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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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3 Affected Experiencers


3.1 Introduction

In this chapter, I discuss affected experiencer applicative arguments in German and English, as exemplified in (41).11

Affected experiencer applicative arguments denote an individual who is not directly involved in the event, but the event affects the individual. In the German example (41a), it is Chris who is affected by Alex breaking Ben’s vase while in the English example (41b) I am affected by Gerald breaking the vase.

This English example might be surprising because the affected experiencer applicative argument is included in a PP (and consequently does not meet my definition of an applicative argument (4)). Due to the striking similarities between German and English affected experiencers (explained below), I analyze them similarly despite the English affected experiencers being PPs. I argue below that the preposition on is the overt applicative head for affected experiencers in English.

Before I analyze the affected experiencer arguments in detail in section 3.4, note that these affected experiencer applicative arguments should be classified as high applicatives because an individual is related to an event (Pylkkänen 2002). Being high applicatives, first it is expected that they can occur with unergative and stative verbs. As mentioned in Chapter 2, this is not a good dia­gnostic for German because of other verbal restrictions (see also section 3.7). As shown in (42), unergative and stative verbs are allowed in English with the affected experiencer.

42. a. John cried...

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