Causativization and the Lexicon-Syntax Parameter

Júlia Horváth and Tal Siloni (Tel Aviv University)   

2007. október 9. (kedd) 11.00  


According to some current conceptions popular within the MP framework, the lexicon is merely a list of idiosyncratic "building blocks": argument structure and systematic alternations between verb forms are all derived in the syntax. At the same time, Reinhart and Siloni (2005) argued, based on a cluster of systematic cross-linguistic differences exhibited by reflexive verbs, as well as reciprocals and middles, that clusters of variation across languages correlate with the lexical vs. post-lexical application of  thematic arity operations (valence-changing operation) deriving reflexives, reciprocals and middles . Accordingly, they assume that the lexicon is a computationally active component, and propose a Lexicon-Syntax parameter stating that thematic arity operations apply in the lexicon or in the syntax. The immediate question this raises is what the proper scope of the Lexicon-Syntax parameter is, i.e., determining which arity operations are parametrized with respect to their locus of application. Importantly, in recent work on unaccusativity, Reinhart (2002, 2006) established that cross-linguistically, unaccusative verbs are derived from their transitive alternate by an arity operation, namely decausativization, that applies uniformly in the lexicon, and reduces (eliminates) the external Cause role altogether.  

Alongside the transitive-unaccusative alternation, languages also exhibit a causative-anticausative alternation. The present talk will assess the status of the causative-anticausative alternation with respect to the Lexicon-Syntax Parameter. Across languages, causatives appear either in a periphrastic construction composed of two verbs, or as one morphological form ("morphological causative"). While periphrastic  causatives involve two verbs and a biclausal structure (the 'size' of the embedded projection varying, see e.g. Guasti 1993), the question arises what the structure is for morphological causatives. Clearly, the fact that they constitute a word implicates neither that their structure is monoclausal (i.e., that they denote a single event) nor that they are formed in the lexicon. The talk will examine the structure and derivation of morphological causatives in a comparative perspective, in light of current theoretical predictions with respect to the division of labor between syntax and the lexicon. Questions to be explored will be: Where can morphological causatives be derived? Is there an arity operation of causativization, manipulating theta-grids? If so, is it uniformly lexical, uniformly post-lexical (syntactic), or is it subject to parametric variation due to the Lexicon-Syntax Parameter?