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available online for free
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Copyright CSLI Publications
Center for the Study of Language and Information
Leland Stanford Junior University
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17 16 15 14 13
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie
ISBN 978-1-57586-662-8 (paperback : alk. paper) –
ISBN 978-1-57586-663-5 (electronic)
Frontispiece photograph by Lauri Karttunen
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CSLI was founded in 1983 by researchers from Stanford University, SRI
International, and Xerox PARC to further the research and development of
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for comments on this and other titles, as well as for changes
and corrections by the author and publisher.
Daniel G. Bobrow, Ronald M. Kaplan, Tracy
Holloway King, and Valeria de Paiva
Mapping from Arguments to Syntax
Proto-Properties in Argument Realization
Farrell Ackerman and John Moore
Do You Always Fear What Frightens You?
Beth Levin and Jason Grafmiller
Mismatched Spanish Unaccusativity Tests
Raúl Aranovich
Lexical Mapping Theory Revisited
One-Soon Her
Argument Structure of Quirky Algonquian Verbs
Amy Dahlstrom
vi / From Quirky Case to Representing Space
Views on Syntax
A Tour of Grammar Formalisms
Anette Frank
They Whispered me the Answer
Marilyn Ford and Joan Bresnan
Nothing Personal?
Joan Maling and Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir
Down with Obliques?
György Rákosi
Nested and Crossed Dependencies and the
Existence of Traces
Mary Dalrymple and Tracy Holloway King
Semantics and Beyond
Representing Paths of Motion in VerbNet
Jena D. Hwang, Martha Palmer, and Annie Zaenen
You Will Be Lucky To Break Even
Lauri Karttunen
On Presenting Something in English and
Tibor Laczkó
A Semantic Account of Contextual Valence
Livia Polanyi and Martin Henk van den Berg
Two Maps of Manhattan
Hinrich Schütze
IV Annie Zaenen: Curriculum Vitae and
Curriculum Vitae and Bibliography
Annie Zaenen
Farrell Ackerman: University of California, San Diego
fackerman "at" ucsd "dot" edu
Raúl Aranovich: University of California, Davis
raranovich "at" ucdavis "dot" edu
Martin Henk van den Berg: Microsoft Corp.
mhvdberg "at" gmail "dot" com
Daniel Bobrow: PARC Inc. bobrow "at" parc "dot" com
Joan Bresnan: Stanford University and Center for the Study of
Language and Information (CSLI)
bresnan "at" stanford "dot" edu
Amy Dahlstrom: University of Chicago
a-dahlstrom "at" uchicago "dot" edu
Mary Dalrymple: University of Oxford
mary "dot" dalrymple "at" ling-phil "dot" ox "dot" ac "dot" uk
Marilyn Ford: Griffith University
m "dot" ford "at" griffith "dot" edu "dot" au
Anette Frank: Universität Heidelberg
frank "at" cl "dot" uni-heidelberg "dot" de
Jason Grafmiller: Stanford University
jasong1 "at" stanford "dot" edu
viii / From Quirky Case to Representing Space
One-Soon Her: National Chengchi University
onesoon "at" gmail "dot" com
Jena D. Hwang: dhwang90 "at" gmail "dot" com
Ronald M Kaplan: Nuance Inc.
Ronald "dot" Kaplan "at" nuance "dot" com
Lauri Karttunen: Stanford University
laurik "at" stanford "dot" edu
Tracy Holloway King: eBay Inc.
tracyhollowayking "at" gmail "dot" com
Tibor Laczkó: University of Debrecen
laczko "dot" tibor "at" arts "dot" unideb "dot" hu
Beth Levin: Stanford University
beth "dot" levin "at" stanford "dot" edu
Joan Maling: Brandeis University
maling "at" brandeis "dot" edu
John Moore: University of California, San Diego
moorej "at" ucsd "dot" edu
Valeria de Paiva: valeria "dot" depaiva "at" gmail "dot" com
Martha Palmer: University of Colorado, Boulder
Martha "dot" Palmer "at" colorado "dot" edu
Livia Polanyi: livia "dot" polanyi "at" gmail "dot" com
György Rákosi: University of Debrecen
rakosi "dot" gyorgy "at" arts "dot" unideb "dot" hu
Hinrich Schütze: University of Munich
zaenenfestschrift "at" cislmu "dot" org
Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir: University of Iceland
siggasig "at" hi "dot" is
Annie Zaenen: Center for the Study of Language and Information
(CSLI) azaenen "at" gmail "dot" com
The vast range of topics dealt with in this volume do credit to the person who inspired them, namely Annie Zaenen. We would like to thank
the authors and reviewers, without whom there would be no Festschrift,
for all their work on the project. Authors are named in the Contributors
section. Our dedicated reviewers include Alex Alsina, George Aaron
Broadwell, Joan Bresnan, Cleo Condoravdi, Richard Crouch, Elisabet
Engdahl, Martin Forst, Olga Gurevich, Ronald M. Kaplan, Lauri Karttunen, Carmen Kelling, Tracy Holloway King, Anubha Kothari, Beth
Levin, Victoria Rosén, Peter Sells and Ida Toivonen. Lauri Karttunen
compiled the detailed bibliography and curriculum vitae in Part IV.
We would like to thank Danny Bobrow and Ronald M. Kaplan for
co-organizing the workshop which led to this Festschrift and for coauthoring the introduction. We are grateful to PARC Inc. which hosted
and sponsored the workshop on From Quirky Case to Representing
Space, An AnnieFest.
Finally, as always, our heart-felt thanks go to Dikran Karagueuzian
for always being there and for giving us CSLI Publications.
Daniel G. Bobrow, Ronald M. Kaplan, Tracy Holloway
King, and Valeria de Paiva
In 2011, Annie Zaenen retired from the Palo Alto Research Center
where she had been a foundational member and leader of the Natural Language Theory and Technology group. To celebrate her long
and distinguished career, a workshop in her honor was held at PARC.
Six researchers, representing different areas of linguistics that she has
profoundly influenced, presented at the event.
The workshop, held on October 5th, 2011 and hosted by PARC,
featured speakers who collaborated closely with Annie at different times
and on different topics, representing the broad sweep of her theoretical
and practical contributions. The talks and discussion reflected on their
collaborations with and influence by Annie and offer new perspectives
on linguistic issues of current interest. The program included:
. Joan Bresnan, Stanford University and CSLI The evolution of syntax in the time of Annie
. Anette Frank, Heidelberg University Diving into semantics – and
getting hidden meanings out
. Joan Maling, Brandeis University and U.S. National Science Foundation Chapter 1. Iceland: Is Icelandic a natural language?
. Geoffrey Nunberg, University of California at Berkeley L’avis des
. Livia Polanyi, Microsoft Corporation Sentiment analysis and the
linguistic structure of discourse
. Hans Uszkoreit, DFKI and Saarland University NLP is OOG?
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 1
2 / D. G. Bobrow, R. M. Kaplan, T. H. King, and V. de Paiva
We are grateful to the speakers not only for their perspectives on
Annie’s contributions to the field but also for the lively discussion that
they engendered, reflecting the true spirit of academic research and
Fortunately for us, Annie’s retirement from PARC has not meant a
retirement from linguistics: She is now a senior researcher for Stanford
University’s Center for the Study of Language and Information and a
consulting professor at Stanford University’s Department of Linguistics.
Contributions to the Volume
The contributions in this volume represent the broad influence of Annie’s research from details of lexical representation to the architecture
of formal linguistic theories. The volume is divided into three major
themes: Mapping from arguments to syntax; Views on syntax; Semantics and beyond. The papers speak for themselves and so in this introduction we provide only a brief overview. The papers all reflect Annie’s
academic rigor and honesty, which have inspired all of us: Linguistic research must involve an unerring devotion to the details of the languages
themselves and to the theories which account for the phenomena that
those details reveal.
Mapping from Arguments to Syntax
Lexical Mapping Theory, which governs the mapping from thematic
roles to grammatical functions, is a cornerstone of Lexical Functional
Grammar and has been a topic of active research for over twenty years.
Annie’s work has played a key role in both the evolution of Lexical
Mapping Theory and in establishing the complexity of the data which
must be accounted for.
Ackerman and Moore’s paper Proto-Properties in a Comprehensive Theory of Argument Realization addresses the fundamental theory of mapping from arguments to syntax. They propose a new approach, termed Correspondence Theory, which uses aspects of Dowty’s
proto-property theory with LFG’s Lexical Mapping Theory. They then
demonstrate how it applies to morphosyntactic and morphosemantic
operations, namely passives and applicatives, two phenomena that have
been key in the development of mapping theories.
Levin and Grafmiller’s paper Do You Always Fear What Frightens
You? revisits the vexing issues of pairs of verbs which seem to be synonyms, but which have different argument realization, such as fear and
frighten. They present results of a corpus study which supports the
analysis whereby the stimulus argument of the verb frighten is a causer
of the emotion, while that of the verb fear is an entity at which the
Introduction / 3
emotion is directed.
Aranovich’s paper Mistmatched Spanish Unaccusativity Tests harkens
back to Annie’s seminal paper on Dutch unaccusativity: The representation, and even existence, of unaccusative verbs has been at issue in
LFG and other linguistic theories. In this paper, Aranovich argues for
a semantic analysis of split intransitivity and uses proto-patient and
proto-agent properties to capture the lexical entailments.
Her’s paper Lexical Mapping Theory Revisited builds on Bresnan
and Zaenen’s work on Lexical Mapping Theory and proposes a revision
which maintains the spirit of the theory but aims for greater simplicity. He proposes a revision to the markedness of grammatical features
which in turn results in a stricter grammatical function hierarchy. The
paper then demonstrates how this revision affects classic mapping phenomena such as passive, unaccusative, ergative, ditransitives, and their
Dahlstrom’s paper Argument Structure in Quirky Algonquian Verbs
pays homage to Annie’s dedication to the detailed understanding of
linguistic data as well as her work on Icelandic that brought the phenomenon of quirky case into mainstream linguistic theory. Dahlstrom
argues that the patterns in Algonquian verbs reflect a mismatch between inflectional morphology and syntactic valence as opposed to
quirky case.
In addition to the five papers in this section, several of the papers
in the other two sections involve the representation of verbal semantics, which is crucially tied to the phenomena Lexical Mapping Theory
strives to account for.
Views on Syntax
Annie’s work on syntax covers a broad range of concerns from the
fundamental role of syntax in the broader architecture of linguistic
theory to the (non-)existence of traces and their role in word order
constraints cross-linguistically.
Frank’s paper A Tour of Grammar Formalisms examines four linguistic theories, namely LFG, HPSG, LTAG and CCG, comparing their
strengths and weaknesses. The paper considers architectural implications for linguistic theory as well as for grammar engineering. She uses
two notoriously difficult phenomena, complex predicates and asymmetric coordination, to demonstrate how formal fundamentals enable or
restrict analyses in often unexpected ways.
Ford and Bresnan’s paper They Whispered me the Answer addresses
the core issue of grammaticality in linguistics and reports on a comparative study of Australian and US usage of different argument realizations
4 / D. G. Bobrow, R. M. Kaplan, T. H. King, and V. de Paiva
in dative communication and transfer verbs. They show that there is
more variation in pronominal recipient objects of communication verbs
than of transfer verbs and tie this to the difference in possible syntactic
realizations of the arguments.
Maling and Sigurjónsdóttir’s paper Nothing Personal? A Systeminternal Syntactic Change in Icelandic analyzes an on-going syntactic
change in Icelandic which allows for a transitive impersonal “passive”.
They use data from two nation-wide studies to untangle the situation
and provide linguistic accounts for the different speakers’ grammars,
building on the existing data and analyses for passives and impersonals
Rákosi’s paper Down with Obliques? takes on the issue of whether
semantically marked prepositional phrases are adjuncts or arguments,
supporting ideas put forward by Zaenen and Crouch in the context
of computational grammars. His paper focuses on with instrumentals
and comitatives. Using corpus data to differentiate potential linguistic analyses, he concludes that instrumentals are adjuncts as are most
comitatives, but that reciprocal social verbs can take comitatives as
Dalrymple and King’s paper Nested and Crossed Dependencies and
the Existence of Traces, strongly influenced by Zaenen’s work on unbounded dependencies, argues against the use of traces to account for
nesting and crossing dependency constraints. They propose an account
which combines f-structure and c-structure constraints with the Direct
Association Hypothesis to anchor the apparent gaps.
Semantics and Beyond
Annie’s early work on mapping between thematic role information and
syntax grew into research on the semantic representation of verbs, their
arguments, and the events which they comprise. This move resulted in
fundamental research encompassing the lexicon, the syntax and then
the semantics built upon the interaction of these key grammar components.
Underscoring Annie’s dedication to the field, she is a co-author of
the first paper in this part of the volume. Hwang, Palmer, and Zaenen’s
paper Representing Paths of Motion in VerbNet examines the existing
representation of paths in VerbNet and argues for a new representation
that captures the semantic information necessary for semantic reasoning over the resulting structures. In particular, they propose a path
predicate with source, trajectory and destination roles and demonstrate
its use within VerbNet.
Karttunen’s paper You Will Be Lucky To Break Even examines the
Introduction / 5
entailments and presuppositions of the linguistic construction be lucky
to and its counterparts. He outlines a complex set of features that enable
(or disable) the idiomatic reading of this construction and in doing so
demonstrates the detailed linguistic analysis that is necessary to provide
an accurate semantic analysis for seemingly simple constructions.
Laczkó’s paper On Presenting Something in English and Hungarian
compares English and Hungarian verbs of presentation and their nominal counterparts, showing how their syntactic realization reflects the
perspective from which the event is viewed. Couched in terms of Lexical
Mapping Theory, the analysis reflects larger concerns in cross-linguistic
representations of event semantics.
Polanyi and van den Berg’s paper A Semantic Account of Contextual Valence Shifting builds on Polanyi and Zaenen’s work on sentiment
analysis and the factors that can shift the valence of the sentiment. This
paper argues that sentiment is a semantic scope phenomenon: In particular, discourse syntax encodes semantic scope and since sentiment is a
semantic phenomenon its scope is governed by the discourse structure.
Schütze’s paper Two Maps of Manhattan addresses the fundamental
issue of what an adequate formal theory of the meaning of linguistic
expressions should be. He argues that meaning is inherently heterogeneous and so semantic theory must consist of distinct modules which
can capture and reflect this heterogeneity. As a concrete example of the
information a theory would need to capture, he shows the difficulties
in producing a unified semantic representation for simple facts about
Annie Zaenen: Career and Bibliography
The diversity of these contributions, including their varying focus on
architecture and formalisms, linguistic phenomena, and specific theoretical analysis, only begins to reflect the broad range of contributions
Annie has made to the field of linguistics, both theoretical and computational. Her resumé and bibliography are found at the end of this
volume. Her teaching career spanned many institutions (from Université de Genève to Harvard University to numerous linguistic institutes
in the United States and Europe) and numerous subjects (from ethics
to French to the many linguistic topics reflected in her publications).
Her research career included decades at Xerox research centers in Palo
Alto and Grenoble, where she served as a Principal Scientist and managed teams of linguists and computational linguists. She has maintained
a strong affiliation with Stanford University’s Linguistics Department,
Symbolic Systems Program, and Center for the Study of Language and
6 / D. G. Bobrow, R. M. Kaplan, T. H. King, and V. de Paiva
The editors and authors of this volume are extremely grateful to have
been able to work with and be inspired by her, and we look forward to
a long, continued collaboration.
Part I
Mapping from Arguments
to Syntax
Proto-Properties in a Comprehensive
Theory of Argument Realization
Farrell Ackerman and John Moore
argument realization is of central importance in the syntax-semantics
interface. Since Fillmore 1968, it has been recognized that aspects of
lexical semantics determine how a predicate’s arguments are grammatically encoded. Building on Zaenen 1993, we seek to integrate two proposals in this domain: Dowty’s 1991 proto-property approach to argument selection and the LFG Lexical Mapping Theory (LMT).
Superficially, these two proposals appear to be incompatible competitors. Dowty’s proposal is designed to predict lexical semantic/argument
encoding alignments only for simple transitive predicates. Crucial to his
approach is the deconstruction of atomic thematic roles. Furthermore,
his approach is not projective (in the sense of Levin and Rappaport
Hovav 2005); that is, it assumes that lexical representations contain
both lexical semantic specifications for arguments as well as specifications for grammatical encodings. His principles govern their alignment,
but do not derive, i.e., project, specific case or grammatical function
encodings from their semantics. The Lexical Mapping Theory, on the
other hand, applies to predicates of all valency types, assumes atomic
thematic roles, and is projective.
Both theories have been subject to criticisms; some of these are summarized in Levin and Rappaport Hovav 2005. Most relevant for present
purposes, however, are Davis and Koenig’s 2000 critiques of both the
Lexical Mapping Theory and Dowty’s theory of argument selection.
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 9
10 / Farrell Ackerman and John Moore
As suggested, each theory, on its own, has various limitations and potential liabilities. Davis and Koenig identify these failings and propose
an alternative, multiple inheritance argument selection theory, which,
they argue, avoids these shortcomings. We argue that once the protoproperty proposal and Lexical Mapping Theory are integrated and appropriately extended, as outlined below, the force of the purported
problems disappears and the need for an alternative is, consequently,
In this connection we argue that the LMT and Dowtian argument
selection are designed to handle largely complementary phenomena;
given a natural extension to the modest domain over which Argument
Selection was originally formulated, the two theories can be integrated
in a manner that addresses many of Davis and Koenig’s challenges.
Here, we limit discussion to passives and applicatives. A key aspect
of this extension and integration involves a distinction between morphosyntactic and morphosemantic lexical operations. Briefly, we take
the former to be the domain of the Lexical Mapping Theory and the
latter to be handled by an appropriately augmented Argument Selection theory. Building on Zaenen 1993, Ackerman 1992, Ackerman and
Moore 1999 and 2001, we develop some of the details of the integrated
correspondence theory sketched in Ackerman and Moore 2001.
Correspondence Theory
A core element of our proposal is the taxonomy of lexical operations in
(1) a. morphosyntactic rules: Function-changing rules that do not
correspond to a change in lexical semantics; they are often
discourse related (e.g., passive and locative inversion).
b. morphosemantic rules: Rules that alter lexical semantics;
this is formally associated with function and/or valence changes (e.g., causative and applicative).
This type of distinction has been discussed by Simpson 1983, Ackerman 1990 and 1992, Joshi 1993, Markantonatou 1995, Dubinsky and
Simango 1996, Sadler and Spencer 1998, among others.1 Our essential
hypotheses are that morphosyntactic rules are monotonic operations
and are the natural domain of the LMT, while morphosemantic operations are non-monotonic, and more naturally handled in a Dowty-style
proto-property framework, such as the Paradigmatic Argument Selection theory proposed in Ackerman and Moore 1999 and 2001. Once, the
1 The terms morphosyntactic and morphosemantic are due to Sadler and
Proto-Properties in Argument Realization / 11
morpho-syntactic/semantic distinction is taken into account, several of
the criticisms of both Dowtian argument selection and LMT disappear
— morphosemantic operations should not be within the scope of the
Lexical Mapping Theory, nor should morphosyntactic operations be
within the scope the Argument Selection proposal.
Under this arrangement, an augmented version of Dowtian argument selection connects sets of semantic entailments (proto-properties)
with the intrinsic classifications of the LFG Mapping Theory ([±o],
[±r]). Morphosemantic operations may alter these predicate entailments through the Paradigmatic Selection Principle argued for in Ackerman and Moore 1999 and 2001; these new proto-property sets are
then related to intrinsic classifications via the normal Dowtian selection
mechanism. Because morphosemantic operations yield different protoproperty sets (which correspond to different semantics), these sets, in
turn, can correspond to different intrinsic classifications, and, eventually, to different grammatical encodings. In this way, morphosemantic
operations yield semantically-driven encoding alternations. While the
proto-property sets represent aspects of the lexical semantics of predicators — the grammatically relevant entailments associated with valence
slots — the intrinsic classifications consist of purely formal features
that represent underspecified grammatical encodings. In order to cash
out the intrinsic classifications in terms of grammatical encodings (e.g.
grammatical relations/functions), the Mapping Principles come into
play. Before the Mapping Principles, however, morphosyntactic operations can monotonically alter the intrinsic classifications, yielding the
possibility of grammatical encoding alternations that are not semantically motivated.
Lexical Mapping Theory
The LFG Lexical Mapping Theory provides a means for determining
grammatical function encodings from argument structure (L. Levin
1985, Bresnan and Kanerva 1989, Bresnan and Moshi 1990, Alsina and
Mchombo 1993, Zaenen 1993, Alsina 1996, Butt, Dalrymple, and Frank
1997, among others). While specific details of the Mapping Theory differ from proposal to proposal, they usually include four crucial components:
i. A predicator’s arguments are ordered according to the thematic
hierarchy: (ag > ben > exp/goal > instr > pat/th > loc)
ii. Each argument is intrinsically classified with the features drawn from
[±o], [±r]. The thematic role of the argument determines this intrin-
12 / Farrell Ackerman and John Moore
sic classification by principles like the following:
a. patients/themes are classified [−r]
b. secondary patients are classified [+o]
c. other roles are classified [−o]
iii.Monotonic operations may suppress arguments if features are added,
but may not change existing ones.
vi. Arguments map to grammatical functions by simultaneously satisfying a series of principles. These include:
a. the subject condition: Every predicator has a subj function.
b. function-argument biuniqueness: Every a-structure role must
be associated with a unique grammatical function.
c. mapping principles: Map the highest argument onto the subj
function, other roles are mapped onto the lowest compatible grammatical function on the functional hierarchy (subj > obj > obl
> objθ ), according to the functional decompositions:
subj : [−o, −r]
obj : [+o, −r]
obl : [−o, +r]
objθ : [+o, +r]
The operation of the Mapping Theory is illustrated for simple transitive, unaccusative and unergative English predicates in (3):
Argument Selection
In order to render Dowtian argument selection compatible with the
Lexical Mapping Theory, the Argument Selection Principle needs to
be restated as a well-formedness condition on the alignments between
proto-property entailments and intrinsic feature classifications. In addition, argument selection must be extended to account for the intrinsic
feature classification of arguments of both transitive and intransitive
Zaenen 1993 proposed precisely this type of revision of Dowty’s selection principle, thereby incorporating a proto-role theory of thematic
relations into the Lexical Mapping Theory. We follow her proposal, in
Proto-Properties in Argument Realization / 13
a slightly modified form, in formulating the argument selection principle below. Recall that Dowty’s Argument Selection Principle constrains
the association of grammatical functions and arguments of underived
transitive predicates (i.e., transitive predicates that have not undergone morphosyntactic operations such as Passive). Under the Lexical
Mapping Theory, such predicates are two-place, and have the intrinsic
classifications [−o] and [−r], where the [−o] argument maps to the subj
function and the [−r] to obj. This permits restatement of the Argument
Selection Principle in terms of [−o] and [−r] intrinsic classification.2
Before presenting the revised principles, however, it will be useful to
make use of Dowty’s 1998 notion of grammatical status loading:
(4) The grammatical status loading of an argument is the number of proto-agent properties minus the number of proto-patient
The intuition behind Grammatical Status Loading is that protoagentivity and proto-patientivity status is not based only on the relative
number of proto-agent/patient entailments, but rather, on the relative
degree of proto-agentivity/patientivity, where ‘degree’ is defined in
terms of the number of proto-agent properties minus proto-patient
properties (and vice versa).3 Putting this new, more nuanced notion of
Proto-Agent (argument with greatest grammatical status loading) and
Proto-Patient (least loading) together with intrinsic classification features, we propose the revised Transitive Argument Selection Principle
in (5):
(5) transitive argument selection principle: In predicates with
[−o] and [−r] arguments, the argument with the greatest grammatical status loading will have the intrinsic classification [−o];
the one with the least grammatical status loading will have the
intrinsic classification [−r].4
Mapping principles derive the ultimate grammatical functions for basic transitive predicates. This is illustrated for the transitive predicate build, where one argument is associated with four proto-agent
2 Because of space limitations, we only discuss transitives; Zaenen extends this
to intransitive predicates, and accounts for differences between unaccusative and
unergative predicates.
