Guglielmo Inglese, "Anticausatives that are not reflexives: historical and semantic considerations"

Guglielmo Inglese, "Anticausatives that are not reflexives: historical and semantic considerations"

5. Mrz 2024

Guglielmo Inglese

Università di Torino, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici

Anticausatives that are not reflexives: historical and semantic considerations

Abstract: The (anti)causative alternation, that is, the valency alternation whereby languages express spontaneous vs. externally caused events (e.g. the vase broke vs. the boy broke the vase), has been the object of extensive language-specific and cross-linguistic studies (see Nedjalkov & Silnitsky1973; Haspelmath 1987; Nichols, Peterson & Barnes 2004; Alexiadou, Anagnostopoulou & Schäfer 2015; Kittilä & Zúñiga 2019) . In verb pairs that encode the alternation, marking on the noncausal member goes under the name of anticausative marking, while marking on the causal member is causative marking. While cross-linguistically overall less frequent than causativization, anticausative marking is a widespread phenomenon. In several languages, notably including Germanic and Romance ones, voice markers that express anticausativization may also encode other voice operations, chiefly reflexivity, as is the case of the voice marker si in Italian in (1).

(1) Italian
a. l’uomo si guarda allo specchio ‘the man sees himself in the mirror’
b. la finestra si rompe ‘the window breaks’

This pattern of voice syncretism is cross-linguistically quite robust and has fueled an intense
scholarly debate regarding whether anticausativization is a type of reflexivization (e.g. Koontz-Garboden 2009) or a voice operation of its own (e.g. Horvath & Siloni 2011).  Proponents of the former analysis point out that the reason to treat anticausatives as reflexive is that the two are often co-expressed and that reflexive marking is reported in the literature as the main, if not only, source of anticausativization (Haspelmath 1990; Kemmer 1993; Holvoet 2020; Cennamo 2020) . In this talk, I discuss why some of the underpinnings of the "ANTICAUSATIVES-AS-REFLEXIVES" hypothesis are problematic. To begin with, patterns of voice syncretism are much more diverse than the reflexive-anticausative pattern only, and crucially, in several languages anticausatives are syncretic with other voice operations but not reflexivity (Bahrt 2021; Inglese 2022a). Second, there is evidence that historically anticausative markers may derive from sources distinct from reflexive (Inglese 2022b): these include non-reflexive voice operations, such as reciprocals, and la variety of lexical sources, including intransitive verbs such as ‘be(come)’, ‘fall’, ‘go’ and transitive verbs such as ‘get’, ‘give’, ‘hit’, spatial morphemes of various kind, spontaneous event markers, aspectual markers such as ingressive and resultative markers, nominalizers and verbalizers. Finally, following the approach laid out in Giomi & Inglese (forthcoming) , I discuss how from a semantic perspective, which takes into account the distinction between semantic ambiguity and underspecification, anticausatives appear to be distinct from all other voice categories, including reflexives.

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