Iordăchioaia on “Agents and Causers in Psych Nominals”

We are happy to announce an invited talk by

Gianina Iordăchioaia (Stuttgart)
Agents and Causers in Psych Nominals

in the Oberseminar English Linguistics, Monday, April 25, 4-6pm, room IG 3.201.


Nominalizations derived from psychological verbs have been shown to exhibit a restriction in their realization of external arguments: while agents are fine, non-agentive causers are disallowed, as illustrated in (1b) (see Grimshaw 1990, Pesetsky 1995, Iwata 1995, Landau 2010):

1. a. The clown/The situation amused the audience.
b. the clown’s/*the situation’s amusement of the audience

I will compare derived nominals and nominal gerunds derived from psych verbs, as well as non-psych nominalizations that exhibit a similar restriction (see Sichel 2010 and Alexiadou et al. 2013), and argue that the main difference between agents and non-agentive causers in psych nominals is that the former impose an eventive reading on the nominal, while the latter correlate with a stative reading. Consequently, the restriction in (1b) suggests that stative nominals cannot realize external arguments. In a word formation model in which the ontological type of the root interacts with the event template in which it appears to determine the interpretation of a verb/noun (Rappaport Hovav & Levin 1998, Alexiadou et al 2015), I will argue that psych roots are ontologically stative and psych nominals as in (1b) are ambiguous between eventive and stative readings. Assuming that external arguments are introduced by the event template, I will show that the stative reading, which excludes agents, is derived from the root, while the eventive reading can be imposed on the stative root only by the presence of an agent. Agentivity thus forces an eventive structure, an observation which corroborates Lakoff’s (1966) use of agentivity tests to negatively diagnose stativity.

Alexiadou A., Anagnostopoulou E. & F. Schäfer. 2015. External arguments in transitivity alternations. Oxford University Press.

Alexiadou, A., G. Iordăchioaia, M. Cano, F. Martin & F. Schäfer. 2013. The Realization of External Arguments in Nominalizations. Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 16.2: 73-95.

Grimshaw, J. 1990. Argument Structure. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Iwata, S. 1995. The Distinctive Character of Psych-Verbs as Causatives. Linguistic Analysis 1-2: 95-120.

Landau, I. 2010. The Locative Syntax of Experiencers. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Rappaport Hovav M. & B. Levin. 1998. Building verb meanings, in M. Butt & W. Geuder (eds.), The projection of arguments: Lexical and compositional factors. CSLI Publications, 97-134.

Pesetsky, D. 1995. Zero Syntax: Experiencers and Cascades. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Sichel, I. 2010. Event Structure Constraints in Nominalization, in A. Alexiadou & M. Rathert (eds.), The Syntax of Nominalizations across Languages and Frameworks, 151-190. Berlin: Mouton.