accomplishments can be used to describe partial, incomplete or unsuccessful events. On this construal, perfective accomplishments do not give rise to culmination entailments. It is thus possible to deny the culmination of the event whose occurrence is asserted without generating a contradiction (e.g. to assert Mary killed him but he didn't die.). A similar phenomenon has been observed for our more familiar Romance and Germanic languages, albeit for a very restricted set of verbs only, such as double object verbs (Oehrle 1976, Gropen et al. 1989, Beavers 2010, cf. 'Mary explained the problem to Peter, and nevertheless he didn't understand it').

This workshop explores a correlation, gone to a large extent unnoticed in the literature, between the availability of non-culminating construals for accomplishments and the control of the agent over the described event. The generalization put forth, which we call the Agent Control Hypothesis (ACH, Demirdache & Martin 2013), is that nonculminating readings of accomplishment predicates require the predicate's external argument to be associated with 'agenthood' properties.

Evidence for the ACH is provided by Salish languages, as discussed by Bar-el et al. 2005, Kiyota 2008, or Jacobs 2011: while so called 'control' perfective transitives do not give rise to culmination entailments, non-control/causatives (Saanich, St'at'imcets) or limited control (Skwxwúmesh) entail culmination.

Moreover, for around fifty French and German verbs, Martin & Schäfer 2012 & 2013 observe that when we replace the agent subject in (1) with a (pure) causer as in (2), the non-culminating reading disappears:

(1) Marie lui expliqua le problème, et pourtant il ne le comprit pas. (agent subject)
'Marie explained the problem to him, and nevertheless he didn't understand it.'

(2) Ce résultat lui expliqua le problème de l'analyse, # pourtant il ne le comprit pas. (causer subject)
'This result made him understand the problem of the analysis, nevertheless he didn't understand it.'

The ACH is also supported by the observation that in many languages from unrelated families, completive markers can also be used to indicate that the action is performed non-intentionally/inadvertently (Fauconnier 2012, 2013). Another piece of evidence is provided by the correlation argued for in Germanic languages between the licensing of causer subjects and the 'resultativity' of the verbal predicate (Folli & Harley 2005, Travis 2005, Schäfer 2012): while causers are generally fine with bi-eventive verbs, they are claimed to be acceptable as subjects of mono-eventive verbs only if these are augmented with a resultative phrase.

The outstanding question, however, is defining the relevant notion of (agent) control (see Jacobs for critical discussion of this issue inSkwxwúmesh). What properties of being an agent are relevant for canceling culmination entailments? Should we discriminate, for instance, agent-like instruments from causer-like instruments and, furthermore, among causers, between natural forces, events/states, or non-acting humans?

Invited Speakers:

Leora Bar-El (University of Montana, TBC)
Jean-Pierre Koenig (Buffalo University)
Linguistic Subfield: Morphology; Pragmatics; Psycholinguistics; Semantics; Syntax; Typology
LL Issue: 24.3688

This is a session of the following meeting:
11th International Conference on Actionality, Tense, Aspect, Modality/Evidentiality

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