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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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7 Dative of Inaction


7.1 Introduction

In this chapter, I discuss the last type of German applicative arguments, namely the Dative of Inaction (DI):99

Though Hens gives the translation of the DI with “on grandma” in (358), a better translation would be “on grandma’s watch” or “Grandma let the vase break”. This translation avoids ambiguity with the affected experiencer in the English translation, and it reflects the meaning of the DI better because it indicates that the grandma was in some way in charge of the vase and could have prevented its breaking. This is the meaning of the DI in (358).100 Following Hens (1997) and Rosengren (1975), I argue that the Dative of Inaction needs to be distinguished from other applicative arguments because of its semantic contribution and its limited occurrence.

The DI is an applicative argument according to my definition (4). It is not governed by a preposition (358), and it is not selected by the verb (359).

In (359), the involvement of another entity is not entailed (compared to (358)). Thus, the DI meets all requirements of an applicative argument.

In terms of the classification of applicatives by Pylkkänen (2002), the DI should be a high applicative argument because no transfer of possession is involved. In fact, no possession requirement exists for the DI. In (358), it is not necessarily the grandma’s vase that broke (Hens 1995). Yet, as described below, the...

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