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Academic Paper

Title: The English dative alternation: The case for verb sensitivity
Author: Malka Rappaport Hovav
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Author: Beth Levin
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Institution: Stanford University
Linguistic Field: Semantics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: We challenge the predominant view of the English dative alternation, which takes all alternating verbs to have two meanings: a caused possession meaning realized by the double object variant and a caused motion meaning realized by the to variant. Instead, we argue that verbs like give and sell only have a caused possession meaning, while verbs like throw and send have both caused motion and caused possession meanings. We show that the caused possession meaning may be realized by both variants. Concomitantly, we argue that verbs like give, even in the to variant, lack a conceptual path constituent, and instead have a caused possession meaning which can be understood as the bringing about of a 'have' relation. We reassess evidence for alternative approaches adduced from inference patterns and verb–argument combinations and demonstrate how our verb-sensitive analysis, when combined with an account of variant choice, provides a more insightful explanation of this data, while having wider coverage. Our investigation affirms proposals that a verb's own meaning plays a key role in determining its argument realization options. To conclude, we consider the crosslinguistic implications of our study, attempting to explain why so many languages lack a true dative alternation.


This article appears IN Journal of Linguistics Vol. 44, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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