Journal article

Semantic roles and the causative-anticausative alternation: evidence from French change-of-state verbs


  • 2023
Published in:
  • Linguistics. - Walter de Gruyter GmbH. - 2023, vol. 62, no. 1, p. 159-202
English Change-of-state verbs are heterogeneous with respect to their occurrence in the causative-anticausative alternation. While some of them are never used as anticausatives (e.g., destroy), others seem to largely favor the anticausative form
(e.g., wither). On the basis of corpus data and statistical analysis for French change-ofstate verbs, we show that there is a relationship between the anticausative use of a
verb and the semantic role of its transitive subject: The more frequently the transitive subject of a verb is a cause (as opposed to agent or instrument), the more frequently the verb is used as anticausative (as opposed to transitive causative). In addition to presenting this novel empirical finding, we propose an account for the observed correlation: Depending on their semantic role, causers have different likelihoods to end up in the subject position of a transitive causative sentence, and the likelihood is lower for causes than for agents. Different factors are considered responsible for the observed correlation, including the asymmetry between agents and causes concerning salience as event participants, topic-worthiness, and the possibility of being expressed as anticausative adjuncts.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Département de français
  • English
Language, linguistics
Open access status
Persistent URL

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