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Academic Paper

Title: Gradient auxiliary selection and impersonal passivization in German: an experimental
Author: Frank Keller
Institution: University of Edinburgh
Author: Antonella Sorace
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of Edinburgh
Linguistic Field: Linguistic Theories; Syntax
Subject Language: German
Abstract: The main purpose of this paper is to provide experimental evidence that two syntactic reflexes of split intransitivity in German - the selection of perfective auxiliaries and the impersonal passive construction - are sensitive to an aspectual-thematic hierarchy of verb classes. We show that there is a split between 'core' verbs that elicit categorical intuitions from native speakers, and 'intermediate' verbs that exhibit gradience. Furthermore, crossdialectal differences between northern and southern German with respect to auxiliary selection tend to occur only with intermediate verbs. We argue that these findings lend support to the view that the unaccusative-unergative distinction is considerably more unstable than often assumed, and suggest that projectionist theories of the lexicon-syntax interface such as those directly derived
from the Unaccusative Hypothesis may not be able to account for the systematic
variation exhibited by the data.


This article appears IN Journal of Linguistics Vol. 39, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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