3 Dowty 1991 and Ackerman and Moore 2001 suggest that the explanatory role
of the counting mechanism itself may be mitigated in instances where the weighting
of particular properties may play a determinative role for grammatical encoding in
certain constructions.
4 Following Dowty (1991:576), the Transitive Argument Selection Principle does
not constrain encodings when the arguments have equal encodings. In this case,
encodings are lexically determined.
14 / Farrell Ackerman and John Moore
properties (volitional, sentient, causer, independent existence) and no
proto-patient properties. The other argument is entailed to have four
proto-patient arguments (change of state, incremental theme, causally
affected, no independent existence) and no proto-agent properties:
<arg1 ,
arg2 >
-4 – loading (from semantic entailments)
[−r] – intrinsic class. (Argument Selection)
obj – grammatical functions (derived
via mapping principles)
It is important to emphasize that as in Dowty’s 1991 Argument
Selection Principle, we assume that lexical entries specify both protoproperty sets and intrinsic classifications. That is, unlike the original
Lexical Mapping Theory, we do not derive the intrinsic classifications
from semantic roles. Rather, the Transitive Argument Selection Principle only serves as a well-formedness condition on the way protoproperty sets and intrinsic classifications can be aligned. Such selection
principles constrain the class of possible lexical entries. As formulated,
the Transitive Argument Selection Principle constrains the alignment
of [−o] and [−r] arguments for predicates that have both. Of course,
it is possible that transitive predicates have three arguments. This is
discussed in Dowty 1991; he notes that a corollary of his Argument Selection Principle is that a ‘third’ argument — that is, one that is neither
the proto-agent nor the proto-patient — will be neither a subject nor
an object (corollary 2, Dowty 1991:576; see also Primus 1999 for discussion of proto-recipient). Within the LFG Mapping Theory, these
third arguments will either be obliques or restricted objects.5 There
are a number of intrinsic classifications that can yield these encodings.
While there are clearly lexical semantic generalizations guiding some of
these, the intrinsic classification is, in general, not determined by any
of the selection principles, and can vary from entry to entry.
Morphosyntactic Operations
Once Dowtian argument selection is keyed to intrinsic feature classifications, instead of grammatical functions, the LMT can apply monotonically to handle morphosyntactic function alternations. For example, passivization is analyzed as a morphosyntactic operation that suppresses the most prominent semantic argument (Bresnan and Kanerva
5 See Ackerman and Moore 2011 for extensive discussion of the cross-linguistic
and cross-theoretical status of these ‘extra’ arguments, as well arguments that may,
in some cases, take the obj function. The proposal therein dispenses with aspects
of the LMT, but is largely compatible with the proposals here.
Proto-Properties in Argument Realization / 15
1989:27). In this case, ‘suppression’ simply means that the argument
cannot be associated with a grammatical function, and if realized at
all, is realized as an adjunct. The basic entailments of the predicate
remain unchanged, however. The most prominent semantic argument
is defined as the argument that is highest on the thematic hierarchy in
(2i). As stated, the thematic hierarchy relies on atomic thematic roles.
However, as pointed out in Dowty 1991, it is a simple matter to derive a
similar hierarchy as an emergent property of degrees of proto-agentivity.
Dowty 1998 does this in terms of grammatical status loading:
(7) X outranks Y on the thematic hierarchy iff, X’s grammatical
status loading is greater than that of Y.
Given this reinterpretation of the thematic hierarchy, Bresnan and Kanerva’s LMT analysis of passive, a morphosyntactic operation, is restated
in (8) and illustrated in (9):
(8) passive: Suppress the highest grammatical status loading argument.
Intrinsic Classification:
<arg1 arg2 >
<arg1 arg2 >
Notice that in both the active and passive predicates, the Transitive
Argument Selection Principle is satisfied — ‘transitive’ in this respect
refers to intrinsic classifications (which are identical), and not grammatical function assignments. This result is the outcome of the interface
between Dowtian argument selection and the LMT’s intrinsic feature
2.2.4 Morphosemantic Operations
Morphosemantic alternations occur when predicators exhibit alternative grammatical realizations accompanied by a lexical semantic contrast. There are two sub-types of morphosemantic alternations: those
where the alternants maintain a constant valence, but differ in grammatical encoding (often in terms of different grammatical functions),
and those where the alternants differ in valence.6 Limiting ourselves to
6 Some morphosemantic alternations, such as many cases of productive causative
formation, have alternants that differ in both valence and grammatical function
16 / Farrell Ackerman and John Moore
the first type, consider the morphosemantic alternation in (10), where
the grammatical function contrast between direct and indirect object
correlates with a semantic contrast with respect to the proto-patient
property undergoes change of state:
(10) a. Los perros lo
molestan. DO: undergoes
the.pl dog.pl 3sg.acc harass.3pl
change of state
‘The dogs harass him.’
b. Los perros le
molestan. IO: no change of state
the.pl dog.pl 3sg.dat harass.3pl
‘Dogs bother him.’
Ackerman and Moore 1999 and 2001 propose that morphosemantic alternations like these be subject to the paradigmatic argument selection principle in (11):
(11) paradigmatic argument selection principle:
Let P (. . ., argi , . . .) and P’ (. . ., arg′i . . .) be related predicates,
where argi and arg′i are corresponding arguments. If argi and arg′i
exhibit different grammatical encodings and argi is more prototypical with respect to a particular proto-role than arg′i , then
argi ’s encoding will be less oblique than arg′i ’s encoding (Ackerman and Moore 2001:67).7
(11) is intended to explain the empirical observation that prototypical patients tend to be encoded as accusative objects, while mitigated
patientivity is reflected in more oblique encoding (and similarly, for
agents and nominative subject encoding). Ackerman and Moore interpret obliqueness through various grammatical function and case hierarchies. In the present system we would like to use the Paradigmatic
Argument Selection Principle to constrain intrinsic classification; to this
end, Zaenen’s 1993 hierarchy in (12) defines an appropriate measure of
obliqueness, which correctly predicts the two senses of molestar in (13).
(12) [−o] < [−r] < [+o] < [+r] (Zaenen 1993:151)
(13) a.
<arg1 ,
<arg1 ,
arg2 >
arg2 >
(or [+r])8
7 There are two possible interpretations of this principle: it could be viewed as
a well-formedness condition on lexical semantic rules that relate predicates or as a
well-formedness condition that constrains the structure of the lexicon.
Proto-Properties in Argument Realization / 17
2.2.5 Applicatives
Davis and Koenig argue that the Chicheŵa applicative examples in (14)
pose conceptual problems for the Lexical Mapping Theory:
(14) a. Asodzi
pa-tsîndwi myálá.
fisherman 1s-pr-throw-ap-fv on.the.roof stones
b. Asodzi
myálá pa-tsîndwi.
fisherman 1s-pr-throw-ap-fv stones on.the.roof
‘Fishermen are throwing stones on the roof.’
Alsina and Mchombo 1993 propose alternative intrinsic classifications
for these examples:
póny-ér ‘throw-on’
loc> or <ag
Alsina and Mchombo derive these intrinsic classifications from alternative intrinsic classification options for certain arguments (e.g., instrumentals, patients, themes, locatives). While this works for the case at
hand, Davis and Koenig note that this would also, in principle, allow
alternative intrinsic classifications in simple transitive predicates; i.e.,
a patient argument could be classified [−r] or [+o]:
or <ag
As can be seen, this is largely a conceptual issue, given the absence
of any evident empirical consequence — the function assignment ends
up being the same. Nevertheless, under our approach, the alternative
classifications in applicatives are likely to be a consequence of a morphosemantic rule that introduces the applicative argument. Even when
there is no demonstrable semantic contrast associated with applicative
8 LFG does not treat indirect object as a grammatical function. Thus, the
intrinsic classification ([+o] versus [+r]) depends on the analysis of Spanish dative
arguments (objθ versus oblθ ). Alsina 1996 treats both Catalan accusative and
dative arguments as objs, and distinguishes them in terms of case. The Paradigmatic Argument Selection Principle can accommodate this type of analysis by interpreting obliqueness in terms of a case hierarchy. See Ackerman and Moore 2001
for arguments that the Paradigmatic Argument Selection Principle constrains both
grammatical function and case assignment.
18 / Farrell Ackerman and John Moore
alternations, it is worth noting that the Transitive Argument Selection Principle under-determines the intrinsic classification of ‘third’ arguments: this predicts that any classifications should be possible and
yields a de facto lexical class based account, as is the case in a multiple
inheritance account proposed by Davis and Koenig.9
Simple transitive predicates, on the other hand, if they do not participate in a morphosemantic alternation, will typically have only one
lexical entry and will involve [−o] and [−r] arguments, which will be
aligned with proto-property sets according to the Transitive Argument
Selection Principle in (5).
Correspondence Theory adopts Zaenen’s revision to the Lexical Mapping Theory that accommodates Dowty’s 1991 insights regarding the
proto-type nature of thematic roles. It also accommodates Ackerman
and Moore’s extension to Dowty’s basic proposal to provide an account of morphosemantic alternations. In doing so, it addresses liabilities and limitations of both standard Lexical Mapping Theory and
Dowty’s proto-role proposal. It frees the Lexical Mapping Theory from
its dependence on atomic thematic roles and the thematic hierarchy
and it extends Dowty’s proto-role account to a wider range of data.
The Correspondence10 Theory also makes what we believe to be the
right cut between monotonic and non-monotonic operations. The Lexical Mapping Theory algorithm that determines grammatical functions
is monotonic and is entirely dependent on classificatory features. In contrast, lexical semantic information is accessed only where it is necessary
— that is in the process of argument selection (intrinsic classification):
The Transitive Selection Principle and the Paradigmatic Argument Selection Principle uses proto-properties to regulate the intrinsic classification of related predicates. In as much as these are exactly the cases
where lexical semantic information is crucial for the eventual functional
encoding of arguments: any mapping theory needs to access semantics
here, and, perhaps, only here.
This division of labor crucially addresses some problematic issues
identified by Davis and Koenig. Once a theoretical distinction between
9 See Ackerman and Moore 2011, and references cited therein, for a more indepth discussion of the typology of applicative constructions. While cast in somewhat different terms, this work also suggests that function assignment needs to be
idiosyncratic in some cases.
10 We are using the term adjunct in the present context simply with respect to
its syntactic optionality, recognizing that the “argument” versus “adjunct” status of
these elements is a complex issue.
Proto-Properties in Argument Realization / 19
morphosyntactic and morphosemantic operations is made, it becomes
clear that the respective domains of the Lexical Mapping Theory and
Proto-Property Theory divide roughly along these lines. The static
well-formedness nature of the selection principles and the emergence
of the Thematic Hierarchy from the Proto-Roles achieve some of the
predicate-class effects that Davis and Koenig attribute to multiple inheritance. Thus, the Correspondence Theory brings together aspects
of Proto-Roles, with static argument selection, and the Lexical Mapping Theory, with its account of monotonic morphosyntactic operations, to account for the full range of lexical operations. This can be
accomplished by providing a synthesis of these proposals based on the
intuitions guiding Zaenen 1993.
Ackerman, Farrell. 1990. Locative alternation vs. locative inversion. In
A. Halpern, ed., The Proceeding of the Ninth West Coast Conference on
Formal Linguistics, pages 1–13. CSLI Publications.
Ackerman, Farrell. 1992. Complex predicates and morpholexical relatedness:
Locative alternation in Hungarian. In I. Sag and A. Szabolsci, eds., Lexical
Matters, pages 55–83. CSLI Publications.
Ackerman, Farrell and John Moore. 1999. Syntagmatic and paradigmatic
dimensions of causee encodings. Linguistics and Philosophy 22:1–44.
Ackerman, Farrell and John Moore. 2001. Proto-properties and Grammatical Encoding: A Correspondence Theory of Argument Selection. CSLI
Ackerman, Farrell and John Moore. 2011. The Object* parameter and
the functional expression Continuum: Evidence from Moro. Unpublished
manuscript. University of California, San Diego.
Alsina, Alex. 1996. The Role of Argument Structure in Grammar: Evidence
from Romance. CSLI Publications.
Alsina, Alex and Sam Mchombo. 1993. Object asymmetries and the
Chicheŵa applicative construction. In S. Mchombo, ed., Theoretical Aspects of Bantu Grammar , pages 17–45. CSLI Publications.
Bresnan, Joan and Jonni Kanerva. 1989. Locative inversion in Chicheŵa: A
case study of factorization in grammar. Linguistic Inquiry 20:1–50.
Bresnan, Joan and Lioba Moshi. 1990. Object asymmetries in comparative
Bantu syntax. Linguistic Inquiry 21:147–185.
Butt, Miriam, Mary Dalrymple, and Anette Frank. 1997. An architecture
for linking theory in LFG. In M. Butt and T. H. King, eds., On-line
Proceedings of the LFG97 Conference. CSLI Publications.
Davis, Anthony and Jean-Pierre Koenig. 2000. Linking as constraints on
word classes in a hierarchical lexicon. Language 76:56–91.
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Dowty, David. 1991. Thematic roles and argument selection. Language
Dowty, David. 1998. On the origin of Thematic Role types. Paper, The
Lexicon in Focus Conference. Wuppertal, August 1998.
Dubinsky, Stan and Silvester Ron Simango. 1996. Passive and stative
in Chicheŵa: Evidence for modular distinctions in grammar. Language
Fillmore, Charles. 1968. The case for case. In E. Bach and R. Harms, eds.,
Universals in Linguistic Theory, pages 1–90. Holt.
Joshi, Smita. 1993. Selection of Grammatical and Logical Functions in
Marathi. Ph.D. thesis, Stanford University.
Levin, Beth and Malka Rappaport-Hovav. 2005. Argument Realization. Cambridge University Press.
Levin, Lori. 1985. Operations on Lexical Forms: Unaccusative Rules in Germanic Languages. Ph.D. thesis, MIT.
Markantonatou, Stella. 1995. Modern Greek deverbal nominals: An LMT
approach. Journal of Linguistics 31:267–299.
Primus, Beatrice. 1999. Cases and Thematic Roles: Ergative, Accusative and
Active. Niemeyer.
Sadler, Louisa and Andrew Spencer. 1998. Morphology and argument structure. In A. Spencer and A. Zwicky, eds., The Handbook of Morphology,
pages 206–235. Blackwells.
Simpson, Jane. 1983. Aspects of Walpiri Morphology and Syntax . Ph.D.
thesis, MIT.
Zaenen, Annie. 1993. Unaccusativity in Dutch: Integrating syntax and lexical
semantics. In J. Pustejovsky, ed., Semantics and the Lexicon, pages 129–
161. Kluwer.
Do You Always Fear What Frightens
Beth Levin and Jason Grafmiller
English has a rich inventory of psychological verbs, or psych-verbs:
verbs that describe the experiencing of some emotion. Of these, few are
cited as frequently as fear and frighten, exemplified in (1).1
(1) a. Indiana Jones feared the snakes.
b. The snakes frightened Indiana Jones.
Most likely, this verb pair is often used because its members appear
to refer to the same emotion and involve the same arguments — often
referred to as the experiencer and the stimulus2 — and yet they associate those arguments with different syntactic positions. The verb fear
is representative of verbs whose experiencer argument is realized as the
subject, so-called experiencer-subject psych-verbs. Conversely, frighten
represents the experiencer-object psych-verbs, verbs which map their
experiencer argument to direct object, as the name implies. The fact
that doublets like the pair in (1) involve the same emotion, and os1 We are pleased to dedicate this paper to Annie Zaenen, whose investigations of
unaccusativity, psych-verbs, and impersonal passives have inspired us to think hard
about agentivity and related notions, as we hope to have done in this paper. We
also thank the reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft.
2 We use the label ‘stimulus’ (Talmy 1985) only as a way of referring to that
argument of a transitive psych-verb that is not the individual experiencing the
mental state described by the verb. This use of the term should not be taken to
indicate any particular theoretical position.
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 21
22 / Beth Levin and Jason Grafmiller
tensibly refer to the same situation, has led many researchers to treat
these verbs as selecting arguments with the same semantic roles. This
common semantic role assignment presents a puzzle for theories that
assume that a semantic role is mapped to a unique syntactic position,
such as those adopting Baker’s Uniformity of Theta Role Assignment
(1988:46, 1997): Why should the experiencer (or stimulus) argument
be mapped to the subject of one verb, and to the object of the other?
Some researchers have approached this puzzle from a syntactic perspective, positing a common syntactic analysis for both verbs despite
the surface differences in argument realization. For instance, one verb’s
realization of these two arguments can be (at least partially) reduced to
the other’s (Belletti and Rizzi 1988, Postal 1971). Alternatively, other
researchers have questioned whether the two verbs really have arguments sharing the same semantic roles; if they do not, then there may
not be a mapping puzzle to begin with. These researchers have proposed
that the situations described by the two verbs differ in their causal or
aspectual structure (Arad 1998, Croft 1993, Grimshaw 1990, Klein and
Kutscher 2002, Pesetsky 1995, Reinhart 2001). Zaenen (1993), among
others, draws attention to the subject of frighten and other experiencerobject psych-verbs, arguing that it is no less a causer than the subject
of regular transitive causative verbs such as break or melt — an analysis
not incompatible with the label ‘stimulus’.3 She incorporates Dowty’s
(1991) proto-role approach into LFG’s Lexical Mapping Theory framework (Bresnan and Kanerva 1989). Specifically, she argues that the
proto-agent properties entailed by the meaning of frighten determine
that the stimulus receives an ‘intrinsic classification’ which guarantees
its mapping to grammatical subject. For her, and others utilizing such
a proto-role approach (e.g. Davis and Koenig 2000, Klein and Kutscher
2002), causation is among the proto-agent properties entailed by the
meaning of frighten to hold of its stimulus.
What has received less attention is the status of the object of fear,
which despite the label ‘stimulus’, presumably does not qualify as a
causer, since otherwise it would be a subject. Even if, as Zaenen (1993),
Dowty (1991), and others note, causation is attributed to this argument, its actual semantic contribution has not received the attention
that the stimulus of frighten has. The precise differences in the types
3 These
arguments have been based in large part on the syntactic behavior of
frighten and other experiencer-object psych-verbs, which on closer examination does
not parallel that of fear and other experiencer-subject psych-verbs (Bouchard 1995,
Grimshaw 1990, Pesetsky 1995, Reinhart 2001). For example, experiencer-object
verbs pattern with typical transitive causatives with respect to middle formation,
resultative predication, and –er nominal formation (Chung 1998, Iwata 1995).
Do You Always Fear What Frightens You? / 23
of ‘stimulus’ arguments psych-verbs take, and the part these argument
types play in shaping the syntactic structures that their verbs are found
in, therefore require further study. Building on the groundwork laid out
by Zaenen and others, we investigate the nature of these arguments
through a corpus study of the verbs fear and frighten and show that a
better understanding of the semantics of so-called ‘stimulus’ arguments
of fear and frighten further supports Zaenen’s overall approach.
Fear and frighten are not converses
Before turning to the corpus study, we mention an additional clue that
the subject of frighten and the object of fear are likely to be different
despite the assignment of the label ‘stimulus’ to both: the paucity of
doublets like fear and frighten in English. Although these verbs are
frequently cited together in studies of psych-verbs, they are not representative of a general pattern in the language. Most experiencer-subject
verbs lack experiencer-object counterparts referring to the same emotion and vice versa. The only other easily identifiable doublet of this
type consists of like and please, and further doublets are more difficult
to discern. Other possible candidates might include: abhor or detest
vs. disgust or revolt; dislike vs. bother, bug, or annoy; and love or enjoy vs. delight.4 If the stimulus truly bears the same semantic relation
to psych-verbs of the two types, then such doublets should be found
across the psych-verb inventory. That they are not suggests that the
two types of verbs convey different kinds of psychological events, and
the title of the paper was chosen to suggest precisely this.
The intuition that the so-called stimulus arguments of fear and
frighten are not semantically quite the same is also supported by
changes in acceptability and/or meaning when the two NPs in a sentence with one verb are ‘flipped’ around so they can occur with the
other verb, i.e. when the sentence X fears/feared Y is changed to Y
frightens/frightened X, or vice versa. In many instances, such as in (1),
rephrasing a sentence involving one verb with the other verb does not
affect acceptability. The (a) sentences in (2)-(5) are corpus examples
which sound quite natural when switched with their hypothetical fear
or frighten variants, as in the (b) sentences.
4 Given the scarcity of doublets such as fear and frighten, it is not surprising
that a single psych-verb does not show the two argument realization options that
characterize these two verbs. In this respect, psych-verbs contrast with dative alternation verbs such as give or send and locative alternation verbs such as spray
or load, which show argument alternations. Our proposal, that experiencer-subject
and experiencer-object psych-verbs have fundamentally different meanings, explains
the lack of psych-verbs showing these two argument realizations.
24 / Beth Levin and Jason Grafmiller
(2) a. The government fears the answers to these questions.
b. The answers to these questions frighten the government.
(3) a. You have people in this country now saying that they fear the
Japanese economy . . .
b. You have people in this country now saying that the Japanese
economy frightens them . . .
(4) a. The darkness and the black depths frightened me.
b. I feared the darkness and the black depths.
(5) a. Extreme side effects frighten patients.
b. Patients fear extreme side effects.
Although these examples suggest that sentences with one of the two
verbs can often be rephrased with the other, it is not difficult to find
examples with one verb that lack a counterpart with the other. The
(b) sentences in (6)-(9), which are the ‘flipped’ counterparts of the
naturally occurring (a) sentences, are distinctly odd.
(6) a. They dropped everything and ran when something frightened
b. ??They dropped everything and ran when they feared something.
(7) a. “Sorry if I frightened you last night,” she told me.
b. ??“Sorry if you feared me last night,” she told me.
(8) a. Did you fear a negative response from fans?
b. ??Did a negative response from fans frighten you?
(9) a. He “hesitated fatally on the edge of his own political transformation. . . He feared the new.”
b. ??He “hesitated fatally on the edge of his own political transformation. . . The new frightened him.”
These data suggest that far from being a simple ‘flipped’ doublet, the
verbs fear and frighten have differential preferences for certain types of
arguments. This is especially clear in (8): the frighten variant (8b) can
only be understood as presupposing that a negative response has in
fact happened, while the fear example (8a) carries no such presupposition. In (8a) the experiencer fears merely the possibility of something
happening. That is, there was no specific event that happened to cause
him or her to become afraid. In the next section we present further
evidence that this example represents a general tendency for complements of fear to refer to abstractions, e.g. propositions, properties and
concepts, and for subjects of frighten to refer to more concrete entities,
Do You Always Fear What Frightens You? / 25
e.g. humans, physical objects, and events. These differences, we argue,
reflect the different semantic relations that the ‘stimulus’ bears to verbs
of the two types.
