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Applicative Arguments

A Syntactic and Semantic Investigation of German and English


Solveig Bosse

Applicative Arguments: A Syntactic and Semantic Investigation of German and English presents formal semantic and syntactic analyses of German and English applicative arguments. These arguments are nominal elements that are not obligatory parts of a sentence. Both German and English have several types of applicative arguments, including so-called benefactive and malefactive constructions. More specifically, the research relies on tests to differentiate the different types of applicative arguments based on this contribution to meaning: Some applicatives contribute only not-at-issue meaning, whereas others contribute only at-issue meaning, and still others contribute both types of meaning. These tests are applied to both German and English to uniquely identify the applicative arguments in each language. Formal analyses of the identified type of applicative arguments are presented that provide an account for each type of applicative identified for each language, explaining the applicatives’ differences and similarities.
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1 Introduction


This book is concerned with detailed formal semantic and syntactic analyses of applicative arguments in German and English. These arguments are typically defined as nominal constituents not selected by the lexical verb or a preposition of the sentence they appear in. In other words, they seemingly increase (or reflect an increase of) the verb’s valency. One of my goals is to provide an overview of different types of applicative arguments found in German and English and to provide formal tests and characteristics that differentiate the types. In (1), an example of each identified type is given: part-whole applicatives (1a, German), true benefactives (1b, German), recipient benefactives (1c, English), affected experiencers (1d, German and English), ethical applicatives (1e, German), subject co-referential applicatives (1f, German and English), and Datives of Inaction (1g, German).

Each of these types will be described in detail to unambiguously identify and characterize that type. This is important because the different types often seem identical on first glance, especially in German.

Applicative arguments are not a new phenomenon. Abraham (1973) was one of the first researchers who tried to differentiate German applicative arguments based on their syntactic behavior. Before that, they were typically classified based on their meaning alone. Given the framework Abraham was working in, ← 11 | 12 → his classifications are not adequate anymore. A re-evaluation of the types of applicative arguments in German is necessary.

English applicatives have also been studied before: the recipient benefactive has extensively...

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