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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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8 Co-Occurrence of Applicatives


8.1 Introduction

In this chapter, I discuss the co-occurrence possibilities of applicative arguments. Vogel and Steinbach (1998) speculate that the co-occurrence of multiple (dative-marked) applicatives in German is “restricted only semantically (i.e. each dative needs a different interpretation)” (p. 27). It follows from this that no applicative should be recursive because the applicative head would assign the same thematic role twice.105 It also follows that, if Vogel and Steinbach (1998) are right, all applicatives should be allowed to appear together because each of them is associated with a different thematic role. I show below that this is true for English (section 8.3) and German (section 8.2) as long as the individual selectional and verbal requirements for each applicative are met.

8.2 German

In German, no applicative head is recursive (379). This supports the contention by Vogel and Steinbach (1998) that a different interpretation for each applicative argument is a necessary requirement for the co-occurrence of applicatives.

← 188 | 189 → However, not all different types of applicatives can co-occur despite having different thematic roles. Typically, if the requirements on the verb licensing the different types of applicative arguments do not overlap, the applicatives cannot co-occur. The following table gives an overview of the possible co-occurrences.106

Table 2: Co-occurrences of German Applicative Arguments

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