Corpus study
We now present the results of a corpus study examining the verbs fear
and frighten. Data were collected from the Corpus of Contemporary
American English (COCA) containing approximately 425 million words
of spoken and written varieties of standard American English from 1990
to the present day (Davies 2008-2011).
3.3.1 Notes on data collection and annotation
To construct our corpus, we initially collected 500 examples of each
verb from COCA using lemma searches which return hits for all possible inflected forms of the verb (e.g. fear, fears, feared, fearing). Sentence
tokens that did not include both an experiencer and a stimulus were
excluded, e.g. their intention was to frighten to the point where our nation would not act, as were examples of fear for and frighten off/away,
which have different semantic properties from their counterparts. Finally, we excluded fixed uses such as nothing to fear and fear the worst.
After removing such tokens we were left with 711 examples (fear =
365, frighten = 346).
Since this study focused on the types of stimuli involved, coding and
annotation was most detailed for these arguments. For each token, the
stimulus was coded for properties known to influence argument realization: definiteness, number, syntactic category (pronoun vs. full NP
vs. full clause), and most importantly animacy. The animacy categories
along with examples from the corpus are provided in Table 1.
3.3.2 Results
The results of animacy coding are presented in Table 2. The most noticeable difference between the two verbs is that frighten exhibits a more
even distribution of stimulus types, with a preference for more concrete entities (human, animate and physical objects) overall (53.3%).
Fear in contrast, displays a very strong bias (73.2%) toward abstractions (abstract entities and propositions).5 Events and activities, which
occupy an intermediate position on scales of concreteness or ‘world
immanence’, show a tendency to be treated conceptually and linguistically more like concrete objects than abstractions (Asher 2000, Hegarty
2003). In accordance with this tendency, we observe a slight bias toward
5 These findings corroborate and extend those of Grimm (2007), who found a
similar pattern in data from the British National Corpus.
26 / Beth Levin and Jason Grafmiller
Animacy Coding
Animate (non-human)
Concrete Object
Event or Activity
Abstract Entity
Corpus Examples
‘Husbands and boyfriends’, ‘Afghan
women’, ‘the police’
‘God’, ‘crocodilians’, ‘the bear’
‘chemical weapons’, ‘side effects’, ‘the
sound of the wind’, ‘beds’
‘a direct assault on the city’, ‘an ambush’,
‘my father crying’
‘the number 13’, ‘her need’, ‘disapproval’,
‘an impulse’, ‘disgrace’
‘that North Korea could collapse’, ‘I
couldn’t feel him breathing’
Animacy categories with examples
event-referring stimuli with frighten over fear. The collapsed pattern of
stimulus animacy is shown in Figure 1.
Concrete object
Abstract entity
37 10.1
142 38.9
125 34.3
365 100
110 33.3
53 16.1
49 14.8
87 26.4
330 100
147 21.2
73 10.5
80 11.5
229 32.9
143 20.6
695 100
Distribution of stimulus animacy types by verb
Our corpus investigation demonstrates that fear heavily favors abstract objects. This preference is reflected not only in the kinds of NP
complements it tends to take as in (10), but also in its frequent use
with sentential complements, most of which denote yet to be realized
propositions as in (11).
(10) a. Do you fear a quagmire for the international community?
b. . . . preceding the intervention, markets panicked, fearing an
imminent Greek default.
c. The authorities fear a possible destabilization . . .
Do You Always Fear What Frightens You? / 27
Distribution of stimulus animacy types by verb (collapsed)
(11) a. Space scientists fear that the manned space station . . . will
divert funds from space science in the ’90s.
b. They fear that Chinese state-owned enterprises will not hire
their employers if they are openly critical.
The future-oriented nature of these uses highlights the evaluative nature of fear, which denotes an experiencer’s disposition toward some
(possibly non-existent) target. Such uses of fear are hard to reconcile
with analyses of fear events that postulate a direct causal relation between the stimulus and the experiencer. Conversely, frighten’s frequent
occurrence with concrete entities is entirely compatible with its usual
treatment as a canonical causative verb.
The broader patterns of usage in Table 2 and Figure 1 are revealing
on their own, but a closer look at the nominal stimuli found with the
two verbs shows that the differences go even further than the aggregated
numbers suggest. For example, a significantly larger proportion of fear
uses involve indefinite stimuli than frighten uses do (Fisher Exact test:
p < 3.3e−10 ), as shown in Table 3.
A closer look at these indefinite examples reveals that even with apparent human referents, many objects of fear describe abstract conceptualizations of these human types, rather than discourse-new instances
of actual individuals (cf. I fear an earthquake vs. I felt an earthquake).
(12) a. Most were initially skeptical of this political Euclid and feared
28 / Beth Levin and Jason Grafmiller
113 49.7
114 50.3
129 85.5
22 14.5
Distribution of definite and indefinite NP stimuli by verb
a conservative double agent in their midst.
b. Everyone fears an Efficiency Ogre!
The same pattern also holds for fear complements referring to events.
(13) a. From all the grumbling, I feared an encounter with a giant
Gerald Scarfe demon sitting on a throne . . .
b. He knew his troops were green and had families at home, and
he feared a direct assault on the city . . .
c. Bill Miller said he feared an ambush.
In contrast to fear, indefinite stimuli for frighten are quite rare, and
where found, they either refer to an existing entity that is simply new to
the discourse as in (14), or they involve generic statements expressing
a kind of episodic relation in which the stimulus typically causes fear
(Extreme side effects frighten patients).
(14) a. Stories of the Holocaust drifted across to America and frightened him.
b. “They probably dropped everything and ran when something
frightened them,” I said. “A bear, maybe.”
c. Frightened by a blistering barrage of bombs, Russian recruits
. . . are shot by their own superiors as they try to jump ship.
As shown in Table 2, the two verbs prefer different types of NPs for
their stimulus, with fear showing a bias against concrete NPs. Another
interesting subset of these stimuli is observed in the interpersonal uses
of the two verbs — uses involving a human experiencer and a human
stimulus. While there are many fewer instances of fear with human
stimuli in the corpus data than frighten, the numbers do not tell the
whole story. The relationship between a human stimulus and an experiencer with fear is often qualitatively different than with frighten: it
frequently involves an imbalance of power between the two participants.
In many instances, the stimulus constitutes an authority figure to the
experiencer: it is higher than the experiencer on some scale of status,
power or other comparable property. Further, this unequal relationship
is inherent in the nature of the stimulus, such as when the stimulus is
God or someone who holds a role that invests him or her with legal,
Do You Always Fear What Frightens You? / 29
political, or institutional power. It is not a temporary or accidental
relationship that simply holds because of the immediate situation or
context, but rather an inherent one that holds of the individuals across
(15) a. King Henry is feared by his enemies — and his family.
b. He admires yet fears his father.
c. It was always wise to fear a wizard whose lips had touched
the Holy Grail.
In instances where this unequal relationship is not necessarily inferrable from common knowledge, the relation of authority is made
clear in the context.
(16) I’d clawed to a position of respect as an accident reconstructionist.
As a consultant, I was valued by law enforcement and insurance
companies alike. As a professional witness, I was feared.
This asymmetric relation by no means holds across all uses of fear,
but the large number of such examples makes sense given the nature
of the emotion and the verb’s overwhelming tendency to express experiencer dispositions or attitudes directed at some object.
Again, frighten contrasts with fear. Many of the interpersonal uses of
frighten involve similar imbalances between participants — not surprisingly, as the verbs denote very similar emotions — but these relations
hold due to particular circumstances, rather than being inherent in
the relationship between the event participants. Although some human
stimuli clearly have roles that put them in an authority relation over
the experiencer, many of the examples make clear that the stimulus
evokes an emotion in the experiencer by his or her actions, rather than
as a consequence of a role invested in him or her, as in the following
examples. For example, the bracketed phrases in (17) and (18) explicate the means by which the subject has managed to evoke fear in the
experiencer in a particular situation, and represents a common strategy
with experiencer-object verbs (Grafmiller in prep.).
(17) a. House Majority Leader Dick Armey complained that the president was trying to frighten the congressman’s grandmother
[by demagoguing the impact of Medicaid cuts on nursing-home
b. Another man looked thin and angry and frightened me [as
though he carried a knife although he was full of easy compliments].
c. Most of the time she frightened me [because she was old]. . .
30 / Beth Levin and Jason Grafmiller
(18) a. Matt frightened me [with his intensity].
b. I frightened him [with stories about the missiles that entered
buildings and shot up circular stairwells to find their target].
Providing such additional information is often necessary due to the
context-specific, circumstantial nature of frighten events. In other instances, the stimulus is not truly a stimulus, but is better characterized
as the causer of the emotion, and the emotion is directed at something
else. For instance, in (19) what the experiencer is actually afraid of are
grizzlies, not whoever the subject of the sentence, they, refers to. They
are the cause of her fear only in that they brought to her attention the
possibility of grizzlies, i.e. the ‘subject matter’ of her fear (Pesetsky
(19) They tried to frighten her with talk of grizzlies, but she just looked
out the window at the low, treed terrain. . .
Such examples are not attested among the fear sentences and support the causative analysis of frighten. Given the causative nature of
this verb, this difference in the stimulus–experiencer relationship is to
be expected. In any given instance of ‘frightening’ it is possible that
any individual could potentially frighten another under the appropriate
In the introduction we reviewed the puzzle that doublets such as fear
and frighten pose for theories of argument realization and argued that
this puzzle resolves itself in light of claims by Zaenen (1993) and others
that experiencer-object psych-verbs like frighten entail certain protoagent properties of their stimuli, most importantly, causation. Conversely, experiencer-subject verbs like fear do not. Our corpus study
reveals significant differences in the nature of the stimulus noun phrases
found with these two verbs, which support these previous claims.
Our study shows that the stimuli found with frighten are truly
causers of the emotion experienced, thus further supporting the analyses of Zaenen (1993) and Dowty (1991). This characterization receives
support from the significantly greater tendency for these stimuli to refer to concrete entities or events in the immediate context. It is further
substantiated by the arbitrary connections between stimulus and experiencer typical of many uses of frighten. These characteristics of frighten
sentences reflect the circumstantial nature of the direct causation denoted by this verb.
In contrast, the stimuli found with fear represent entities at which a
particular emotion can be directed, and the authority inherent in many
Do You Always Fear What Frightens You? / 31
of these stimuli simply reinforces this. Inherently fear-inducing entities,
events, or abstract notions need not be present in the immediate context, or even exist at all, making a direct causal connection between the
stimulus and experiencer difficult to establish. The low degree of causal
efficacy possessed by these stimuli, along with the inherent imbalance
of authority or power between the experiencer and the stimulus suggests that the experiencer’s mental state should be conceptualized as a
disposition directed toward something, rather than as a direct reaction
to an immediate stimulus.
The question we chose as this paper’s title, Do you always fear what
frightens you?, plays on these fundamental, but distinct properties of
fear and frighten, and was intended to evoke the long-standing controversy over the relation between fear and frighten: whether they are
synonyms which take arguments with the same semantic roles, but expressed differently, as some work has suggested. The appropriate answer
to the title question is No, precisely because the meanings of the two
verbs are different in the way we have laid out. This answer suggests
that synonymy analyses cannot be right, and our corpus study reveals
not only the reasons why they cannot hold, but also why the question
receives the answer it does. These two verbs have distinct meanings, so
that you can indeed be frightened by things you do not fear.
Asher, Nicholas. 2000. Events, facts, propositions, and evolutive anaphora.
In J. Higginbotham, F. Pianesi, and A. Varzi, eds., Speaking of Events,
pages 123–150. Oxford University Press.
Baker, Mark. 1988. Incorporation: A Theory of Grammatical Function
Changing. University of Chicago Press.
Baker, Mark. 1997. Thematic roles and syntactic structure. In L. Haegeman,
ed., Elements of Grammar , pages 73–137. Kluwer.
Davies, Mark. 2008–.
The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA): 425+ million words, 1990-present. Available online at
Davis, Anthony and Jean-Pierre Koenig. 2000. Linking as constraints on
word classes in a hierarchical lexicon. Language 76:56–91.
Dowty, David. 1991. Thematic proto-roles and argument selection. Language
Grafmiller, Jason. In prep. Agentivity and Argument Realization in English
Psychological Verbs. PhD thesis, Stanford University.
Grimm, Scott. 2007. Flip verbs right side up. MS. Stanford University.
Hegarty, Michael. 2003. Semantic types of abstract entities. Lingua 113:891–
32 / Beth Levin and Jason Grafmiller
Talmy, Leonard. 1985. Lexicalization patterns: semantic structure in lexical
forms. In T. Shopen, ed., Language, Typology and Syntactic Description 3:
Grammatical Categories and the Lexicon, pages 57–149. Cambridge University Press.
Zaenen, Annie. 1993. Unaccusativity in Dutch: Integrating syntax and lexical
semantics. In J. Pustejovsky, ed., Semantics and the Lexicon. Kluwer.
Mismatched Spanish Unaccusativity
Raúl Aranovich
Mismatched unaccusativity tests offer strong evidence for a semantic
analysis of split intransitivity.1 In Spanish, two tests are said to distinguish unaccusatives from unergatives. First, unergatives, unlike unaccusatives, cannot be embedded in a causative construction with a
generic null animate causee. Second, unaccusatives, unlike unergatives,
can have postverbal bare plural subjects.2 Mismatches arise with verbs
like heder ‘stink’, for instance, which fail only one of the tests. I argue
that mismatches like this one occur when a subject has mixed protopatient and proto-agent properties, since different tests can be sensitive
to different lexical entailment weightings.
I will also show that applying these tests to pronominal verbs in
Spanish gives rise to analogous mismatches, offering additional support
for the semantic analysis of split intransitivity. Pronominal verbs are de1 An
earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2000 LSA Annual Meeting
in Chicago. I thank the participants in the session for useful comments and suggestions. Annie Zaenen’s (1993) paper on Dutch unaccusativity tests prompted me to
look beyond the syntax of unaccusativity in Romance. In that paper, Annie showed
that seemingly untractable exceptions could be accounted for in lexical-semantic
terms, with interesting theoretical consequences. Annie has been a source of inspiration and support over the years: I am glad that this paper is published in a volume
to celebrate her work.
2 In other Romance languages, perfect auxiliary selection (be or have) is often
used as an unaccusativity test (Burzio 1986, Legendre 1989, Perlmutter 1989, among
others). In Modern Spanish, however, the only perfect auxiliary is haber ‘have’.
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 33
34 / Raúl Aranovich
rived intransitives marked by a reflexive clitic. In Spanish, a pronominal
verb often occurs as the inchoative member of the causative alternation,
as in (1a). The semantic range of pronominal verbs, however, extends
beyond the class of change-of-state predicates, as shown in (1b).
(1) a. El espejo se rompió.
the mirror se broke
‘The mirror broke.’
b. Los edificios se reflejan en la vidriera.
the buildings se reflect in the store.window
‘The buildings reflect in the store window.’
The semantic variation found among pronominal verbs, which will
be central to the arguments developed in this article, contrasts with
their syntactic homogeneity. The received view of pronominal verbs
like romperse ‘become broken’ is that they are unaccusatives (Rosen
1988, Grimshaw 1990, Levin and Rappaport 1995).3 The reflexive clitic
indicates that the surface subject is an underlying object. All diagnostics for unaccusativity, then, should produce consistent results when
applied to pronominal verbs. I will show that this is not the case,
and that the mismatches that arise receive clear characterizations in
semantic terms. These results, I will argue, support Zaenen’s (1993)
semantic approach to split intransitivity (see also Centineo 1986, 1996,
Van Valin 1990, and Dowty 1991).
Two tests for unaccusativity in Spanish
As argued in Zubizarreta (1985), Burzio (1986), and Alsina (1996), the
distribution of embedded verbs with null generic animate subjects in
Romance causative constructions gives evidence for split intransitivity.
Transitive verbs can appear in causatives with a generic null animate
subject, as the example in (2a) shows, and so do unergatives, as shown
in (2b) and (2c). Unaccusatives, on the other hand, cannot appear in
the Generic Causee Construction (GCC), as the examples in (2d) and
3 Several authors (Kayne 1975, Grimshaw 1982, Alsina 1996) have provided independent evidence for the valence-reducing nature of reflexive cliticization in Romance. I will assume with these authors that reflexive verbs are intransitive. The
Spanish reflexive clitic serves many different functions. As in other Romance languages, it marks constructions in which the subject and object are coreferential
(true reflexives), and also impersonal/passive constructions with an arbitrary human agent (see Mendikoetxea 2012 for an overview of the literature on the Spanish
reflexive clitic and its functions). In this paper I limit the analysis to the different
semantic classes of pronominal verbs, which I take to have only one semantic role to
assign to their subjects (a different point of view is defended in Koontz-Garboden
Mismatched Spanish Unaccusativity Tests / 35
(2e) illustrate.4
(2) a. El director del
hospital hizo operar toda la noche.
the director of the hospital made operate all the night
‘The director of the hospital made people operate all night
b. El capataz hizo trabajar incesantemente.
the foreman made work
‘The foreman made people work without pause.’
c. La película hizo llorar de emoción.
the movie made cry of sorrow
‘The movie made people cry out of sorrow.’
d. *El mago
hizo desaparecer misteriosamente.
the magician made disappear mysteriously
‘The magician made people disappear mysteriously.’
e. *La directora hizo llegar a la escuela.
the principal made arrive to the school
‘The principal made people arrive at school.’
Torrego (1989) and Alsina (1996) discuss another unaccusativity test in
Spanish. They show that bare plural subjects can appear in postverbal
position with unaccusatives, as in (3a) and (3b), but not with unergatives, as in (3c), (3d), and (3e).5
4 The tense in the GCC must be controlled to avoid a generic reading of the
causative construction itself, which licenses null objects normally. For this purpose,
all the examples discussed here have a causative verb in the preterite.
5 Many speakers reject Torrego’s judgments, and some trained linguists have
questioned the validity of the test. Postverbal plural subjects are ungrammatical
with unergatives under a presentational reading. In my interpretation, sentences
like (3c) and (3d) cannot mean ‘there are stars shining intensely’ or ‘there are calves
grazing’. Sentences like (3a) or (3b), on the other hand, can have this presentational
interpretation. They can be used in a newspaper headline, for instance, to report an
event. The reason why this test has become so controversial is that under certain
conditions unergatives can have postverbal bare plural subjects. This happens if the
sentence has a preposed locative phrase making reference to a definite location, as
in (A), or if the bare plural NP is the focus of contrast, as in (B).
(A) Aquí pastan terneros.
here graze calves
‘Calves graze here.’
(B) Pastan terneros, no cabras.
graze calves, not goats
‘Calves graze, not goats’
In the first case, it can be argued
As such it is part of the predicate.
the location: it specifies a property
the second case, the sentence is not
that the bare plural noun denotes a property.
Sentence (A) is not about calves, but about
of the location designated by the adverb. In
presenting a new event, or introducing a new
36 / Raúl Aranovich
(3) a. Llegan trenes con retraso.
arrive trains with delay
‘Trains arrive with delay.’
b. Desaparecen periodistas todos los meses.
journalists all
the months
‘Journalists disappear every month.’
c. ??Brillan estrellas con intensidad.
shine stars
with intensity
‘Stars shine intensely.’
d. ??Pastan terneros por la mañana.
graze calves by the morning
‘Calves graze in the morning.’
e. ??Trabajan prisioneros de sol a sol.
prisoners from sun to sun
‘Prisoners work from dawn till dusk.’
In Torrego’s analysis, an unaccusative like llegar ‘arrive’ can have a
postverbal bare plural subject (PVBS) because its sole argument is
an internal one. Bare plurals, she adds, can appear in object position
(i.e. after the verb), as in (4a), but not in subject position, as (4b)
shows. This shows that subjects of unaccusatives behave like objects,
and subjects of unergatives behave like subjects of transitive verbs.
(4) a. Las ardillas comen nueces.
the squirrels eat
‘Squirrels eat nuts.’
b. *Pediatras
vacunan a los niños.
pediatricians vaccinate to the children
‘Pediatricians vaccinate children.’
Mismatches between the tests
When pronominal verbs are subject to the GCC test and the PVBS
test, the results seem initially to support the unaccusative analysis of
pronominal verbs. Verbs like asfixiarse, arrepentirse,6 and arrojarse, for
instance, are excluded from the GCC, as shown in (5a), (5b), and (5c).
participant, but rather correcting a statement that has been uttered previously or
that is presupposed or salient in the consciousness of the speakers. In sum, there
are valid objections to an indiscriminate use of the postverbal bare plural subject
test, which disappear when the presentational sense of the construction is taken
into account.
6 Arrepentirse ‘repent, feel remorse’ is inherently pronominal. That is, there is
no transitive counterpart *arrepentir, meaning ‘cause to feel remorse.’ This is a not
uncommon occurrence among pronominal verbs.
Mismatched Spanish Unaccusativity Tests / 37
These data seem to indicate that the subjects of pronominal verbs, like
the subjects of unaccusatives, passives, and true reflexives, are underlying objects at some level of representation.
(5) a. ??El humo hizo asfixiarse durante el incendio.
the smoke made suffocate.se during the fire
‘Smoke made people suffocate during the fire.’
b. ??El director de la escuela hizo arrepentirse.
the director of the school made repent.se
‘The school principal made people repent.’
c. ??Los bomberos hicieron arrojarse desde el segundo piso.
the firefighters made throw.se from the second floor.
‘Firefighters made people jump off from the second floor.’
The PVBS test should give the opposite result since unaccusatives are
allowed to have postverbal bare plural subjects. My own judgments are
that verbs like arrojarse and asfixiarse can have postverbal bare plural
subjects, as in (6a) and (6b).7 This is expected under the assumption
that all pronominal verbs are unaccusatives.
(6) a. Se arrojan inquilinos por desesperación.
se throw tenants by despair
‘Tenants jump out of despair.’
b. Se asfixian bomberos por descuido.
se suffocate firefighters by lack.of.care
‘Firefighters suffocate when they are careless.’
c. Se derrumban edificios sin
se fall.down buildings without warning
‘Buildings fall down without warning.’
In the idealized model assumed by the standard syntactic analysis of
unaccusativity, the GCC test and the PVBS test should divide all intransitives into two complementary classes. None of the intransitive
verbs that appear in the GCC should be able to occur with postverbal
bare plural subjects, and all the intransitive verbs that occur in the
PVBS construction should be excluded from the GCC. Moreover, all
pronominal verbs should behave as unaccusatives, passing the PVBS
test but not the GCC test. There are, however, some critical examples
that do not fit in this picture.
7 There
is considerable variation in acceptability across dialects and individuals
about these examples. The data in this paper reflect my own dialect: River Plate
Spanish. As an anonymous reviewer points out, it would be desirable to back up
individual grammaticality judgments with corpus data. Even though that is outside
the scope of this investigation, I hope the results I introduce here will guide further
research in that direction.
38 / Raúl Aranovich
First, there are some verbs that behave more like unergatives than
like unaccusatives, in spite of being marked by a reflexive pronoun.
Verbs like revolcarse ‘roll on’, arrastrarse ‘crawl’, and menearse ‘swing’,
can occur in the GCC, as shown in (7a) to (7c).8
(7) a. El sargento hizo revolcarse en el barro.
the sergeant made roll.se
in the mud
‘The sergeant made people roll in the mud.’
b. Las balas hicieron arrastrarse sobre el pavimento.
the bullets made drag.se
over the pavement
‘Bullets made people crawl on the pavement.’
c. La música hizo menearse toda la noche.
the music made swing.se all the night
‘The music made people swing all night.’
