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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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2 Preliminaries


2.1 Introduction

In this chapter, I discuss some background assumptions and concepts that should be kept in mind for the following chapters in which the applicative arguments are analyzed. The first issue concerns the diagnostic tools to differentiate at-issue and not-at-issue meaning. This is one of the dimensions that I use to show that the various types of applicative arguments need different analyses. Here, I introduce the tests used to distinguish these two tiers of meaning based on the behavior of the elements on each. This also includes a discussion of the system for at-issue and not-at-issue meaning proposed by Potts (2005). The second issue discussed in this chapter concerns the semantic framework used throughout this book, namely Neo-Davidsonian event semantics. I give a brief overview of this approach in section 2.3. Lastly, in section 2.4, I summarize Pylkkänen’s (2002, 2008) work on differentiating applicative arguments into low and high applicatives. This is the background to my analyses. It will be shown throughout the book that Pylkkänen’s analysis is too coarse to handle all details of the different types of applicative arguments. A reader familiar with the tests for (not-) at-issue meaning, Neo-Davidsonian event semantics and Pylkkänen’s work may skip this chapter entirely.

2.2 Not-At-Issue Meaning

One major difference from many previous analyses of applicative arguments is that I argue that in some applicative constructions, some or all of the meaning of the applicative is not-at-issue (“implied”) meaning. This...

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