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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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5 Benefactives


5.1 Introduction

In this chapter, I discuss the semantic and syntactic structure of benefactive applicative constructions in German and English as exemplified in (227).

As the name “benefactive” indicates, these applicative arguments denote who benefits from the described event. As Kittilä and Zuniga (2010) put it: “The beneficiary is a participant that is advantageously affected by an event without being its obligatory participant (either agent or primary target, i.e. patient)” (p. 2). This describes the meaning of the benefactive applicatives well.

In section 5.2, I distinguish benefactives from other applicatives, discuss different types of benefactives and show which benefactives are applicative arguments according to my definition (4). It is shown that in English, only those benefactives that receive a recipient or intended possessor interpretation are applicative arguments. In German, benefactive applicatives can receive either a plain, deputative, or possessor interpretation. In section 5.3, I show that benefactive applicative arguments contribute only at-issue meaning. Following that, I provide the analyses for the observed types of benefactive applicative arguments. The analysis for German true benefactives is based on Pyl­kkänen (2002) (section 5.4) and that of English recipient benefactives on Bruening (2010) (section 5.5). In section 5.6, I address the prepositional paraphrase of the benefactive applicative arguments before concluding this chapter in section 5.7.

5.2 Description

Before describing benefactives in detail, I need to distinguish them from other applicatives. As I show in detail in section 5.3,...

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