A second problem is that there is a mismatch not predicted by a syntactic theory of unaccusativity. A verb like heder, for instance, is excluded
from the GCC, as in (8a). Therefore, it should be able to have a postverbal bare plural subject, but (8b) shows this is not the case. Moreover,
the same mismatch between the PVBS and the GCC tests is observed
for pronominal verbs. Reflejarse ‘reflect’ fails both tests, as shown by
(9a) and (9b).
(8) a. *El entrenador hizo heder.
the coach
made stink
‘The coach made people stink.’
b. *Hieden atletas.
stink athletes
‘Athletes stink.’
(9) a. ??La vanidad hizo reflejarse en las vidrieras.
the vanity made reflect.se in the shop.windows
‘Vanity made people reflect in the shop windows.’
b. ??Se reflejan clientes con claridad.
se reflect customers with clarity
‘Customers reflect clearly.’
8 There are many speakers of Spanish for whom infinitives embedded under
causative constructions cannot have a reflexive pronoun under any circumstance
(Moore 1996). For those speakers, the sentences in (7a) to (7c) will be ungrammatical. Care should be taken to test these sentences with speakers who may accept
embedded reflexives in their dialect.
Mismatched Spanish Unaccusativity Tests / 39
A semantic explanation of the mismatches
The mismatch between the PVBS test and the GCC test for unaccusatives can be accounted for in semantic terms. Postverbal bare plural subjects can appear with telic predicates like regresar, desaparecer,
arrojarse, or asfixiarse, but not with verbs like heder, trabajar, arrastrarse, or reflejarse, which are atelic. This is summarized in Table 1.
regresar desaparecer
postverbal bare
plural subject OK
Distribution of postverbal bare plural subjects.
Telicity also seems to play a role in determining the distribution of
predicates in the GCC. Telic predicates like regresar, desaparecer, arrojarse, or asfixiarse are excluded from this construction. Not all atelic
predicates, however, can appear in the GCC. While predicates like arrastrarse and trabajar do, other atelic predicates, like heder and reflejarse, are excluded. The critical factor here is volitionality. The events
denoted by arrastrarse and trabajar are under the volitional control of
the subject, but this is not the case with the events denoted by heder
and reflejarse. What makes a predicate into a viable candidate for the
GCC is the combined strength of being atelic and being under the volitional control of the subject. Volitional predicates are excluded from
this construction if they are telic, as is the case with arrojarse and
regresar. This is summarized in Table 2.9
9 Marín and McNally (2011) discuss a class of Spanish pronominal verbs that
refer to psychological events (i.e. aburrirse ‘get bored’, enfadarse ‘get upset’). They
notice that, like other pronominal verbs, they are inchoative, but differ from changeof-state predicates like romperse ‘break’ by being atelic. An anonymous reviewer
judges psychological pronominal verbs like these to be OK in the GCC, which is
consistent with my claim that telic predicates are excluded from it. However, it
is not clear if these predicates are volitional. It may be that sentience is a more
predictive feature of these predicates. I leave this issue for further research. The
same reviewer, however, claims that atelic predicates like pelearse ‘fight’ and confesarse ‘confess’.are excluded from the GCC, in spite of being volitional. But these
predicates are ambiguous between an atelic and a telic interpretation. Pelearse can
40 / Raúl Aranovich
regresar desaparecer
Excluded from generic causee
Distribution of predicates in the generic causee construction.
It is now easy to see where the mismatches in the test results occur. It is with verbs that are at once atelic and non-volitional. This
generalization has consequences for a theory of split intransitivity.
Split intransitivity and proto-roles
Unaccusative mismatches have been found in languages that mark split
intransitivity overtly. In Dutch, for instance, there are two tests for unaccusativity: auxiliary selection and formation of impersonal passives.
In general, unaccusatives take zijn ‘be’ as the perfect auxiliary, and cannot form impersonal passives. But Perlmutter (1978) and Zaenen (1993)
notice some remarkable exceptions. Aankomen ‘arrive’ takes zijn and
appears in impersonal passives, whereas stinken ‘stink’ takes hebben
‘have’ (the auxiliary preferred by unergatives) but cannot form impersonal passives. Zaenen’s explanation for the mismatches is a semantic
one: Telic verbs combine with zijn, but verbs that appear in impersonal passives must be under the volitional control of the subject. The
two tests, she concludes, are orthogonal to each other, and are not related to deep unaccusativity, as claimed in the syntactic analysis. Since
the tests are sensitive to semantic differences, then split intransitivity
should also be characterized semantically.
Zaenen’s approach cannot be extended to Spanish directly, however,
since one of the Spanish tests seems to be sensitive to a cocktail of
semantic properties. Dowty (1991) proposes a semantic theory of argument selection that may be used to arrive at the desired analysis.
He argues that unergative subjects are more like prototypical Agents,
whereas unaccusative subjects are more like prototypical Patients. For
also mean ‘fall out, become estranged’, while confesarse, understood as ‘going to
confession’, is not an activity but an accomplishment (confession ends when the
subject tells all of his/her sins to the priest).
Mismatched Spanish Unaccusativity Tests / 41
Dowty, thematic roles are sets of entailments, determined by the lexical semantics of the predicate. The two prototypical thematic roles, or
proto-roles, are characterized by the following entailments:
Proto-agent Properties
Proto-patient Properties
causally active
exists independent from event
changes state
incremental theme
causally affected
exists dependent on event
In a sentence with two arguments (i.e. a transitive verb), the subject
will display a heavier proportion of proto-agent properties than the object. This principle allows for different combinations of semantic properties, defining degrees of prototypicality for agents and patients. This
approach can be extended to account for patterns of split intransitivity.
Subjects of unergative verbs, Dowty says, normally have more protoagent properties than subjects of unaccusatives. The subject of a verb
like run, often classified as unergative, must be volitionally involved in
the event, and has the property of moving. A verb like die, on the other
hand, which is typically unaccusative, is associated with the entailment
that its subject undergoes a change of state, and is not volitionally involved in the event.
Dowty also notices that certain entailments about a predicate’s arguments are determined by that predicate’s aktionsart. In particular,
subjects of telic intransitives are associated with proto-patient properties. First, telic predicates often have an argument that ‘measures out’
the event (as suggested in Krifka 1989 and Tenny 1992). In a sentence
like Max ironed the shirt the condition of the shirt determines whether
the ironing has been accomplished or not. Dowty introduces the notion
of incremental theme to refer to these arguments, a property that he
places among those characterizing a prototypical Patient.10 Second, a
telic verb of motion like drop, for instance, entails movement on the
part of its object. Because the predicate is telic, movement is to a
10 There are conflicting opinions as to whether arguments that measure out the
event are always internal arguments. Tenny (1992) claims that subjects of transitive verbs are never incremental themes, but Dowty (1991) and Jackendoff (1996)
disagree with that. In the majority of cases, however, incremental themes are realized as objects, and only when the incremental theme is associated with additional
proto-agent entailments can it appear as a subject (in line with Dowty’s Argument
Selection Principle). For this reason, the classification of incremental themehood
as a proto-patient property seems well grounded. Ackerman and Moore (1999, this
volume) discuss additional issues regarding a proto-property theory of argument
42 / Raúl Aranovich
definite location. This change of location counts as a change of state,
and therefore as a proto-patient property. Atelic motion verbs like rub,
scratch, stomp, or pounce also entail movement on the part of their
subject. But when the manner of motion is more important than the
specific change of location, movement does not count as a change of
state and must be considered a proto-agent property. Telicity, then, is
not directly involved in the classification of a predicate as unaccusative
or unergative. Only the proto-patient properties associated with the
argument of intransitive telic predicates are. This explains the observation that unaccusatives tend to be telic without invoking aktionsart
as a direct factor in the classification of a predicate.
Proto-roles and unaccusative mismatches in
Dowty’s theory of proto-roles, then, and its consequences for an analysis of split intransitivity, can be used to account for the distribution of
embedded verbs in the GCC in Spanish. Volitional atelic verbs of the
class of arrastrarse ‘crawl’ and trabajar ‘work’ can appear in the GCC
because their subject is volitional (a key proto-agent property). Moreover, this argument is not associated with such prominent proto-patient
properties as being causally affected by the event, undergoing a change
of state, or measuring out the event. Of all the verbs in Table 2, then,
arrastrarse and trabajar have the highest number of proto-agent entailments about their subject. At the other end of the spectrum there are
verbs like asfixiarse ‘choke’ and desaparecer ‘disappear’, the subjects of
which have no proto-agent properties. Neither one has a subject that
controls the event volitionally. Moreover, the subject of asfixiarse undergoes a change of state, and so does the subject of desaparecer, with
the additional proto-patient property of ceasing to exist as a consequence of the event. Verbs with these characteristics are excluded from
the GCC, as most other typically unaccusative verbs would be. In between these two classes are verbs with a mixed set of entailments about
their subjects. Arrojarse and regresar, which express motion verbs with
a definite location, have a subject that undergoes a change of state
(a proto-patient property) but are volitional (a proto-agent property).
The subjects of reflejarse and heder, on the other hand, have none
of the proto-patient properties associated with telicity, but they lack
the proto-agent property of having a subject that controls the event
The GCC, then, rejects anything but “top-shelf” unergatives, i.e.
verbs associated with the highest number of proto-agent entailments.
Mismatched Spanish Unaccusativity Tests / 43
The PVBS test, on the other hand, is less selective. Telicity (or the
associated proto-role properties) is sufficient to determine whether a
verb will pass or fail the PVBS test.11 The syntactic analysis of split
intransitivity could be saved by stating that unergatives like heder or
reflejarse are arbitrarily excluded from the GCC, but this misses an
important generalization having to do with the semantics of the predicates in question. The semantic analysis I have defended here, on the
other hand, predicts that if any of the predicates which cannot have
postverbal bare plural subjects are going to be excluded from the GCC,
they will be like heder, and not like trabajar, i.e. the class of intransitives
that are not associated with the heaviest proportion of proto-agent entailments about their subjects. The mismatch between the two tests
for split intransitivity in Spanish, then, shows the semantic analysis of
split intransitivity to be more explanatory than the syntactic analysis.
Argument realization with pronominal verbs
Returning now to the issue of whether all pronominal verbs are unaccusatives, it can be seen from the data discussed here that, in Spanish,
some pronominal verbs pair up with unergatives. These are verbs like
arrastrarse, menearse, and also reflejarse. These verbs are associated
with proto-agent entailments about their subject. In a theory in which
the tests for split intransitivity pick up semantic differences among different classes of intransitive verbs, this result is to be expected. There
is no empirical evidence in Spanish to support the claim that the reflexive clitic is always a mark of unaccusativity, as claimed in Rosen
(1988), Grimshaw (1990), and Levin and Rappaport (1995) for Romance at large. To be more precise, I claim that in Spanish there is
no clear evidence of syntactic unaccusativity at all. In my search for
unaccusativity tests in Spanish, I have found that even the evidence for
deep unaccusativity in Spanish can be accounted for in semantic terms
(Aranovich 2000, 2003b). When a language lacks strong evidence for
deep unaccusativity, the motivation to represent some subjects as underlying objects disappears.
Clear evidence for deep unaccusativity in Romance is found in French
and Italian, whose reflexive verbs take the ‘be’ auxiliary in the perfect
tense.12 However, as I have shown in this study, the Spanish pronominal
11 A
hierarchy of split intransitivity is also proposed in Sorace (2000) to account
for variation in auxiliary selection in Italian.
12 Old Spanish used to have a split auxiliary system as well, but it was also split
across verbs with reflexive clitics. The diachrony of such split auxiliary systems
gives additional support to the semantic approach to split intransitivity, as I argue
in Aranovich (2003a, 2009).
44 / Raúl Aranovich
verbs seem to display the same degree of variation in their lexical semantic properties as plain intransitives (Legendre and Smolensky 2009
reach a similar conclusion for French inchoatives). These considerations must be taken seriously in a semantic account of unaccusativity
in Romance, because if all reflexive verbs take the same auxiliary as
unaccusative verbs regardless of their semantics, the syntactic analysis
of split intransitivity can reclaim territory. Some of these issues have
been discussed in Centineo (1986), (1996), and Van Valin (1990), but
more work needs to be done. I hope my study of split intransitivity
in Spanish shows the kind of data that needs to be considered when
researching split intransitivity in Romance.
Ackerman, Farrell and John Moore. 1999. Syntagmatic and paradigmatic
dimensions of causee encoding. Linguistics and Philosophy 22:1–44.
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Lexical Mapping Theory Revisited
One-Soon Her
The version of Lexical Mapping Theory (LMT) outlined in Bresnan
and Zaenen (1990) (hereafter BZ), which replaced the earlier stipulated
function-changing rules in Lexical Functional Grammar (LFG) and allowed principled accounts of the linking problems between argument
roles and grammatical functions, remains the most widely adopted version of LMT among the many contenders, e.g., Zaenen (1988), Bresnan
and Kanerva (1989), Bresnan (1989), Huang (1993), Butt et al. (1997),
Ackerman and Moore (2001a,b), Kibort (2007, 2008), among many others. It is also the version of LMT adopted by Bresnan (2001), by now a
standard reference of LFG’s theoretical underpinnings, and Falk (2001),
by far the most accessible textbook on LFG.1
In this paper I aim to propose an alternative version of LMT which,
while maintaining not only the spirit of BZ but also its explanatory
power, is more consistent in its principles and also simpler in organization. Section 2 first summarizes and reviews BZ’s version of LMT,
section 3 then presents the revisions proposed, and section 4 applies this
revised LMT to the same transitive, unaccusative, unergative, and passive examples from BZ to demonstrate that this simpler version works
equally well. I also review Zaenen (1988) and apply this revised LMT
to the dative alternation and passive in English. Section 5 concludes
1 I thank the anonymous external and internal reviewers for their very constructive comments, which led to improvement of the paper. I also thank Tracy Holloway
King, co-editor of the current volume, for her kind assistance. All remaining errors
are my own responsibility.
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 47
48 / One-Soon Her
the paper.
LMT in Bresnan and Zaenen (1990)
At the heart of LMT is the a(rgument)-structure, which consists of a
predicator with its thematic roles, each of which is marked with a classification feature for its grammatical function. Two examples are given
in (1) and (2), where [−r] means unrestricted and [−o], unobjective.
pound <
freeze <
The argument roles in an a-structure are listed left-to-right in descending order according to their relative prominence in a universal hierarchy, as in (3) (e.g., Bresnan and Kanerva (1989)). The most prominent role in an a-structure, e.g., agent in (1) and theme in (2), is referred
to as θ̂, or theta hat.
(3) Thematic Hierarchy:
agent > beneficiary > experiencer/goal > instrument > patient/theme > locative
The syntactic features assigned to each role are [±r], (un)restricted
(whether a function is restricted as to its semantic role), and [±o],
(un)objective (whether a function is objective), which serve to classify
grammatical functions into natural classes, as in (4). Negative features
being unmarked, a hierarchy obtains, as in (5), where subj is the least
marked and thus the most prominent, and objθ , the most marked and
the least prominent. Note that in (5) obj and oblθ are indistinguishable
for markedness.
(4) Feature Decomposition of Grammatical Functions:
(5) Markedness Hierarchy of Grammatical Functions:
subj([−r−o]) > obj([−r+o]) /oblθ([+r−o]) > objθ([+r+o])
Every role in an a-structure is associated with exactly one feature
for its syntactic function by a set of universal unmarked choices, as in
Lexical Mapping Theory Revisited / 49
Intrinsic Classification (IC) of A-Structure Roles:
a. Patientlike roles:
θ −→ [−r]
b. Secondary patientlike roles: θ −→ [+o]2
c. Other roles:
θ −→ [−o]
The three unmarked choices in (6) ensure that all roles in an astructure are underspecified with exactly one feature [r] or [o], never
unspecified nor fully specified, for syntactic realization.
Following Bresnan and Kanerva (1989), morphological operations
can alter the lexical stock of an a-structure by adding, suppressing,
or binding thematic roles, e.g., passive, which suppresses the syntactic
realization of θ̂, as shown in (7).
(7) Passive: θ̂ −→ ∅
There are also universal mapping principles that determine the ultimate mapping of each of the expressed underspecified roles.
Mapping Principles:
a. Subject roles:
(i) θ̂[−o] is mapped onto subj; otherwise:
(ii) θ[−r] is mapped onto subj.
b. Other roles are mapped onto the lowest compatible function
in the markedness hierarchy in (5).
As pointed out by Falk (2001, 104) and Her (2003, 6), there is an
inconsistency between (8a) and (8b). Essentially, (8a) supplies only
negative features to the role designated to be subj, while (8b) does
exactly the opposite and assigns only positive features. Thus, (8) can
be restated as (9) in terms of feature supplements.
Mapping Principles:
a. Subject roles:
(i) Add negative features to θ̂[−o]; otherwise:
(ii) Add negative features to θ[−r].
b. Add positive features elsewhere.
Aside from the inconsistency in the mapping of subject roles and
non-subject roles, the choice of the ultimate subject role is stipulated.
Ideally, the mapping between a role and subj, and indeed any other
grammatical function, should be the consequence of a unified mapping
principle for subject roles as well as non-subject roles. Furthermore,
BZ’s model, like most of the other contenders, also needs additional
2 I shall ignore the distinction between symmetric versus asymmetric languages,
where only the former allow the secondary patientlike roles to be [−r] as well (Bresnan and Moshi 1990).
50 / One-Soon Her
output constraints, i.e., Function-Argument Biuniqueness (i.e., each astructure role must be associated with a unique function, and conversely) and the Subject Condition (i.e., every predicator must have
a subject) to ensure grammaticality. Again, ideally, such output constraints, instead of being ad hoc stipulations, should be consequences of
a unified mapping principle (e.g., Her (1998, 1999, 2003, 2010), Kibort
(2007, 2008)).
Revisions Proposed
The first change I propose relates to the markedness hierarchy of grammatical functions in (5), which assumes that a negative feature is less
marked than its positive counterpart, as shown in (10a) below, but
does not distinguish between the two negative features, [−r] and [−o].
obj and oblθ are thus not distinguishable for markedness. That is why
Bresnan (2001, 309) must call (5) a ‘partial’ ordering of functions. In
the spirit of Zaenen (1993, 151), Ackerman and Moore (2001b, 44), and
Kibort (2007), I propose that [−r] should be seen as less marked than
[−o]; intuitively, this is because [−r] uniquely identifies argument roles
that are ‘empty’, or athematic, as well as grammatical functions not
restricted to a specific role (e.g., Bresnan (2001, 366)). The addition
of (10b) enables a comprehensive ordering of argument functions, as in
Markedness Hierarchy of Grammatical Features (revised):
a. [−f] > [+f]
b. [−r] > [−o]
(11) Markedness Hierarchy of Grammatical Functions (revised):
subj([−r−o]) > obj([−r+o]) > oblθ([+r−o]) > objθ([+r+o])
The second change is regarding (6), the intrinsic classification of
a-structure roles. Following Her (2003), I propose to simplify the classification and only assign patient or theme an intrinsic feature [−r],
repeated in (12). Other roles do not receive any intrinsic classification.
(12) Intrinsic Classification (IC) of A-Structure Roles (revised):
patient/theme: θ −→ [−r]3
In addition, I propose to follow Zaenen (1988), Bresnan and Kanerva (1989), Ackerman (1992), Markantonatou (1995), Kibort (2007,
3 The IC is open to typological variation and thus parameterization, e.g., Her
and Deng (2012) propose that there is no IC in Formosan languages, in order to
allow a morphosyntactic operation to map any focused role to subj. Thus, neither
BZ’s LMT nor the one proposed in this paper can account for ergative languages
in general. See Manning (1996) for discussion.
Lexical Mapping Theory Revisited / 51
2008), Her (2003, 2010), among others, and allow morphosyntactic operations, in addition to morpholexical operations such as passive. Ackerman (1992, 56) characterizes the difference between morphosyntactic
and morpholexical operations as follows:
Morpholexical operations affect the lexical semantics of predicates
by altering the semantic properties associated with predicates.
Morphosyntactic operations assign features supplemental to those
supplied by IC assignment: these operations can affect the final GF
assignments to arguments but cannot affect the lexical semantics.
Though all morphological operations are by definition languagespecific, the default morphosyntactic operation in (13), that Her (2003)
proposes for English and Chinese, has the potential to be universal.
(13) Language-specific Default Classification (DC):
If θ 6= θ̂, then θ −→ [+r]
My strategy is to keep the IC maximally general, invariable, and thus
elegant by leaving anything non-universal, thus parametric or languagespecific, to the morphological component. This allows a more expressive
a-structure, where roles can be unspecified (no [±r] nor [±o]), underspecified (only [±r] or [±o]), or fully specified (both [±r] and [±o]),
while in BZ’s model roles are uniformly underspecified (only [±r] or
[±o]). Finally, the most significant revision proposed is to the internallyinconsistent mapping principles in (8). Adopting the spirit of a unified
mapping principle in Her (1998, 1999, 2003, 2010) and Kibort (2007,
2008), I propose this precise formulation in (14).
Unified Mapping Principle (UMP):
Map each a-structure role that is available† onto the highest
function in (13) that is compatible‡ and available†.
† A role θ is available for mapping if all roles to the left of
θ are mapped; a function F is available for mapping to θ
if F is not fully specified for by another role and also not
linked to a role to the left of θ.
‡ A function is compatible if it contains no conflicting
The immediate advantage, aside from the obvious simplicity and
consistency of this single principle, is that the two stipulated output
constraints, Function-Argument Biuniqueness and the Subject Condition, are no longer needed, as both are already implicitly incorporated
in (14) and thus can be seen as natural consequences of the mapping
52 / One-Soon Her
Illustrative Examples
The focus of grammatical data in BZ is on the phenomena of deep
unaccusativity; so we shall start with the same illustrative examples in
BZ to illustrate the revised LMT. Note that agent in our revised LMT
is entirely unspecified in a-structure and yet does receive the desired
mapping in (15) and (18).
Transitive (e.g., John pounded the metal ):
pound <
s/o/oθ /oblθ
Passive (e.g., the metal was pounded ):
pound <
Unaccusative (e.g., the river froze):
freeze <
Unergative (e.g., the dog barked ):
bark <
s/o/oθ /oblθ
Next, we illustrate how the dative alternation (e.g., Lee gave her a
book/Lee gave a book to her) can be accounted for in this revised LMT.
Zaenen (1988, 16) proposes the default classification in (19), in addition
to the intrinsic classification of ag[−o] and pt/th[−r], to account for the
dative construction in (20).
Lexical Mapping Theory Revisited / 53
Default Classification (DC) (Zaenen, 1988, 16):
a. the highest role −→ [−r]
b. the next role −→ [+o]
c. the third role −→ [+r]
Dative (e.g., Lee gave her a book):
give <
However, as pointed out by Her (2010, 112), this account does not
allow the prepositional dative, where the goal links to oblθ marked by
to. Thus, it can only derive the passivized theme subj and goal obj in
(21a), but fails to derive the goal oblθ (21b) and the passivized goal
subj in (21c).
