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Applicative Arguments

A Syntactic and Semantic Investigation of German and English

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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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6 Part-Whole Applicatives

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6.1 Introduction

In this chapter, I provide an analysis of German applicative arguments that receive a part-whole interpretation (298).



To be precise, the applicative argument denotes an entity of which an entity denoted by another NP is a material part; in this example, the door is understood to be a part of the car. These applicative arguments are not found in English; I use a possessive construction in the translation.80

The part-whole applicative argument has first been extensively discussed as a separate type of German applicatives by Hole (2006; 2008). He claims that this type is only accepted by some native speakers of German, which might explain why they have been described as being ungrammatical by other authors (see section 6.2.1). I discuss these applicative arguments here because they conform to my general definition of applicative arguments (4), repeated below, and all of my informants (most of them from Lower Saxony) accept sentences such as (298).

299. Applicative Argument

An NP Y of a simple, non-negated declarative sentence that is not governed by a preposition is an applicative argument iff the sentence without Y does not entail that there is at least one individual that is involved in the asserted event and could be referred to by Y.

Part-whole applicative arguments are not required for the sentence to be grammatical, are not governed by a preposition and the denoted entity is not entailed as...

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