(21) a. %A book was given her (by Lee). ( )
b. A book was given to her (by Lee). (X)
c. She was given a book (by Lee). (X)
d. Passivized dative:
give <
Adopting the morphosyntactic operation of the dative alternation
put forth in (22) by Her (1999) and thus assuming the prepositional
dative, also known as the indirect-object construction (e.g., Haspelmath (2011)) and indirective (e.g., Dryer (1986), Siewierska (2003)),
is the unmarked form and the double-object dative is marked, I now
demonstrate how the dative alternation is accounted for in the model
proposed here. See (23) and (24).
(22) Dative (English):
If <ag go th>, then go −→ [+o]
54 / One-Soon Her
Prepositional dative (e.g., Lee gave a book to her):
give <
s/o/oθ /oblθ
oblθ /oθ
Double-object dative (e.g., Lee gave her a book):
give <
s/o/oθ /oblθ
The reason for posing the Dative as a language-specific operation
instead of parameterized IC choices on the triadic argument structures
is because the dative alternation is not universal. In the 378 languages
examined by Haspelmath (2011), exactly 50%, or 189, have the indirectobject construction only; merely 83, or 22%, have the double-object
form only. It is thus justifiable to derive the marked case of doubleobject morphologically.4 Yet, the unmarked indirect-object form is not
universal, as the operation in (22) is language-specific and is absent
in the 189 direct-object languages, but it applies obligatorily in the
83 double-object languages and optionally in some 40 mixed languages
like English, which have both constructions.5
Assuming that the morpholexical operation of passive, in addition to
the suppression of θ̂, also includes a parameterized option to passivize
goal, as in (25) (Her, 1999, 102-103), we can now see the interesting
interaction between dative and passive in English. Again, the LMT
model proposed here correctly accounts for the data observed.
(25) Passive (English)
If < θ . . . (go) . . . >, then θ −→ ∅ (& go −→ [−r])6
4 This line of argument is well-accepted in typological accounts of word order
variation in derivational approaches. Cinque (2005), for example, derives Greenberg’s Universal 20, which concerns the word orders of D, Num, A, and N, and the
attested exceptions, by base-generating the unmarked, most common, order of D >
Num > A > N and obtaining all the other attested orders via movement of N.
5 However, due to space limitations, this is still a partial account as it leaves primary object constructions (Dryer 1986), also known as the secundative (Siewierska
2003), unaccounted for.
Lexical Mapping Theory Revisited / 55
(26) a.
Prepositional dative & passive w/o go[−r] option
(e.g., a book was given to her (by Lee)):
give <
oblθ /objθ
Prepositional dative & passive with go[−r] option
(e.g., she was given a book (by Lee)):
give <
Assuming that structures derived via a morphological operation are
marked in relation to their counterparts derived without this operation,
(26b) is more marked than (26a). In turn, structures in (26) are less
marked, with only passive, than the ones in (27) below, with both dative
and passive.7
(27) a.
Double-object dative & passive w/o go[−r] option
(e.g., %a book was given her (by Lee)):
6 As
give <
demonstrated in Her (1999, 2010), while languages like English allow this
option, languages like Chinese do not. The LMT model proposed here can account
for this distinction; due to space limitations, I will not go into this interesting
typological issue.
7 This analysis does not bring in the co-variation in word order associated with
this construction. See Siewierska and Hollmann (2007) for a corpus-based study.
56 / One-Soon Her
Double-object dative & passive with go[−r] option
(e.g., %a book was given her (by Lee):
give <
The fact that goal in (27) may map onto either obj and objgo further
adds to the obscurity of the output of the interaction of dative and
passive and thus further increases its markedness; this high degree of
markedness may explain why this construction is only grammatical
in British dialects or in certain literary styles (e.g., Jaeggli 1986, 596;
Anderson 1988, 300; Dryer 1986, 833). To summarize, the several dative
constructions in English are related by Dative, a morphosyntactic rule,
and Passive, a morpholexical rule, as shown schematically in (28). The
Dative rule marks (28a) and (28e), and the Passive rule marks (28c),
(28d), and (28e). (28e) is the only construction marked by both. The
degree of markedness is thus directly related to the application of these
morphological rules.
(28) a. Lee gave a book to her. (unmarked)
b. Lee gave her a book. (Derived from (a) via Dative, marked)
c. A book was given to her. (Derived from (a) via Passive,
d. She was given a book. (Derived from (a) via Passive, marked)
e. %A book was given her. (Derived from (a) via Dative and
Passive, even more marked)
The version of Lexical Mapping Theory put forth in Bresnan and Zaenen (1990) (BZ) is the most widely accepted version in the literature
of LFG. For example, it is adopted by Bresnan (2001), the most authoritative reference of LFG’s theoretical underpinnings, and by Falk
(2001), the most accessible textbook on LFG. The goal of this paper is
to propose some revisions to BZ’s model to further strengthen its internal consistency, formal rigor, and empirical coverage. Assuming the
same two features [±r] and [±o] for the decomposition of grammatical
functions and the unmarkedness of negative features, I further propose
that [−r] is less marked than [−o]. This allows a comprehensive ordering of markedness, i.e., subj > obj > oblθ > oblθ . I also propose a
Lexical Mapping Theory Revisited / 57
single intrinsic [−r] classification of patient/theme and put in a default
[+r] classification for all non-θ̂ roles. The latter morphosyntactic operations increase the expressivity of the theory but not at the expense
of formal rigor. The most significant revision is replacing the stipulated mapping principles for subj roles and non-subj roles and the two
output well-formedness conditions with a single unified mapping principle, which consistently favors the unmarked parallel matching between
argument roles and grammatical functions. Finally, transitive, unaccusative, unergative, passive, and dative constructions in English are
used as illustrations for the model of LMT proposed. Further applications should confirm that the simplicity and internal consistency of the
proposed model broadens the LMT’s empirical coverage.
Ackerman, Farrell. 1992. Complex predicates and morpholexical relatedness:
Locative alternation in Hungarian. In I. Sag and A. Szabolcsi, eds., Lexical
Matters. CSLI Publications.
Ackerman, Farrell and John Moore. 2001a. Dowtyian proto-properties and
Lexical Mapping Theory. Paper presented at LFG 2001, Hong Kong
University. Available online at: http://idiom.ucsd.edu/ moore/papers/hkhout.pdf.
Ackerman, Farrell and John Moore. 2001b. Proto-Properties and Grammatical Encoding. A Correspondence Theory of Argument Selection. CSLI
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Argument Structure of Quirky
Algonquian Verbs
Amy Dahlstrom
A hallmark of Annie Zaenen’s work is the careful examination of mismatches between morphology and syntax, as in Icelandic quirky case,
and of the role played by argument structure in unaccusativity and
other syntactic phenomena (e.g. Zaenen, Maling, and Thrainsson 1985,
Bresnan and Zaenen 1990).1 In the present paper I investigate the argument structure associated with a ‘quirky’ pattern in Algonquian languages: not an instance of quirky case, but rather a mismatch between
inflectional morphology and syntactic valence. This paper is a continuation of Dahlstrom (2009), which argued that a set of two-place verbs
in the Algonquian language Meskwaki is associated with the valence
of <subj objθ >, rather than the unmarked <subj obj> pattern for
transitive verbs. An example is given in (1):2
1 An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2011 LSA/SSILA meetings.
Thanks to Matthew Dryer, Richard Rhodes, Lucy Thomason, and Aaron Broadwell
for comments.
2 Abbreviations: 3’ obviative (in verb agreement), anim animate, aor aorist (prefix or verb paradigm), ep epenthetic consonant, inan inanimate, ind independent
indicative, obv obviative (nominal suffix), pl plural, sg singular. ‘>’ separates
subject and object features; an en dash indicates the boundary between preverb
and verb stem. Obviative is a subtype of third person, used for third persons more
peripheral to the discourse.
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 61
62 / Amy Dahlstrom
(1) ahpe·nemo-wa o-si·me·h-ani
depend.on-3/ind his-younger.sibling-anim.obv.sg
‘He relies on his younger brother.’
The stem ahpe·nemo- ‘depend on, rely on’ requires two arguments, but
it is inflected only for the subject. In contrast, ordinary transitive verbs
are inflected to agree with both subject and object:
(2) wa·pam-e·wa
look.at-3>3’/ind his-younger.sibling-anim.obv.sg
‘He looks at his younger brother.’
The analysis in Dahlstrom (2009) presents a number of syntactic
arguments demonstrating that the nonsubject argument of verbs like
ahpe·nemo- in (1) is in fact objθ , the thematically restricted object,
and not obj or obl. Little was said in Dahlstrom (2009) about the
argument structure of such verbs. But in order to support the claim
that the second argument of the verbs in question is a thematically
restricted object, it is necessary to discover what the thematic restrictions on this set of objects might be. In the present paper I investigate
the lexical semantics of this set of verbs, drawing examples not only
from Meskwaki but also from the related languages of Kickapoo, Cree,
Ojibwe, and Menominee.3 (Unmarked examples below are Meskwaki.)
It will be seen that the quirky pattern is widespread in the family, and
should be reconstructed for the proto-language. Moreover, the quirky
pattern is associated primarily with verbs which do not greatly affect
the second argument, such as verbs of possession, or verbs expressing
Algonquianists call this quirky valence pattern “AI+O”, an opaque
label which requires explanation. “AI” stands for Animate Intransitive,
one of the four stem classes in the language. (3) lists the four stem
classes, which are sensitive to valence and the gender – animate or
inanimate – of one of the verb’s arguments. For transitive and ditransitive verbs subcategorized for obj, the gender of obj determines the stem
class (e.g. wa·pam- ‘look at’ in (2) is Transitive Animate). Otherwise,
the gender of the subject determines the stem class of the verb.4
3 Sources: Kickapoo: Voorhis (1988); Cree: Wolfart and Ahenakew (1998);
Menominee: Bloomfield (1975); Ojibwe: list provided by R. Rhodes in Valentine
(2001:242). The various sources use different conventions for indicating long vowels:
double vowels in Kickapoo and Ojibwe, a circumflex in Cree, and a raised dot in
Meskwaki and Menominee. In the glosses of the various verb forms I have introduced
the LFG symbol of objθ for the sake of uniformity.
4 For the two intransitive stem classes, ‘Animate’ or ‘Inanimate’ precedes ‘Intransitive’ as a mnemonic that the gender of the subject is relevant; the gender
specification follows ‘Transitive’ as a reminder that in transitive stems, it is the
Argument Structure of Quirky Algonquian Verbs / 63
Animate Intransitive (AI)
Transitive Animate (TA)
cf. meškosi- (AI)
amw- (TA)
Inanimate Intransitive (II)
Transitive Inanimate (TI)
meškwa·- (II) ‘be red’
mi·či- (TI) ‘eat’
For example, ‘raspberry’ is grammatically animate: to say that a raspberry is red the AI stem meškosi- would be selected; to say that someone
ate a raspberry the TA stem amw- would be selected. ‘Strawberry’, on
the other hand, is grammatically inanimate, so meškwa·- would be used
to report its color and mi·či- to report eating a strawberry.
The valence pattern of interest here thus presents a mismatch between syntax and morphology: the verb requires two arguments but is
inflected in the pattern appropriate for intransitive verbs. The Algonquianist label ‘AI+O’ means that it is inflected as an AI (Animate
Intransitive) verb, but it takes an object (O) as well. This mismatch
was noted by Bloomfield (1962:46; underlining in original):
Many AI verbs behave, as to syntax and meaning, like transitive verbs:
they are accompanied by substantive expressions, indifferent as to gender and number, which in syntactic behavior and meaning resemble
objects. We shall say that these verbs take an implied object.
Below I recapitulate the findings of Dahlstrom (2009), and then turn
to the lexical semantics of the verbs that appear in this marked valence
Syntax of the construction
Dahlstrom (2009) demonstrates that the non-subject argument of
Meskwaki AI+O verbs is not an unrestricted obj but rather objθ ,
the same grammatical function associated with the second object of
ditransitive verbs.5 This result was obtained by, first, establishing tests
for the two object types using ditransitive verbs (e.g. mi·n- ‘give’);
second, showing that when the first object of a ditransitive is suppressed by lexical processes such as reflexive, reciprocal, or antipassive,
the derived valence is <subj objθ > (e.g. mi·šiwe·- ‘give objθ away’;
antipassive). The final step is to show that the same valence is found
with basic AI+O verbs, such as ahpe·nemo- ‘depend on’, which are not
derived from underlying ditransitives.
I will here briefly recount the differences between the two objects
object’s gender that determines the shape of the stem.
5 Rhodes (1990) makes an analogous claim for Ojibwe, that the non-subject argument of the AI+O verbs is a 3 in Relational grammar terms. The details of the
properties distinguishing the two objects of ditransitives varies from one language
to another; see Rhodes (1990) for details of Ojibwe verb inflection.
64 / Amy Dahlstrom
found with ditransitives.6 First, as implied in the quote from Bloomfield above, verbs inflect for obj; furthermore, the shape of the verb
stem (TA vs. TI) specifies the gender of obj. objθ neither triggers
agreement nor affects the stem shape. Second, obj in Meskwaki may
be suppressed by a number of valence-decreasing processes, including
antipassive, verbal reflexive, and reciprocal formation. The objθ argument, on the other hand, can never be so suppressed, either in ditransitive clauses or in the AI+O construction. Third, while Meskwaki
exhibits athematic (“dummy”) subj and obj, there are no athematic
objθ s. Fourth, pronominal objs are expressed by inflectional affixes. In
contrast, pronominal objθ s are expressed by zero anaphora or by independent pronouns built on possessed forms of the noun stem -i·yaw‘body’ (see Dahlstrom 2009 for details).
Another property distinguishing obj from objθ in Meskwaki involves
noun incorporation. With verbs containing an incorporated body part
noun, an obj is construed as the body part’s possessor. An objθ cannot
be so construed.
‘open obj’s mouth by hand’
‘stand with one’s feet on objθ ’
[not “stand on objθ ’s feet”]
(4) is an example of the very productive Algonquian pattern of transitive verbs containing instrumental “finals”.7 The final -en means that
the subject acts upon an object by some action involving the subject’s
hand(s), resulting in the state expressed in the stem-initial morpheme.
The medial position is optionally filled; if it is filled it is often filled
with a body-part noun. The body part medial in a transitive verb like
(4) is understood to belong to the object of the transitive verb. (5), on
the other hand, is an AI+O verb. The verb contains a body part noun
in the stem-medial position, but here the objθ is not construed as the
possessor. Rather it is the subject of the verb which is understood to
possess the incorporated body part noun.
6 I here review arguments that the second argument of the AI+O construction is
not obj. For arguments that it is also not obl, see Dahlstrom (2009).
7 Many Algonquian verb stems are bipartite, combining an initial morpheme with
a final morpheme; another common schema is tripartite, with initial, medial, and
final stem components.
Argument Structure of Quirky Algonquian Verbs / 65
Classification of <SUBJ OBJθ > verb types
Having established that there is a syntactic difference between obj and
objθ and that it is possible for Algonquian verbs to subcategorize for
subject and objθ with no obj, we may now ask what types of verbs exhibit this marked valence pattern. This section describes several general
semantic classes associated with the <subj objθ > valence, plus some
instances which are harder to account for.
We may first of all observe that the most prototypical transitive
verbs, such as nes- ‘kill’ and pakam- ‘hit’ — that is, verbs with strongly
affected patients — do not display the AI+O pattern. Nor do the numerous Algonquian verbs with instrumental finals, such as (4) above,
where the final is –en ‘by hand’. The schema exemplified in (4) — an
initial specifying the resulting state, an optional medial, such as an incorporated body part noun, plus an instrumental final expressing the
type of action — is uniformly associated with the unmarked transitive
valence of <subj obj>, never the AI+O pattern of <subj objθ >.
The AI+O pattern, on the other hand, is most frequently found
with less affected entities: e.g. certain subclasses of themes (things possessed, entities undergoing a transfer of possession), or locatives. We
will examine instances of all these semantic roles below, beginning with
6.3.1 Possession
Verbs derived from possessed nouns
The most productive set of verbs with the <subj objθ > valence are the
verbs derived from possessed nouns.8 These include verbs expressing
kinship relations, as well as possession of items such as drums and
blankets, as seen in (6).
ona·pe·miokiotahkohkwiotakohpi- (Cree)
‘have objθ as a husband’
‘have objθ as a mother’
‘have objθ as a drum’
‘use objθ as a blanket’
Such verbs may be used either as two place verbs, subcategorized for
<subj objθ >, or as one place verbs, subcategorized for only <subj>.
In other words, the verb stem in (6a) could be used to say of a woman
that she is married (one place verb) or that she is married to him (two
place verb). The same ambiguity of valence is found throughout this
8 Note that the initial o(t)- of the stem is identical to the 3rd person possessive
prefix on nouns. However, in verbs such as those in (6) the o(t)- does not function
as agreement with, or pronominal reference to, a third person: it has simply been
reanalyzed as part of the verb stem.
66 / Amy Dahlstrom
set of verbs.
Verbs with initial kek- ‘having’
Another set of AI+O verbs expressing possession all have the steminitial morpheme kek- (Cree kik-) ‘having’:
keko·mye·pahokeki-kotawi·keke·ka·powew (Men)
kikâpôhkê- (Cree)
‘be buried with objθ ’
(lit. ‘lie having objθ ’)
‘run with objθ on back’
‘go underwater with objθ ’
‘he stands having, holding objθ ’
‘add objθ to soup, enhance
one’s soup with objθ ’
In (7c) keki appears as a preverb (a phonologically independent word)
compounded with the Animate Intransitive verb stem kotawi·- ‘go underwater’. See Dahlstrom (2000) for discussion of preverb-verb compounds.
Other verbs of possession
Besides the verbs with initial kek- and the verbs derived from possessed
nouns, we find other AI+O verbs expressing possessive relations; a few
are listed in (8):
dnid (Oj)
gwid (Oj)
naapeenemo- (Kick)
nwapod (Oj)
‘possess objθ ’
‘wear objθ ’
‘adopt objθ ’
‘take objθ along to eat’
(8c) from Kickapoo, naapeenemo- ‘adopt objθ ’, fits semantically with
the kinship terms of (6).9
6.3.2 Loss
The opposite of possession is loss, and verbs expressing loss also often
display the AI+O valence pattern:
caakiθaa- (Kick)
jaagsed (Oj)
pakicî- (Cree)
wani·hke·wanikiskisi- (Cree)
‘use objθ up’
‘run out of objθ ’
‘lose one’s captive/prey
(objθ gives s the slip)’
‘release, let go of objθ ’
‘forget objθ ’
‘forget objθ ; be forgetful’
9 Cultural note: following a death in the family, the Meskwaki and Kickapoo
ritually adopt someone else from the community to take the place of the deceased
person, establishing a new kinship tie.
Argument Structure of Quirky Algonquian Verbs / 67
Verbs of forgetting, such as (9e) and (9f), fall into this pattern: to forget
is to lose something mentally.
In some of the languages, the verbs for ‘remember’ are also AI+O;
if forgetting is a mental loss, then the forms in (10) should perhaps be
added to the verbs of possession in the previous section:
kiskisi- (Cree)
kehkinooθoo- (Kick)
‘remember; remember objθ ’
‘remember objθ ’
In Meskwaki, however, mehkwe·nem- (TA), mehkwe·net- (TI) ‘remember’ is a regular transitive verb, not AI+O.10
Verbs of exchanging
Semantically related to the verbs of possession are the verbs of exchange, such as ‘buy’, ‘sell’, and ‘trade’. Here the possession of an object is transferred from one owner to another. This semantic domain
is frequently associated with the <subj objθ > valence in Algonquian
ata·we·daawed (Oj)
tepa·ha·kǫ·w (Men)
atâwê- (Cree)
atâwâkê- (Cree)
daawnged (Oj)
‘sell, trade objθ ’
‘trade/sell objθ ’
‘he sells objθ ’
‘buy objθ ’
‘sell objθ , sell things’
‘borrow objθ ’
To the class of verbs of exchange we may add the verb meaning
‘steal’, in which possession is also transferred, albeit against the wishes
of the previous owner. This verb displays the AI+O pattern in all the
languages under consideration:
kemotgmoodid (Oj)
kemo·tew (Men)
kimoti- (Cree)
‘steal objθ ’
‘steal objθ ’
‘he steals objθ ’
‘steal objθ ; be a thief’
The second gloss of (12d) ‘be a thief’ reflects the tendency of AI+O
verbs to allow either two-place or one-place readings, discussed further
Activities, optionally taking an argument
Another set of verbs associated with the <subj objθ > valence pattern
may either be used as a one-place verb denoting an activity, such as
cooking, or as a two-place verb in which the item cooked is identified.
10 Ojibwe
and Menominee also have regular transitive forms for ‘remember’.
68 / Amy Dahlstrom
In the latter case the second argument is syntactically an objθ . See also
the Cree verbs for ‘sell’ in (11e) and for ‘steal’ in (12d) above.
wača·hokaskikwâso- (Cree)
nawacî- (Cree)
bwed (Oj)
‘cook; cook objθ ’
‘sew, do one’s sewing; sew objθ ’
‘roast objθ ; roast one’s food’
‘roast; roast objθ ’
Note that this construction permits patients (affected by the action of
the verb) as objθ as opposed to the theme objθ s exemplified in previous
6.3.5 Comitatives
Another set of <subj objθ > verbs associated with a specific morpheme
is the set formed with takw- ‘together with’. The thematic role of the
objθ in such verbs is probably theme:
‘join objθ ’
‘lie together with objθ ’
(inanimate subject)11
‘summon obj together with objθ ’
(14c) is another example of a preverb-verb compound, comparable to
(7c) above. The preverb takwi- ‘together with’ has been added to the
Transitive Animate verb stem natom- ‘summon’.
6.3.6 Lexicalized reciprocals, antipassives
A number of verb stems in Meskwaki and other Algonquian languages
exhibit frozen forms of valence-decreasing morphemes such as Meskwaki
-eti·- (reciprocal). For example, in (15a) kakano·neti·- now means simply ‘converse’, not necessarily ‘converse with each other’; it can, for
example, be used with a singular subject. Like the activity verbs in
section 6.3.4 it may optionally take a second argument, expressing the
person conversed with. If a second argument is used, its grammatical
function is objθ .
‘converse; converse with objθ ’
‘fight; fight against objθ ’
‘plant objθ ’
(15b) likewise contains a frozen reciprocal suffix, while (15c) is a lexicalized antipassive form of aht- ‘put’, containing the antipassive suffix
11 Note that (14b) is an Inanimate Intransitive stem, requiring a subject in the
inanimate gender, so this verb should in fact be labeled “II+O” rather than AI+O.
12 When verbs such as (15a-b) are used with a singular subject and a lexically
expressed objθ it is clear that they constitute an AI+O construction rather than a
Argument Structure of Quirky Algonquian Verbs / 69
‘Drink’, ‘throw’, and other verbs taking
Finally, let us look at a few remaining verbs taking patient or theme
arguments which do not seem to fit any of the categories mentioned so
One verb stem which is associated with the <subj objθ > valence
pattern in all of the Algonquian languages under consideration here is
‘drink’. It is hard to understand why ‘drink’ should have this unusual
valence pattern when the verbs for ‘eat’ exhibit the regular transitive
valence (cf. Meskwaki amw- (TA), mi·či- (TI) ‘eat’). Both the entity
drunk and the entity eaten are clearly affected by the action of the
verb: based on what we have seen so far, one would predict that ‘drink’
would also exhibit the normal transitive pattern. Yet the uniformity
of the <subj objθ > valence across the language family suggests that
this is an old and stable pattern for ‘drink’. Perhaps the ‘drink’ verbs
are viewed like the activity verbs of section 6.3.4, where the focus is
primarily on the one-place activity of drinking, and secondarily on the
liquid being consumed.
menomeno- (Kick)
menuah (Men)
minihkwê- (Cree)
mnikwed (Oj)
‘drink objθ ; drink’
‘drink objθ ; drink’
‘he drinks something, he drinks objθ ’
‘drink objθ ’
‘drink objθ ’
Another instance of the AI+O pattern is found with verbs of throwing in Meskwaki and Kickapoo, but not in Cree, Ojibwe, and Menominee. More precisely, the final -a·hke·- (Kickapoo -aahkee-) ‘throw’ is
AI+O, and it combines very productively with numerous initials, often
expressing direction. A sample of the throwing verbs is given in (17):
we·pa·hke·ina·hke·ni·sa·hke·nowa·hke·capookaahkee- (Kick)
‘throw objθ ’
‘fling objθ thither’
‘fling objθ down’
‘fling objθ out’
‘throw objθ in the water’
Finally, the two <subj objθ > verbs in (18) both exhibit theme objθ s,
but do not seem to fit any of the categories of theme arguments described above:
nokaazod (Oj)
nitopahtwâ- (Cree)
regular, symmetric reciprocal.
‘use objθ ’
‘search for objθ ’
70 / Amy Dahlstrom
6.3.8 Location
In contrast to the examples of objθ given above, all instances of the
thematic role of theme, the objθ in an AI+O verb may also express
ahpeka·ahpe·nemoahpapipabid (Oj)
‘dance on objθ ’
‘depend on objθ ’
‘sit on objθ ’
‘sit on objθ ’
The verbs in (19) all contain the same initial (Meskwaki ahp-, Ojibwe p‘on’). Note that in (19b) ahpe·nemo- ‘depend on objθ ’ we see the same
metaphorical extension of locative ‘on’ as is found in English depend
on and rely on.
Other AI+O verbs without the initial ahp- also have locative objθ s:
aakzid (Oj)
θeeθikaapaa- (Kick)
‘have a pain in objθ
[a part of the body]’
‘stand perched on objθ ’
‘sit on top of objθ ’
The initial θeeθ- in Kickapoo is cognate with Meskwaki se·s-; both mean
‘on top of’.
The above survey of Algonquian verbs exhibiting the quirky valence
pattern reveals that objθ in two-place verbs is likely to be associated
with nonaffected entities, such as possessums and other subtypes of
the theme semantic role; also certain types of locatives. Although the
most prototypical transitive verbs associated with patients, such as
‘hit’ and ‘kill’, do not occur with the quirky valence pattern, we cannot
assert that patients are never associated with objθ in two-place verbs.
The patient of ‘drink’ is realized as objθ in all the languages under
consideration, and the activity verbs in 6.3.4 allow patient objθ s as
Although the descriptive survey in this paper allows us to better
understand the range of uses of the quirky valence pattern, it does not
seem possible to predict absolutely whether a given argument will be
realized as objθ . Rather, the patient of ‘drink’ must be lexically specified as an objθ , as opposed to the patient of ‘eat’, which can undergo
the default realization as an obj. In terms of Lexical Mapping Theory,
the Algonquian data present some interesting challenges. The theme
and patient arguments of AI+O verbs could be intrinsically associated
with the [+r] feature, to ensure their realization as objθ ; however, as-
Argument Structure of Quirky Algonquian Verbs / 71
sociating [+r] with the locative objθ s seen in section 6.3.8 would not
rule out the locatives being expressed as obl, not the desired outcome.
See Dahlstrom (2009) for further discussion comparing the Algonquian
quirky pattern to other LFG analyses of differential object marking.
The recurrence of the quirky AI+O valence pattern in the daughter
languages points to its antiquity and stability over time: it is not only
an interesting theoretical and typological challenge, but it is also of
central concern for descriptive and historical Algonquian work.
Bloomfield, Leonard. 1962. The Menomini Language. Yale University Press.
Bloomfield, Leonard. 1975. Menominee Lexicon. Milwaukee Public Museum.
Bresnan, Joan and Annie Zaenen. 1990. Deep unaccusativity in LFG. In
K. Dziwirek, P. Farrell, and E. Mejías-Bikandi, eds., Grammatical Relations. A Cross-Theoretical Perspective, pages 45–57. CSLI Publications.
Dahlstrom, Amy. 2000. Morphosyntactic mismatches in Algonquian: Affixal
predicates and discontinuous verbs. In A. Okrent and J. Boyle, eds., Proceedings from the Panels of the Chicago Linguistic Society’s Thirty-sixth
Meeting, pages 63–87. Chicago Linguistic Society.
Dahlstrom, Amy. 2009. OBJθ without OBJ: A typology of Meskwaki objects. In M. Butt and T. H. King, eds., On-line Proceedings of the LFG09
Conference, pages 222–239. CSLI Publications.
Rhodes, Richard. 1990. Secondary objects in Ojibwe. In K. Dziwirek,
P. Farrell, and E. Mejías-Bikandi, eds., Grammatical Relations: A Crosstheoretical Perspective, pages 401–414. CSLI Publications.
Valentine, J. Randolph. 2001. Nishnaabemwin Reference Grammar . Toronto
University Press.
Voorhis, Paul H. 1988. Kickapoo Vocabulary. Algonquian and Iroquoian
Wolfart, H. Christoph and Freda Ahenakew. 1998. The Student’s Dictionary
of Literary Plains Cree. Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics.
Zaenen, Annie, Joan Maling, and Höskuldur Thráinsson. 1985. Case and
grammatical functions: The Icelandic passive. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 3:441–483.
Part II
Views on Syntax
A Tour of Grammar Formalisms
Anette Frank
Having worked with a number of grammatical frameworks over many
years at varying depth, I have gained an understanding of their similarities and differences, their respective attractiveness and strengths, but
also their biases, which relate to the specific architectural choices they
make. In this contribution I will highlight some insights I have gained
over years of theoretical and applied research on computational grammar in a multilingual context that might be of interest to researchers
in this field – if only to see whether their insights line up with mine.
Our choice of LFG as a guiding theoretical framework is what brought
Annie and me together. My first encounter with her, dating back to the
time when I finished my studies, was related to discussing linking theory
in LFG – a research theme Annie has greatly influenced and that still
bears many open questions. I have fond memories of a number of years
working with Annie at XRCE Grenoble, investigating LFG from many
perspectives. In later work I could compare the insights I gained to my
experiences with other frameworks, like HPSG and LTAG.
My personal lesson from the synopsis I give below1 is that none of
the frameworks I discuss is the ultimate answer to how to describe natural languages uniformly within a linguistically sound and expressive
computational grammar formalism. Still, I hope that these thoughts
can contribute to a better understanding of how these frameworks are
similar despite their differences, and different despite their similarities.
1 The ideas I summarize here were presented in a survey talk at the ACL 2007
Workshop Deep Linguistic Processing, where I first reflected on the nature of various
grammar formalisms, and dimensions of similarities and differences between them.
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 75
76 / Anette Frank
Characterizing Grammatical Frameworks
The design of a mathematically defined grammar formalism makes
strong predictions as to the grammaticality of linguistic constructs.
If the grammatical theory that is built on top of is expected to reflect
important characteristics of language crosslinguistically, we also expect
it to be able to accommodate typologically distinct languages.2 In this
contribution I will investigate the formal and theoretical-linguistic underpinnings of major computational grammar frameworks from different perspectives.3 A guiding question will be to what extent architectural choices and linguistic assumptions effect linguistic modeling of
particular phenomena, within and across languages.
I will concentrate on a selection of grammatical frameworks that
have been subject to intensive research in theoretical and computational
linguistics: Lexical-Functional Grammar, LFG (Bresnan, 2001), Headdriven Phrase Structure Grammar, HPSG (Pollard and Sag, 1994),
(Lexicalized) Tree Adjoining Grammar, (L)TAG (Joshi, 1988, Joshi and
Schabes, 1997), and Combinatory Categorial Grammar CCG (Steedman, 2000). They represent major exponents of lexicalized, constraintand unification-based grammar (especially LFG and HPSG), different
types of tree adjunction grammars (TAGs), and CCG as a special type
of categorial grammar (CG).4
These frameworks have evolved from different linguistic traditions.
(C)CG has its roots in Montague Semantics (Dowty et al., 1981).
HPSG, LFG and TAGs are grounded in the tradition of Generative
Grammar, even though they arose in opposition to this framework, in
a ‘lexicalist’ turn that questioned the transformation-centered views
of Chomskyan syntax. Dependency Grammar, DG (Tesnière, 1959), finally, stands in a long tradition of grammar dating from antiquity. It
encodes core grammatical concepts, but has not been extensively studied in modern theoretical syntax.
The particular design choices of these frameworks show interesting
differences in how they account for general linguistic properties, such
as constituency, word order, and valency. This will be illustrated in a
concise overview in Section 7.2. Section 7.3 will further analyze differences and similarities of these frameworks by looking at various aspects
of comparison, including (i) architectural choices, focusing on representation levels and linguistic concepts, (ii) adoption of special constructs,
deliberately avoid any discussion of ‘language universals’.
space restrictions, I will assume familiarity with the respective frameworks. For a concise introduction to these frameworks see Müller (2010).
4 Dependency Grammar (DG) will only briefly be discussed in the conclusion.
3 Given
A Tour of Grammar Formalisms / 77
and (iii) generalization across languages. In Section 7.4, I will show that
we can reach even deeper insights into the strengths or biases of specific formalization choices by examining how they fare with notoriously
difficult phenomena that ‘strain’ core assumptions of syntax and their
implementation in a given framework. To this end, we will look at two
notoriously difficult phenomena: complex predicates and coordination.5
Grammar Architecture and Formal Constructs
Obvious design choices that characterize a grammatical theory are its
general architecture and the formal constructs used to describe linguistic structures.
Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar, HPSG
In HPSG all levels of linguistic descriptions are uniformly encoded in
typed feature structures, with unification and type inheritance as the
main formal devices. This uniform perspective on the encoding of grammar is complemented with a rich inventory of hierarchically structured
linguistic objects and interacting principles. A grammar is defined as a
set of principles that define linguistic structures, some ‘universal’, some
language-specific, and language-specific lexicons. The principles define
constraints across different levels of linguistic description. Subcategorization requirements are defined through lexically defined valence lists
and principles coordinating their realization and saturation in diverse
structural configurations. This includes the treatment of long-distance
constructions, which are covered by the interplay of subcategorization,
non-local-feature projection and constituency principles, through stepwise projection of nonlocal elements from gap to filler position.
The most striking characteristics of HPSG are (i) uniform encoding
of linguistic structure in typed feature structures, ranging from phonology to semantics, (ii) free interaction of modular principles across typed
structures, which jointly determine grammaticality, and (iii) tight integration of syntax and semantics. The latter is seen most clearly in
the collapsed synsem type that specifies the nature of subcategorized
arguments. (iv) In contrast to LFG or DG, HPSG does not treat grammatical functions as primitive concepts in its grammar archictecture.
Lexical-Functional Grammar, LFG
LFG’s architecture encodes a system of functional projections that distinguish constituent, functional and semantic structure as independent
5 Müller (2010) offers a by-far more rigorous description and comparison of grammatical frameworks than what is possible within the scope of this article. Our main
novel contribution is related to the discussion in Section 7.4.
78 / Anette Frank
levels of grammatical description. Each level is encoded using an individually motivated formalism: tree structures for constituency, and
attribute-value (feature) structures for the encoding of functional and
morphosyntactic properties and subcategorization. Principles governing grammatical wellformedness are stated on individual levels (most
prominently, f-structure), but also across levels, constraining structureto-function correspondences, or argument linking. This co-description
architecture accommodates non-isomorphism between structures, especially word order variation and discontinuity in surface structure. For
non-local dissociations of constituency and functional embedding, as
in long-distance dependencies, LFG adopts functional uncertainty as a
formal device that bridges the (potentially unlimited) dissociation of
argument realization in the mapping between c- and f-structure.
The most striking characteristics of LFG are (i) its distributed projection architecture, which makes it possible to (ii) study and process
syntax independently from semantics, (iii) its strong focus on grammatical functions as a primitive concept for (crosslingual) grammatical description, and (iv) the dissociation of context-free surface constituency
encoding vs. functional representation in feature structures.
Lexicalized Tree Adjoining Grammar, LTAG
LTAG shares with LFG the encoding of surface syntactic properties in
constituent tree structures and a modular interface to semantic representation so that syntax can be defined and processed independently
from semantics. Its grammar architecture is based on tree adjunction
as the central mechanism for structure composition. The grammar is
built from lexicalized elementary trees (etrees) that are composed by
substitution and adjunction operations. The latter is not restricted to
syntactic modification, but serves as a general device for factoring recursion – one of the most prominent characteristics of language and
a guiding principle for finite grammatical description. etrees fulfill two
functions: they encode argument structure and they pre-define surface
properties that account for order variation, diatheses such as the passive, or wh- and relative clause constructions. A wide variation of such
etree variants is organized in automatically generated tree families.
The most striking characteristics of LTAG are (i) its formalization
of recursion in terms of adjunction applied to tree fragments, i.e. tree
adjunction. By this move, it does not require additional devices for capturing long-distance dependencies. (ii) LTAG offers derived and derivation trees as parallel syntactic structures. The derivation tree records
the history of tree compositions and traditionally serves as the basis for
semantic projection. (iii) LTAG does not adopt grammatical functions
A Tour of Grammar Formalisms / 79
as a central notion of grammar. (iv) The theory puts less emphasis on
constraints that govern the internal structure of etrees, and thus on the
shape of the resulting derived tree. This would be possible by adopting
core X′ -principles, similar to LFG.
Combinatory Categorial Grammar, CCG
CCG differs from the previous frameworks in that it is strongly influenced by semantics, notably Montague Grammar. It employs a small
number of syntactic composition operations: i.a., forward and backward application, composition and type raising. Syntactic composition is guided by semantic composition that operates in parallel with
syntax. Syntactic categories are either atomic or complex categories
that encapsulate the way the category can be embedded in its constructional context by syntactic/semantic composition rules. In this
way, syntax is modeled as a composition process driven by complex
categories that externalize their constructional context, rather than
by traditional construction-specific rules. Type raising in conjunction
with composition accounts for non-local dependencies and other nonstandard constructions such as raising and coordination. In contrast
to LTAG, which derives dependency-like structures from the history
of derivations, CCG records and outputs predicate-argument dependencies as defined in lexical types. Saturation of argument structure is
achieved by deriving the target category.
The most striking characteristics of CCG are (i) that syntax and semantics are highly intertwined, with syntax merely considered a sideprocess running in parallel with semantic composition. (ii) Syntactic
categories can be type-raised to complex categories that encapsulate
their constructional context. (iii) The categories are defined to reflect
core syntactic properties, but the derived constituents can diverge considerably from traditional assumptions.
Architectural Choices and Linguistic Modeling
Looking at these characteristics, we can map out similarities and differences between the frameworks along various dimensions (cf. Fig.1).
Architecture and Main Focus
LFG and LTAG assume a clear separation between syntax and semantics, while for HPSG and CCG it is more difficult to dissociate semantics from syntax. We characterize this as modular vs. integrated
architectures. At the same time, HPSG and CCG are fundamentally
different in that HPSG models syntax in a highly articulated structure
representing core syntactic properties and wellformedness constraints,
80 / Anette Frank
while CCG mainly defines valid surface structures in a generative process driven by syntactic/semantic compositions. That is, CCG’s focus is
on semantics and the syntactic encoding of argument structure, including a proper treatment of core syntactic constructions, such as binding,
reflexivization, control or raising and the like. HPSG takes a somewhat
broader look at grammar. Its core theory encompasses an articulated
representation of linguistic objects that is constrained by general interacting syntactic and semantic principles of composition. Syntax and
semantics are strongly intertwined and can only be described jointly.6
LFG and LTAG syntax is more clearly dissociated from semantics.
Here, syntax is conceived of as an independent grammatical system.
Both have been coupled with various semantic representation layers
and diverse semantics construction architectures.7
Formal Devices, Representation and Generalization
Looking at formal devices, HPSG employs a rich formalization using
typed feature structures, with sophisticated encoding of linguistic objects and structures that are constrained by interacting principles. The
rich representation of structural layers and interacting principles readily accounts for the treatment of long-distance dependencies in a feature
propagation analysis that is reminicent of dislocation analyses in Generative Grammar. While ‘classical’ HSPG analyses control surface order
by way of phrase structure schemata, linearization-based accounts allow
for dissociation of surface realization and phrasal constituent structure
by way of independent linearization constraints.
LFG, with its system of parallel projections and especially its dissociation of constituency and functional structure, allows for a very flexible
encoding of surface realization within and across languages. Non-local
realization of arguments is mediated by functional uncertainty – an
equivalent to the unbounded feature passing devices of HPSG-like formalisms that operates on the level of f-structure.8 9
HPSG and LFG share a constraint-based view of grammatical structure with articulated representations and principles of wellformedness
6 See
for instance the semantic construction algebra of Copestake et al. (2001).
LFG see the co-description vs. description-by-analysis architectures
(Halvorsen and Kaplan, 1988) and the resource-logic account (Dalrymple, 2001,
Crouch et al., 2001). For LTAG see Kallmeyer and Joshi (1999) or Gardent and
Kallmeyer (2003) and synchronous TAG (Shieber and Schabes, 1990).
8 Advantages of functional vs. constituent-based constraints on extraction and
binding have been discussed in Kaplan and Zaenen (1995) and Dalrymple (1993).
9 Discontinuous phrases marked by morphological case as discussed in Nordlinger
(1998) can be resolved in HPSG using a feature-passing device similar to longdistance dependencies (Bender, 2008). This is largely equivalent to the LFG analysis
using functional uncertainty.
7 For
A Tour of Grammar Formalisms / 81
operating on them. LTAG and CCG take a more generative perspective on syntax, with sparser representational devices. Linguistic and
constructional properties of words and phrases are captured in a theory of complex lexical categories, or complex encoding of families of
etrees, which are carefully designed to generate valid surface structures for a given language or as a basis for semantic construction from
predicate-argument structures.
LTAG encapsulates argument structure in etrees and applies tree adjunction as its main syntactic composition operation. Since etrees must
express a wide variety of structures, an important line of research pursues a ‘meta grammar’ approach as a general framework for describing
and factoring TAG grammars that offers an abstract level of grammatical description for defining the set of admissible etrees for a given
language.10 In LTAG, due to tree adjunction as a general compositional
device, no additional devices are required to account for non-local dependencies.11 Yet this specific take on recursion comes at the price of an
asymmetry between adjunction as a recursion building process as opposed to adjunction as a structural indicator of linguistic modification,
as traditionally assumed in X′ syntax.12
In CCG, type raising and composition account for a wide spectrum of
constructions, including long-distance dependencies. Type-raised categories may also be used to encode notions of case, in terms of externalized structural configurations. Argument structure is defined by complex lexical categories, in terms of the arguments they specify. From
these lexical definitions full-fledged dependency representations can be
derived in parsing (Clark et al., 2002). Thus, the syntactic formalism
proves homogeneous and representationally sparse and offers great variety in structural exponence of syntactic properties and semantic content. While syntacticians do not find traditional notions of constituency
and projectivity in the syntactic derivation structure, core syntactic
properties and constructions are modeled in a lexicon theory of complex categories.13
10 See
i.a. Candito (1996), Doran et al. (2000), Crabbé et al. (2012).
this requires careful definition of lexical or tree families, see above.
12 Since LTAG’s preferred structure for semantic construction is the derivation
tree, this lack of discrimination between modification and complementation has
implications for the projection of semantics from syntax. Alternatively, semantic
construction can be based on the derived tree. See Frank and van Genabith (2001),
Gardent and Kallmeyer (2003) and Cimiano et al. (2007) for more detail.
13 See Steedman and Baldridge (2011) on the encoding of binding, extraction,
raising and control, and gapping.
11 Though
82 / Anette Frank
Cross-linguistic Language Modeling
As seen above, the different formalisms have differing foci in expressing
and representing linguistic structure and generalizations. This may have
an impact on insights gained by cross-linguistic language modeling.
The principle-driven formalism of HPSG offers strong formal support for cross-linguistic syntactic description, which is documented by
the Grammar Matrix and its extension to grammar fragments for a
great variety of languages (Bender et al., 2002). Generalizations can be
defined using type inheritance, as well as language-specific parameterizations of general principles (for constituent order, case, etc.).
LFG’s focus is on f-structure as an independent level of grammatical
description. Consequently, the theory draws important cross-linguistic
generalizations linked to the concept of grammatical functions. This includes argument realization in linking theory and constraints observed
in extraction and binding constructions.14 Less prominent have been
its generalizations regarding constituency and mapping principles to
f-structure (Bresnan, 2001).15 Multilingual grammar development in
the ParGram project has proven that f-structure can offer a pivot for
aligning grammars cross-linguistically, requiring little variation across
typologically diverse languages (King et al., 2005).
In both frameworks, the encoding of interactions between word order, constituency and morphological marking has led to important insights into the grammar of nonconfigurational languages and morphological marking strategies across languages.
Research in LTAG and CCG is restricted to a smaller community.
Accordingly the range of multilingual studies is less diverse.16 However,
it has been shown, by wide-coverage treebank-based grammar induction
and parsing of corpora in different languages, that these formalisms are
able to analyze a wide range of linguistic constructions.17
Straining Theories
The grammatical frameworks under discussion show considerable differences in how they encode grammatical concepts, most importantly
argument structure and its interplay with surface realization. Yet the
consequences of these formalization choices are limited, as long as we
14 See Bresnan and Zaenen (1990), Dalrymple (1993), Kaplan and Zaenen (1995)
and Butt et al. (1997).
15 But see the formalization of mapping principles in treebank-based LFG grammar induction (Frank et al., 2001).
16 See e.g. Kroch and Joshi (1985), Becker et al. (1991), Kinyon et al. (2006) for
LTAG and the overview in Steedman and Baldridge (2011).
17 See references above and the overview in van Genabith et al. (2006).
A Tour of Grammar Formalisms / 83
concentrate on core constructions and ignore questions of personal taste
or adherence to traditional notions of grammatical description.
In fact, it is by looking at linguistic phenomena that ‘strain’ general
assumptions about grammar encoding that we can gain more insight
into possible biases of particular formalization choices. I will thus take a
closer look at two phenomena related to argument structure realization
that present true challenges to any grammatical framework, and reflect
on their way of handling these. For exposition I will concentrate on
their analyses in LFG and HPSG. But our observations will bring out
further aspects of formalization choices that clearly differentiate LFG
from HPSG, and also LTAG from CCG.
Complex Predicates (such as causatives or coherently constructed
infinitive embedding verbs) are subject to intensive research in HPSG
and LFG. Linguistic evidence calls for an analysis in terms of clause
union or argument composition that conflates the arguments of two
predicates into a monoclausal structure to account for the argument
relation changes and surface realizations characterized as long scrambling.
Complex predicates present a particular challenge for LFG: in order
to account for their monoclausal properties, two lexical predicates need
to be turned into a single predicator with redefined argument characteristics. Butt (1995) and Alsina (1996) employ a restriction operator
that constructs a joint predicate ‘on the fly’ in syntax. This causes a
disruption in the functional projection and leads to problems in defining relation changing processes (e.g., reflexivization, passivization) that
need to apply in the lexicon. Frank (1996), and more recently Bouma
and Kuhn (2009), therefore proposes an alternative analysis with lexical rules that (re)define the involved predicates as co-predicators in the
lexicon, where relation changing processes can apply in the usual way.
These contrastive approaches reveal a bias in LFG’s grammar architecture: syntactic arguments that may be realized in dissociated phrasal
structures are integrated into complete, fully specified f-structure nuclei
by means of functional head projection rules. This mechanism allows
for an elegant analysis of local and nonlocal surface realization phenomena by means of f-structure equations defined over functional paths. At
the same time, this characteristic of LFG makes it difficult to accommodate dynamic changes of argument structures in complex predicate
In HPSG we do not find a layer comparable to f-structure that represents the complete syntactic argument structure of a clause. Argument
structure is essentially defined in the lexicon’s subcat list, where it is
84 / Anette Frank
directly linked to the semantic representation. In syntactic composition, the subcat list is redefined in each phrasal projection to record
saturation and the realization of arguments. In this architecture complex predicate formation can be defined through argument composition
in syntax, yet (pre)defined in the lexicon, as proposed by Hinrichs and
Nakazawa (1994): the subcat list of the main predicate attracts the
arguments of a co-predicate into its own argument list. This produces
a joint argument structure as soon as the co-predicate is encountered
in syntax. At the same time, lexical syntactic processes can apply to
the incorporated or the composed subcat list in the lexicon.18
(Asymmetric) Coordination presents another challenge related to
argument realization, as it typically involves factorization of one or
more arguments that are shared between coordinated predicates.
Coordination is handled in similar ways in LFG and HPSG, yet here,
the differences we highlighted above favor LFG’s way of coding syntax
by means of a monostratal and fully connected f-structure representation. This can be observed by looking at a special type of asymmetric
coordination that is frequently observed in German, and illustrated in
(1).19 The puzzle this construction presents is that the joint subject of
the coordinated sentential phrases is deeply embedded within the first
conjunct (German is V2), but seems to be accessible for binding the
subject gap in the second conjunct. This construction presents a true
challenge for any theory that is based on notions of constituency.
(1) Im Park
sitzen Leute und erzählen Geschichten.
in the park sit
people and recount stories
People are sitting in the park and are recounting stories.
LFG and HPSG both account for shared arguments in coordination
by joint reference to a single argument (cf. Fig. 2). In HPSG (upper
left), this is encoded in the lexical entry of the coordinating conjunction: the non-consumed arguments of all coordinated phrases are coindexed with the arguments on the phrase’s subcat list. This allows for
standard coordination structures with a shared subject realized outside
the coordinated VP. In LFG, a subject that is realized outside of the
18 This difference between LFG’s and HPSG’s representation architecture becomes
apparent in Andrews and Manning (1999)’s reformulation of LFG in a spreading
information account that dissociates the contribution of different feature types into
separate layers. Here, LFG’s uniform ↑=↓ head projection rules are dissociated
according to feature types f : ↑f =↓f . This mimics an HPSG-like architecture, with
the possibility of redefining individual features in phrasal composition, and thus
allows for argument composition along the lines of Hinrichs and Nakazawa (1994).
19 See Höhle (1983), Wunderlich (1988), Steedman (1990), Kathol (1999), and
Frank(2002, 2006) for more detailed discussion of this construction.
A Tour of Grammar Formalisms / 85
coordinated VP is defined in the conjoined phrase’s f-structure. From
there it is distributed into the f-structures of the coordinated phrases
and thus fills their respective subcategorization requirements (cf. Dalrymple (2001)). Neither of these standard analyses for coordination
accounts for cases of asymmetric coordination as in (1).
Frank (2002, 2006) motivates an analysis of asymmetric coordination
in analogy to modal subordination constructions. In this analysis the
first sentential conjunct licenses an extension of its discourse-functional
domain that includes the second conjunct. Operators that can perform
such domain extensions are grammaticalized discourse functions, here
the subject. Domain extension is defined by asymmetric projection of
the subject from the first conjunct’s clausal node to the coordinated
phrase (Fig. 2, middle left). From there, the subject is distributed to
the second conjunct by applying LFG’s distribution mechanism.
Could a similar analysis be designed for HPSG? This is not possible without further ado, precisely because HPSG does not, in contrast
to LFG, offer an integrated monostratal syntactic argument structure
where all arguments ‘float’ up and down along syntactic head projection lines. In HPSG’s coordinated phrase for (1), the subject of the
first conjunct is not accessible from the subcat list of the first conjunct
to ‘fill’ the open subject slot of the second conjunct (cf. Fig. 2): The
conjuncts are symmetric with regard to their constituent phrases, but
asymmetric regarding saturation. One way of solving this problem is to
resort to the arg-st list, usually employed for expressing binding constaints, that represents a copy of the complete subcat list, as defined
in the lexical entry (cf. Pollard and Sag (1994)).20
Lesson I. Levels of Representation. In sum, by looking at exceptional linguistic structures that strain basic assumptions of linguistic
formalization, a principled difference in the representation architecture
of LFG and HPSG shows up. LFG’s encoding of a complete clausal
nucleus in functional structure defines its interface to semantics (Dalrymple, 2001) and also offers great flexibility in accessing argument
functions non-locally along head projections. The latter turns out as
an advantage in the case of asymmetric coordination, yet as a problem
20 Indeed, related problems have been faced in the description of Germanic V2 and
generally, verb initial constructions. Borsley (1989) proposed a double slash feature
dsl that makes the complete lexical subcat list available along the head projection,
mimicking local head movement. A similar mechanism had been proposed for CG
by Jacobson (1987). Thus, one could adopt the arg-st or the dsl mechanism to
make the subcat list (and with it the subject) available along the head projection,
to make it accessible from the second conjunct. Technically, this opens the way for
an analysis along the lines of Frank (2002, 2006), yet it needs to be integrated with
HPSG’s core analysis of coordination.
86 / Anette Frank
when trying to integrate complex predicate constructions in a monoclausal syntactic representation. HPSG, by contrast, lacks an integrated syntactic representation layer. Syntactic arguments defined in
the subcat list are directly linked to semantics. The subcat feature is
discharged stepwise, as arguments are realized syntactically. This way
of specifying and controlling clausal argument structure explains the
greater flexibility of HPSG in accounting for complex predicates: composed argument structures can be built on the fly, without requiring
full integration into a monoclausal syntactic structure. Yet, the lack of
such a representational layer is what prevents non-local access to arguments along the head projection, and thus the binding of subject gaps
in asymmetric coordination structures.
Lesson II: Argument Encoding and Surface Realization in
LTAG & CCG. This observation brings us back to LTAG and CCG.
These theories offer sparser formalizations than LFG and HPSG in
terms of representational devices. Do they fare better with these exceptional construction types?
LTAG, with its free encoding of argument structure in etrees, could
be expected to flexibly accommodate structural asymmetries in coordination. But for LTAG it is the factorization of arguments in coordination that challenges its strongest assumption: the encoding of full argument structures in etrees. The problem is illustrated in Fig. 2 (lower,
right) for symmetric VP coordination: LTAG has to cope with multirooted derived structures in parsing, and needs to focus on derivation
structure to derive valid argument and semantic structures.21
CCG bears a strong resemblance to the way arguments are processed
in HPSG. Argument structure is defined in lexical types, i.e. families of
complex categories that account for diverse structural realizations. The
stepwise reduction of complex categories to infer a clausal category is
similar to the reduction of the subcat list, as is the composition of the
encountered arguments into full argument structures in a concurrently
processed semantic structure. CCG shows even stronger flexibility than
HPSG, in that it does not encode a rich system of general principles of
linguistic structure, especially, phrasal structure. The free application
of composition operations may produce structures that do not correspond to traditional notions of phrase structure.22 In fact, Steedman
(1990) shows how a special decomposition operation detaches the em21 Sarkar and Joshi (1996) propose a conjoin operator to merge identical nodes.
This approach is further developed in recent work by Banik (2004), Seddah (2008)
and Lichte and Kallmeyer (2010).
22 Steedman and Baldridge (2011) motivate such exceptional phrase structures as
a natural way of integrating information structure with semantics.
A Tour of Grammar Formalisms / 87
bedded subject in asymmetric coordination constructions and makes it
accessible as a shared subject in the second conjunct (cf. Fig. 2, upper
In sum, when it comes to coordination, CCG’s discharging processes
for argument structure realization prove to be highly flexible, whereas
LTAG suffers from a more rigid encoding of full argument structures
in etrees. In this respect, it bears similarities to LFG’s representation
of clausal nuclei in terms of subcategorized grammatical functions, yet
at the level of phrase-structural encoding. Finally, for sake of completeness, let us note that nonlocal argument serialization in complex
predication constructions has been studied extensively in (MC)TAG
and CCG.24 While it has been assumed that the LTAG and CCG
formalisms are equivalent in terms of serialization capacities, recently
Hockenmaier and Young (2008) established that there are configurations that can be generated with CCG that cannot be generated with
TAG (see also Kuhlmann et al. (2010)).
Beyond the aspects of linguistic modeling proper, formal design choices
have implications for grammar engineering and processing complexity,
as well as techniques for grammar induction and automatic disambiguation.25 All the frameworks under discussion have developed sophisticated grammar engineering platforms and efficient parsing techniques,
including stochastic disambiguation. It is with techniques for automatic
grammar induction from treebanks that we can again observe that different views on grammar constructs and detail of representation are
clearly reflected in the proposed techniques: articulated frameworks
like HPSG and LFG require considerable ingestion of linguistic knowledge to define finer-grained distinctions or linguistic principles not reflected in classic treebanks, whereas, at least theoretically, algorithms
for LTAG and CCG grammar inducion can rely on leaner methods.
This survey tries to shed some light on similarities and differences
among grammatical frameworks in how their particular take on the formalization of linguistic concepts is reflected in different foci of research
as well as potential biases in the formalization of syntactic phenomena.
23 Note that the decomposition operator is not in the scope of constructors generally considered in CCG formalizations.
24 See e.g. Becker et al. (1991), Rambow (1994), Joshi et al. (2000), and Steedman
and Baldridge (2011).
25 These aspects could not be discussed in this contribution, but are integrated in
Fig. 1 for completeness. For an overview regarding the generative capacity of the
respective formalisms see e.g. Müller (2010).
88 / Anette Frank
These stand out most clearly in the treatment of special constructs that
strain the borders of general syntactic principles.
From our observations we may conclude that HPSG’s take on grammar is the most articulated one and is the most closely related to traditional structure-oriented, GB-style notions of syntax, through its traditional take on non-local dependencies and its principle-driven account
of grammar formalization. CCG, LTAG and LFG each adopt specific
assumptions and constructs, with LFG being closely related to HPSG
in offering a representation- and constraint-based theory of syntax that
stays close to traditional notions of syntactic description. LFG is special in choosing grammatical functions as its main descriptive device,
and is thus close to Dependency Grammar, a framework that is seeing
a strong revival, supported by efficient parsing algorithms. It has been
shown in recent multilingual parsing challenges that dependency-based
syntactic analysis is applicable to many languages without major adjustments. It offers a lean representational view on syntax that is close
to LFG’s f-structure representation with all its strengths and weaknesses, yet little emphasis on surface constituency. CCG maybe in fact
turn out to be the most versatile and flexible grammar framework, one
that is capable of bridging large discrepancies between surface form
and semantic encoding, across a wide variety of languages and constructions. However, this enormous flexibility needs to be paired with
the cautious statement of linguistic constraints that restrict the space
of possible structures to those that are (cross-linguistically) grammatical and adhere to linguistic constraints on the association of form and
Acknowledgements. Thanks go to Claire Gardent and Julia Hockenmaier, as well as two anonymous reviewers for insightful comments
on an earlier version of this paper. Any errors are my own responsibility.
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CP −→
( (↓ subj) = (↑ subj) )
syntax & semantics
principles & unification
word order domains
many (Matrix)
types & inheritance
functional projection
functional uncertainty
many (Pargram)
templates & macros
α(cookies) α(Ed)
Im Park sitzen Leute und erzählen Geschichten
———————— ———————————
—————————————–< &
derivation tree
tree composition
tree adjunction
E, Zh, F, I, G, ..
tree families
Cross-framework Analyses of Coordination: left: HPSG (upper), LFG (lower); right: CCG (upper), LTAG (lower)
Ed V
, ss | loc | cat
Facets and Dimensions across Frameworks
case case
ss | loc | cat 1 hd | dtrs | conjunct-dtrs
ss | loc | cat
function composition
type raising
E, G, NL, Tur, ...
lexical families
conj ‘und′
 
pred ‘inh( ↑ obj)i′ 
′  
pred ‘sitzenh(
↑ subj)( ↑ obl)i
pred ‘erzählenh(↑ subj)(↑ obj)i 
pred ‘Geschichten’
main focus
main constructs
theory-specific devices
means of abstraction
processing efficiency
grammar induction
statistical selection
statistical disambiguation
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“They whispered me the answer” in
Australia and the US: A
Comparative Experimental Study
Marilyn Ford and Joan Bresnan
Mismatches between grammaticality judgments of linguists and actual
usage are surprisingly common, particularly where linguists invoke subtle contrasts such as between different types of dative transfer verbs or
between different types of dative communication verbs.1 For example,
as Levin’s (1993) compendium of verb classes in the linguistic literature shows, linguists have judged verbs of manner of communication
like mutter or whisper as ungrammatical in the double object form in
contrast to the prepositional alternative (*whisper John the answer vs.
whisper the answer to John), while they have judged verbs of communication by instrument like phone or text grammatical in each of
the alternative structures (phone John the answer, phone the answer
to John). Similarly, linguists have judged verbs of continuous transfer
like lower or carry as ungrammatical in the double object form (*lower
John the rope vs. lower the rope to John) in contrast to verbs of instantaneous transfer like throw, toss (throw John the rope vs. throw the rope
to John). The verbs that are judged ungrammatical in one of the alter1 We dedicate this work to Annie Zaenen, for her critical perspective on lexical
semantics and her long-standing interest in experimental and corpus data for linguistic studies. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science
Foundation under Grant No. BCS-1025602.
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 95
96 / Marilyn Ford and Joan Bresnan
native structures are termed “non-alternating”. Yet the non-alternating
verbs can be found in the reportedly ungrammatical kinds of structures
in actual usage, in contexts where they appear grammatical (Fellbaum
2005, Bresnan, Cueni, Nikitina, and Baayen 2007, Bresnan and Nikitina
Why do these mismatches between judgments and usage occur? Although we lack specific probability estimates for all of the relevant
verbs, we know that differing classes of dative verbs have different frequencies of usage in the double object form in internet samples (Lapata
1999). It is also known that different argument types are more likely to
occur in double object structures. That is, the sequence V [ . . . Pronoun
. . . ] NP is far more frequent than V [ . . . Noun . . . ] NP in a corpus of
telephone conversations (Bresnan 2007).
Bresnan 2007 hypothesized that ratings of the naturalness of nonalternating verbs in reportedly ungrammatical structures would be
higher when these verbs appeared in more probable syntactic contexts;
specifically, in the context V [ . . . Pronoun . . . ] NP compared to V [ . . .
Noun . . . ] NP. She used datives with six alternating verbs (verbs of
communication by instrument, phone, text, and IM, and verbs of instantaneous transfer, flip, throw, and toss). She also used datives with
eight reportedly non-alternating verbs (verbs of manner of communication, whisper, mutter, mumble, yell, and verbs of continuous transfer,
carry, push, drag, and lower). Thirty items were constructed by searching for examples from the internet and then creating their alternative
double object form. Half of the items used alternating verbs and half
used reportedly non-alternating verbs. Each item consisted of the context for the original dative followed by the two alternative dative forms,
as exemplified by (1).
(1) My mother and I went out of our way to go to Scottsdale. When
we got there, she drove to the Luau, a good hotel, one they’d
listed in Town and Country. I sat in a chair on one side of the
lobby while she went up to the desk. She came back
(i) and whispered the price to me.
(ii) and whispered me the price.
Participants were asked to read each passage and rate the relative
naturalness of the numbered alternatives using 100 points divided between the two alternatives. The results showed that for all verb classes,
datives with the pronominal recipient were rated higher than datives
with the lexical NP recipient and for supposedly non-alternating datives with a pronominal recipient the ratings were as high as those
for alternating datives with lexical NP recipients. These results are
They Whispered me the Answer / 97
consistent with findings from other studies indicating that language
users have implicit knowledge of syntactic frequencies and probabilities
(Ford, Bresnan, and Kaplan 1982; Gahl and Garnsey 2004; Bresnan,
Cueni, Nikitina, and Baayen 2007; Diessel 2007; Bresnan and Hay 2008;
Szmrecsányi and Hinrichs 2008; Tily, Gahl, Arnon, Snider, Kothari, and
Bresnan 2009; Bresnan and Ford 2010; Jaeger 2010).
If knowledge of syntax is probabilistic, then one might expect to find
different responses to the same verb classes across varieties of the same
language. Bresnan and Ford 2010, using dative items, have found differences between Americans and Australians in ratings and in processing
dative structures while reading, and Ford and Bresnan submitted have
found differences in mini databases of datives and genitives obtained
from Americans and Australians in a completion task where participants complete richly contextualized sentence fragments. The converging evidence obtained from different types of studies gives added weight
to the suggestion that there is more to grammaticality than a simple
categorical division.
The previous work comparing Americans and Australians in dative
ratings and processing did not consider possible differences in dative
verb classes across the varieties. In the present study, we investigate
the responses of the two varieties in rating and processing datives with
different verb classes, including reportedly non-alternating verb classes.
The Ratings Study
Twenty Australian participants from Griffith University who had grown
up in Australia speaking only English were given the same 30 items used
by Bresnan 2007, although with the contexts localized to Australian
English. Thus, for example, (1) was modified slightly for the Australians
as shown in (2), with changes shown in bold.
(2) My mother and I went out of our way to go to Canberra. When
we got there, she drove to the Plaza, a good hotel, one they’d
listed in Travel Australia. I sat in a chair on one side of the
lobby while she went up to reception. She came back
(i) and whispered the price to me.
(ii) and whispered me the price.
The participants performed the same split-100 ratings task as the
American participants.
The ratings of the Americans and Australians for the double object alternatives were analyzed using mixed effects regression models
(Baayen 2008, Baayen, Davidson, and Bates 2008, Jaeger 2008, Johnson 2008, Quené and van den Bergh 2008) as implemented in the lme4
98 / Marilyn Ford and Joan Bresnan
package in R (Bates, Maechler, and Dai 2009). In one model, the data
from the communication verbs were analyzed and in another the transfer verbs were analyzed. For both models, the effects of interest were
variety, verb type within the broad verb class (either communication
by instrument and manner of communication or instantaneous transfer and continuous transfer), recipient pronominality, and the possible
interaction of these factors. Given that the order in which participants
receive the items could influence ratings, item order was also included
in the models. There were three random effects incorporated into the
initial models. These were the participant, the verb, and item order interacting with participant. For both models it was found by likelihood
ratio tests (Bates et al. 2009) that the random effect of item order interacting with participant was not needed and so it was eliminated.
In this and other analyses presented here, we tested whether fixed effect variables and their interactions could be removed by seeing if the
magnitudes of the estimates were less than the standard error, but it
was found that none could be eliminated. Here, as elsewhere, we use *
for significant at p < 0.05, ** for significant at p < 0.01, and *** for
significant at p < 0.001. The resulting models for the communication
verbs and the transfer verbs are shown in Tables 1 and 2, respectively.
Positive coefficients indicate higher ratings, while negative coefficients indicate lower ratings. The results in Table 1 show that for the
communication verbs, ratings for the double objects increased with item
order and that there is an interaction between variety and pronominality, such that the Americans, but not the Australians, showed a
pronominality effect. Examination of the mean ratings showed that for
the Americans the pronominal recipient increased rating of the communication by instrument datives by 12.86 and increased rating of the
manner of communication datives by 9.87, while for the Australians,
the corresponding increases were only 4.38 and 5.22, respectively.
Turning now to the transfer verbs, the results in Table 2 show, again,
that ratings of the double object datives increased with item order.
There was also a significant main effect of pronominality, such that
the datives with a pronominal recipient were rated higher than those
with a lexical NP recipient for both varieties. Examination of the mean
ratings for the two transfer verbs showed that both varieties have a
large, consistent, pronominality effect; for Americans the pronominal
recipient increased rating by 24.49 for the instantaneous transfer datives
and 18.33 for the continuous transfer datives, and for the Australians
the corresponding increases in rating were 20.06 and 22, respectively.
We see, then, that both varieties show a pronominality effect for
transfer verbs, but only the Americans show a pronominality effect
They Whispered me the Answer / 99
Fixed Effects
variety = US
verb type = manner
recipient = pronoun
item order
verb type (manner):
recipient (pronoun)
variety (US):
verb type (manner)
variety (US):
recipient (pronoun)
variety (US):
verb type (manner):
recipient (pronoun)
95% Confidence
Lower Upper
20.748 40.006
-0.167 19.740
0.0000 ***
0.0000 ***
Random Effects
participant standard deviation
verb standard deviation
0.0048 **
Model parameters for the American and Australian ratings for
communication verb double object datives
100 / Marilyn Ford and Joan Bresnan
Fixed Effects
variety = US
verb type = instantan.
recipient = pronoun
item order
verb type (instantan.):
recipient (pronoun)
variety (US):
verb type (instantan.)
variety (US):
recipient (pronoun)
variety (US):
verb type (instantan.):
recipient (pronoun)
95% Confidence
Lower Upper
12.877 37.866
-14.041 22.635
15.391 29.716
0.0000 ***
0.0000 ***
0.0368 *
Random Effects
participant standard deviation
verb standard deviation
Model parameters for the American and Australian ratings for
transfer verb double object datives
for communication verbs. Hence for transfer verbs, both varieties show
that more frequent contexts improve the ratings of reportedly nonalternating verbs as would be expected given Bresnan 2007, while for
communication verbs, only the American variety shows the effect. As
suggested previously, such differences between varieties are to be expected for speakers of different variants of a language. Given the pervasive variability of usage probabilities for different structures in a language (Hinrichs and Szmrecsányi 2007; Schneider 2007; Bresnan and
Hay 2008; Rohdenburg and Schlüter 2009; Wolk, Bresnan, Rosenbach,
and Szmrecsányi to appear), it would be purely coincidental for probabilistic knowledge of language to be the same across varieties. Of course
much more research needs to be done to determine the exact differences
in probabilistic knowledge.
They Whispered me the Answer / 101
The Word-by-Word Processing Task
While the contextualized ratings task is sensitive to probabilistic differences in sentence types (Bresnan and Ford 2010, Ford and Bresnan to
appear), it does not capture time-bounded effects on sentence processing tasks such as reading. For this reason we undertook a second study
using a word-by-word reaction time task during reading as a measure of
sentence processing complexity. Our expectation was that more probable sentence types would require fewer resources during reading, so
that processing complexity during reading would decrease in predicted
high-probability sentences.
Thus, given the ratings results, we expected that Americans would
process both communication and transfer verb double object datives
faster when there is a pronominal recipient, whereas the Australians
would only show this pronominality effect for transfer verb datives.
In the self-paced reading task, participants are presented with a sentence one word at a time on a computer screen and must press a button
as quickly as possible each time they read a word. For our purposes, a
context is presented before the word-by-word presentation of the part
of the sentence we are interested in. The task is similar to that used
by Bresnan and Ford 2010, though without any lexical decision being
made for each word. Twenty experimental items were used, half had
communication by instrument verbs, and half had continuous transfer
verbs. There were two basic versions of the items. In both versions,
half of the communication verb items and half of the transfer verb
items used a pronominal recipient and half used a lexical NP recipient.
Any item with a pronominal recipient in one version used a lexical NP
in the other version. This was balanced over variety and gender. Each
context was given as a block and the word-by-word decision making
began with the dative verb. The points of interest were the determiner
and noun after the recipient.
The participants were 36 US speakers (18 males and 18 females) and
36 Australian speakers (18 males and 18 females). The US speakers received the US versions of the items, while the Australians received the
items contextualized for Australians. The US participants were paid
volunteers from the Stanford University community and had grown up
in the US speaking only English. The Australians were paid volunteers
from the Griffith University community and had grown up in Australia
speaking only English. The participants had not taken part in the ratings study.
The data were analyzed using mixed effects regression models. Examination of the data showed that the Americans had faster reac-
102 / Marilyn Ford and Joan Bresnan
tion times (RTs) than the Australians, with a mean reaction time of
322.19 milliseconds compared with 396.27. Further, while the Americans showed no significant effects at the determiner except item order,
for the Australians it was at the noun position that there was no effect except item order. Significant effects appeared at the determiner
for the Australians, and at the following noun for the Americans. In
other words, for the Americans the expected linguistic effects lagged
the Australians, occurring later in the sentence — perhaps because
the Americans were processing the sentences more quickly. Here we
will present the results for the Australians at the determiner and the
Americans at the noun. For both models, the effects we were interested
in were verb class, recipient pronominality, and their possible interactions. We also collected gender information and so included that in the
possible interaction. Item order was also included in the model. The
random effects were participant, verb, and item order interacting with
participant. For neither model could any of these be eliminated. All
RTs were logged to reduce the effect of extreme values (Baayen 2008).
The model parameters for the Australians at the determiner are
presented in Table 3, though due to space limitations possible 3- and
4-way interactions, which could not be eliminated but which were all
non-significant, are not presented. Positive coefficients indicate higher
RTs, while negative coefficients indicate lower times.
It can be seen that RTs significantly decreased with item order. There
is also a significant interaction between verb class and pronominality
of the recipient. As predicted, the Australians have faster RTs after a
pronominal recipient for transfer verbs, but not communication verbs.
Examination of the raw data for the Australians shows that RTs for
the transfer verb datives with a pronominal recipient were on average
45.21 milliseconds less than for transfer verb datives with a lexical recipient. The difference for communication verb datives due to recipient
pronominality was only 24.55.
The model parameters for the Americans at the noun are presented
in Table 4, though due to space limitations possible 3- and 4-way interactions are not presented.2 Once again RTs decreased with item
order. As predicted, the Americans have a significant main effect of
pronominality but no interaction between verb class and pronominality. Examination of mean RTs showed that the decrease in RTs due to a
pronoun recipient was 46.54 milliseconds. There were significant interactions found in the data, as shown in Table 4, though none concerned
2 The 3- and 4-way interactions could not be eliminated, and all bar one of these
interactions (item order*gender*pronominality) were non-significant. The effects
shown remain significant when a further control for previous word RT is added.
They Whispered me the Answer / 103
Fixed Effects
95% Confidence
Lower Upper
0.0000 ***
0.0002 **
0.0468 *
Random Effects
participant standard deviation
verb standard deviation
participant / item order standard deviation
verb type = transfer
recipient = pronoun
gender = male
item order
verb type (transfer):
recipient (pronoun)
gender (male):
verb type = transfer
gender (male):
recipient (pronoun)
item order:
verb type = transfer
item order:
recipient (pronoun)
item order:
gender = male
TABLE 3 Model parameters for all main effects and 2-way interactions for
Australian RTs at the determiner after the recipient in double object datives
any verb class pronominality interaction.
With the word-by-word processing task as our measure of sentence
processing complexity we expected that more probable / more highly
rated sentence types would require fewer resources during reading, so
that RTs measured in the task would decrease in high-probability /
highly rated sentences. Specifically, Americans would process both communication and transfer verb double object datives faster when there is
a pronominal recipient, whereas the Australians would only show this
pronominality effect for transfer verb datives. With the proviso that the
effect for the American participants lagged by one word, this is what
we found.
104 / Marilyn Ford and Joan Bresnan
Fixed Effects
95% Confidence
Lower Upper
0.0000 ***
0.0008 **
0.0000 ***
0.0096 **
0.0117 *
Random Effects
participant standard deviation
verb standard deviation
participant / item order standard deviation
verb type = transfer
recipient = pronoun
gender = male
item order
verb type (transfer):
recipient (pronoun)
gender (male):
verb type = transfer
gender (male):
recipient (pronoun)
item order:
verb type = transfer
item order:
recipient (pronoun)
item order:
gender = male
Model parameters for all main effects and 2-way interactions for
American RTs at the noun after the recipient in double object datives
They Whispered me the Answer / 105
Concluding Remarks
Our data in two very different experimental tasks have pointed to the
same finding: overall, there seems to be more variation between speakers
of the two varieties in judging and reading pronominal recipient objects
with communication verbs than with transfer verbs. Why should this
In the transfer events with our dative verbs, the theme is expressed
as an NP, never as a clause or PP. The semantics of these dative verbs,
whether instantaneous (flip, throw, toss) or continuous (push, drag,
lower) constrain the relations among the participants in the described
action quite specifically in comparison to the communication verbs.
With the communication verbs, there is much more choice about how
to convey the theme. The topic of communication could be a clause, a
quotation, or a PP. Consider:
(3) she texted me with all the details
(4) he texted me on the weekend saying he has a surprise for me
Using Google with the searches “verb you” and “verb her” in a sample
of both Australian and American web pages and for all verbs used, we
were able to confirm the intuition that, in usage, transfer verbs are
quite constrained in the manner in which a theme and recipient are
expressed, with 30/64 results for communication verbs being other than
NP NP or NP to NP and only 1/37 results for transfer verbs being
other than NP NP or NP to NP. A Fisher’s Exact test shows that
this is a highly significant difference, p = .000. So, with the transfer
verbs, there are fewer ways the Australian and US populations can differ
in their usage. But with communication verbs, there are many more
possible differences in usage preferences. These considerations suggest
that the true explanation for the covariation may lie in the varying
usage probabilities of specific verb-argument combinations in Australia
and the US. More research in the future will clarify ways in which usage
varies for the two varieties.
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Nothing Personal? A System-internal
Syntactic Change in Icelandic
Joan Maling and Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir
In their 1985 paper entitled “Case and Grammatical Functions: The
Icelandic Passive,” Zaenen, Maling and Thráinsson demonstrated that
morphological case does not map 1-1 onto grammatical functions in Icelandic, a language famous for having both oblique subjects and nominative objects. This typologically unusual property has inspired a great
deal of research. The heart of that paper consisted of detailed syntactic
characteristics for subjecthood. Some of the diagnostic properties were
cross-linguistic, while others were language-specific. In the spirit of that
classic paper, we provide an update from the field, reporting on a major
syntactic change now underway in Icelandic, which has inspired lively
debate. This ongoing change is another intriguing phenomenon, the apparent reanalysis of passive morphology; at the heart of our work on
understanding this change is the identification of syntactic properties
which distinguish active from passive clauses.
Any description of Icelandic syntax distinguishes two kinds of passive
clauses: (i) canonical passives of transitive and ditransitive verbs and
(ii) impersonal passives of intransitive verbs, e.g. Það var dansað ‘it was
danced’ (example (13)). The Icelandic canonical passive has the same
basic syntactic properties as its counterpart in English or German, but
adds much richer agreement and a greater variety of morphological
case-marking. If the matrix verb takes accusative (structural) case on
its object, that argument will correspond to a nominative subject in the
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 109
110 / Joan Maling and Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir
passive voice (usually the subject, but the direct object in certain cases;
see Zaenen, Maling and Thráinsson 1985), which triggers agreement
with both the finite verb and the participle. If the verb governs lexical
case on its object, either dative or genitive, that case is preserved in the
passive, but NP-movement to subject position is still obligatory, giving
rise to one class of the “quirky subjects” for which Icelandic is famous.
Since there is no nominative argument, there is no agreement with the
finite verb and participle, which occur in the default 3rd person neuter
singular. See Thráinsson (2007) for a thorough description.
A new transitive impersonal passive construction has arisen in recent decades, and is gaining ground. The innovative construction is
illustrated in (1a,b).1
(1) a. Það var beðið
að vaska upp
itexpl was asked-n.sg. me-acc to wash up
Literally: it was asked me to do the dishes
Intended: ‘I was asked to do the dishes’ or ‘they asked me to
do the dishes’
b. Loks var fundið
stelpuna eftir mikla leit.
finally was found-n.sg. girl.the-acc after great search
Literally: finally was found the girl after a long search
Intended: ‘the girl was finally found after a long search’ or
‘they finally found the girl after a long search’
We provide two different translations of the examples in (1), one passive
(e.g. “I was asked to do the dishes”), the other active with an indefinite
nonspecific human subject like “they” (e.g. “they asked me to do the
dishes”). Because of the participial morphology, some linguists have labeled this construction “the New Passive” following Kjartansson (1991);
in this paper, however, we refer to it as the “new impersonal” (NI).
Data on the NI has been collected in two nationwide studies. The
first was conducted in 1999-2000 and reported in Sigurjónsdóttir and
Maling (2001) and Maling and Sigurjónsdóttir (2002) (henceforth referred to collectively as M&S). Our study focused on the syntactic
characteristics of the innovative construction. We developed a questionnaire which was distributed to 1,731 tenth graders (age 15-16) in
65 schools throughout Iceland (10th grade is the last year of compulsory education in Iceland). This number represents 45 percent of the
children born in Iceland in 1984. The questionnaire was also given to
205 adult controls in various parts of the country. The questionnaire
1 Note that the expletive það is not a grammatical subject; in finite clauses, both
main and subordinate, it is a place-holder confined to initial position, and thus does
not occur in questions, or if a non-subject constituent has been fronted, as in (1b).
Nothing Personal? / 111
was a grammaticality judgment task. For each of the 68 test sentences,
subjects were asked to check one of two options: “Yes, this is something
one can say” or “No, this is something one cannot say.” A large study
on syntactic variation in modern Icelandic was conducted in 2005-2007,
and reported in Thráinsson et al. (in press). 2,241 subjects throughout
Iceland were tested on various syntactic construction, including the
NI (n=772). Subjects in four different age groups were asked to judge
whether the test sentences were natural, questionable or impossible.
Both studies show that sentences like those in (1) are sharply ungrammatical in the standard language. The example of the New Impersonal shown in (1a) was one of the test sentences in the M&S survey.
As shown in Table 1, 93 percent of adults (n=200) judged this sentence ungrammatical, while over 73 percent of the teenagers (n =1695)
judged it to be acceptable.
Acceptability Judgments for New Impersonal in (1a)
The sentence in (1a) was also included in the second nationwide
survey, which confirmed the age-related variation found in the first
study; in fact, the variation is even more striking because there are
three different groups of adult subjects, as shown in Table 2. Nearly
60 percent of adolescents in this survey accepted the sentence in (1a)
as natural, as compared to only 22 percent of subjects in their early
twenties, and almost no one in the two oldest age groups.
This is clearly a major syntactic change, one which seems to have
sprung up spontaneously in various parts of the country. The proper
analysis of this construction has been much debated in recent years,
but there is no disagreement about the fact that a major syntactic
innovation is taking place and that the construction is rapidly gain-
112 / Joan Maling and Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir
Age-related Variation in Acceptability Judgments for the NI
Example in (1a)
ing ground. Because this is an on-going change, it provides historical
linguists with a rare opportunity to observe and document a syntactic change at a relatively early stage; the evidence available in written
records can be complemented with native speaker judgments of acceptability. On-going research supports the hypothesis that the NI is
acquired by young children and not adopted by adults. Forty of the subjects tested by M&S in 1999-2000 were retested in 2010; children who
acquire the NI do not seem to outgrow it (Thráinsson, Sigurjónsdóttir
and Eythórsson, 2010).
Syntactic analysis
What exactly is this innovative construction? The debate about how to
analyze the NI has focused on whether it is syntactically passive or active. Barðdal and Molnár (2003) describe it as a subtype of the passive
construction, albeit a construction with “an actional character” which
is therefore “much closer to an active reading than the promotional
types” (p. 242). Eythórsson (2008) suggests that the New Construction
is an impersonal “expletive passive” that has lost the definiteness constraint that exists in the standard language. In his analysis, the direct
object is marked accusative because it is a “non-promotional” passive,
a construction with an empty [e] subject but no NP-movement, as in
(2a). M&S on the other hand have argued in various papers for an alternative analysis under which the construction is a syntactically active
impersonal with a null proarb [+human] pronoun subject, as in (2b).
Nothing Personal? / 113
Aux [VP Vppart NP]]
[S proarb Aux [VP Vppart NP]]
Passive Impersonal
Active Impersonal
Halldór Á. Sigurðsson (2011) takes an intermediate position, coming
to the conclusion that “the New Passive is an unusually ‘active passive” ’
(p. 174) and that it “is not an alien but a member of the passive family,
albeit a somewhat odd one” (p. 176). Einar Freyr Sigurðsson (2012)
presents new evidence that the NI shares syntactic properties with active constructions, and differs in important ways from the canonical
Cross-linguistic evidence
Why would anyone think that this innovative impersonal construction
is syntactically active? The controversy indicates the importance of developing concrete syntactic diagnostics for an active vs. a passive analysis of a given construction. We know that this reanalysis has occurred
in other languages. The Polish –no/to construction and the Irish autonomous form each developed from a past participle; both have been
shown to be active impersonals. Based on her study of these constructions, Maling (1993) selected the four syntactic properties in (3) to use
as diagnostics (see also Maling and Sigurjónsdóttir 2002:102, ex. 7):
(3) Syntactic properties of active construction with an impersonal
a. No agentive by-phrase is possible.
b. Binding of anaphors (reflexive and reciprocal) is possible.
c. Control of subject-oriented adjuncts is possible.
d. Nonagentive (“unaccusative”) verbs can occur.
The underlying assumption is that a syntactically present agent argument blocks an agentive by-phrase. However, a subject argument that
is syntactically present licenses binding of lexical anaphors and control
of subject-oriented adjuncts, and unaccusative verbs should be able to
occur in the construction (provided that the verb selects for a human
subject). A syntactically active impersonal construction with an overt
grammatical subject, e.g. French on or German man, has all four of
these properties; the canonical passive construction lacks all four.
The comparison of Polish and Ukrainian is particularly instructive.
Maling and Sigurjónsdóttir (2002:100-107) compared and contrasted
the syntactic properties of the accusative-assigning participial –no/toconstruction in Polish and Ukrainian, exemplified in (4).
114 / Joan Maling and Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir
(4) a. Polish (=Maling and Sigurjónsdóttir 2002, ex. 8b)
zbudowano w 1640 roku.
church-f.acc build-no
in 1640 year
‘The church was built in 1640’
b. Ukrainian (=Sobin 1985:653, ex. (13a))
bulo zbudovano v 1640 roc’i.
church-f. acc was build-no in 1640 year
We showed that despite their common historical origin and superficial similarity (i.e. the shared morphological properties of assigning
accusative case and consequent lack of agreement), the Polish and
Ukrainian constructions are polar opposites in terms of syntactic behavior (Table 3). Both Polish and Ukrainian have a canonical passive
with the expected properties; what is important to observe is that the
Ukrainian –no/to-construction behaves like a true passive, whereas its
Polish counterpart does not (for Polish see Kibort 2004; Blevins 2003).
Despite their common origin, they are polar opposites syntactically.
More detailed discussion can be found in Maling and Sigurjónsdóttir
(2002) and Maling (2006).
Syntactic properties of constructions in Polish and Ukrainian
syntactic property
agentive by-phrase
bound anaphors in
object position
control of subjectoriented adjuncts
nonagentive (“unaccusative”) verbs
9.2.2 Syntactic behavior of the Icelandic New Impersonal
The obvious question, then, is this: which of the two polar opposites
does the innovative Icelandic construction most resemble? Both possible
answers have been offered.
(5) a. The NI is parallel to the –no/to-construction in Polish, an
active impersonal with a thematic proarb subject (M&S 1997,
2001, 2002; Maling 2006)
Nothing Personal? / 115
b. The NI is directly “comparable to the –no/to-construction
in Ukrainian, a passive preserving structural accusative case”
(Eythórsson 2008:216)
Eythórsson (2008) and Jónsson (2009) argue that the Icelandic NI
is a “true passive”, and claim that as such, it behaves more like the
accusative-assigning passive in Ukrainian than like the Polish counterpart, which has the syntactic properties of an active impersonal
(Maling 2006). M&S hypothesized that this on-going syntactic change
in Icelandic is parallel to the completed development of the –no/toconstruction in Polish, as well as the Irish autonomous construction
(Maling 1993). We predicted that although the actuation may take
several centuries to complete, the New Impersonal construction in Icelandic will eventually pattern with the Polish –no/to-construction with
regard to all four syntactic properties listed in (3) (see Table 3).
Because the change is still very much in progress, the dichotomy between the NI and the canonical passive in Icelandic is not as clear cut
as it is in Polish. But nonetheless, the survey data show that the NI is
different from the canonical passive, thus supporting the Active Impersonal analysis. As predicted by Maling and Sigurjónsdóttir (2002:127),
the NI is even beginning to extend its usage to nonagentive verbs which
do not form passives in the standard language. Sentence (6a), which
is an instance of the NI, was tested in the Thráinsson et al. (in press)
study. The results across the four age groups are shown in Table 4.
(6) a. Það var samt alltaf átt marga hesta.
itexpl was still always had many horses-acc
‘People still owned many horses.’
(New Impersonal)
b. *Hundurinn er áttur (af þeim)
dog.the-nom is had (by them)
‘The dog is owned (by them).’ (Thráinsson 2007:152, ex.
(Canonical Passive)
The data show that many speakers accept this sentence, and that
the younger the speakers, the more likely they are to accept it. It is
worth noting that in both Polish and Irish, where a similar syntactic reanalysis has already been completed, nonagentive “unaccusative” verbs
do occur with the relevant “impersonal” morphology provided that the
understood subject is [+human].
Possible models for the syntactic change
Why is this syntactic change happening? We assume that the NI has
its origins in child language, as first suggested by Kjartansson (1991).
The question then, is what features of the primary linguistic data avail-
116 / Joan Maling and Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir
Acceptability judgments for NI of a verb that does not form the
canonical passive
able to the child might be the source of this innovation. Researchers
have suggested different constructions as the model: impersonal passives with PP complements (Kjartansson 1991; Barðdal and Molnár
2003; Sigurðsson 2011); impersonal passives of reflexive verbs (Kjartansson 1991:20; M&S 2001, 2002; Maling 2006); transitive expletive
passives with an indefinite postverbal NP (Eythórsson 2008; Thráinsson 2007); an impersonal ditransitive reflexive construction (Eythórsson
2008). Given space limitations, we discuss only two possible models.
Transitive expletive passives
One hypothesis is that the “. . . the New Passive emerged from a reanalysis of the canonical existential passive (það-passive) with a postverbal
NP” (Eythórsson 2008:173). Eythórsson (2008) looks for parallels in
other Scandinavian languages and points to the expletive passive, or
“transitive existential passive,” as a possible parallel for the Icelandic
innovation. He hypothesizes that the NI is an impersonal “expletive passive” that has lost the definiteness constraint that exists in the standard
Many sentences in standard Icelandic can be analyzed as either
the canonical passive or the NI (Sigurjónsdóttir and Maling 2001:128;
Thráinsson 2007:276; Eythórsson 2008). This ambiguity arises because
neuter nouns have the same form for nom/acc in both singular and
plural. When the postverbal NP is unambiguously nominative, as for
the masculine noun strákur ‘boy’ in (7a), then the clause can only be
analyzed as a canonical passive; however, when the postverbal NP is
Nothing Personal? / 117
a neuter singular noun as in (7b), then the child cannot tell from the
morphology that the postverbal NP is marked nominative.
(7) a. Það var barinn strákur.
itexpl was hit-m.sg. boy-nom m.sg.
‘A boy was hit.’
b. Það var skammað
lítið barn.
itexpl was scolded-n.sg. little child-n.sg(nom/acc)
‘A little child was scolded.’ (Eythórsson 2008, ex.73a)
As a result, the child may hypothesize that the postverbal NP in (7b)
is an accusative object rather than a postposed nominative subject. If
this happens, we have a case of ‘misanalysis’ or ‘reanalysis’. Moreover,
a sentence with an indefinite oblique NP as in (8) is always ambiguous
between the NI and the canonical passive (Sigurjónsdóttir and Maling
(8) Það var hrint
itexpl was pushed-n.sg. little-dat boy
‘A little boy was pushed.’ (Eythórsson 2008, ex.73b)
However, sentences like those in (9a,b) are unambiguously instances
of the NI because the postverbal NP is definite.
(9) a. Það var skammað
litla barnið.
itexpl was scolded-n.sg little child.the
‘The little child was scolded.’ (Eythórsson 2008, ex.74a)
b. Það var hrint
litla stráknum.
itexpl was pushed-n.sg little boy.the-dat
‘The little boy was pushed.’ (Eythórsson 2008, ex. 74b)
Intuitively, sentences like those in (9) are less “glaring” or salient
to the speaker’s ear in that the only nonstandard feature is the violation of the Definiteness Effect, whereas with accusative-assigning verbs
there are the additional morphological signs of case-marking and the
lack of verb agreement. Indeed, in the M&S study, examples of the NI
with dative-assigning verbs had slightly higher acceptability rates than
those with accusative-assigning verbs. The same was true in Polish; for
centuries, the only examples of the innovative –no/to construction contained neuter NPs which could just as well have been canonical passives
(Zbigniew Kański, p.c.). Anthony Naro’s work on Brazilian Portuguese
showed that the use of non-standard forms goes down as the surface
salience of the deviation from the standard goes up (Naro 1981).2
2 We are grateful to Anthony Kroch for the reference to Naro’s work on Portuguese.
118 / Joan Maling and Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir
Thráinsson (2007) seems to agree with Eythórsson’s suggestion that
existential passives with indefinite postverbal NPs were the model for
the innovation. He notes (p. 276) that “there is considerable overlap between the two dialects” with the result that “in the primary linguistic
data (PLD) available to the child acquiring the language there is a lot
of ambiguity even if the data all come from speakers of the standard
dialect.” We agree that the input available to the child underdetermines
the grammar; indeed, as discussed in Section 3.2, we have argued that
two different analyses of impersonal passives of intransitive verbs are
available even to speakers of the standard language. However, the suggestion that existential passives with an indefinite postverbal NP were
the model for the innovation is not compelling. First, there is the actuation problem: why is the NI developing only now, in the late 20th
century, when existential passives have existed throughout the entire
recorded history of Icelandic? There do not seem to be any unambiguous examples of the NI containing either full NPs in the accusative
or pronouns until the mid-20th century (Maling and Sigurjónsdóttir
2002:129).3 Eythórsson (2008:212) accepts this timeline.
Second, on this account, it is mysterious why the NI is developing
only in Icelandic and not in, e.g. Norwegian. The “transitive expletive
passive” construction also occurs in the other Scandinavian languages,
as illustrated in (10) for Norwegian, where there is no evidence of a
similar syntactic change.
(10) Det var lagt eit document/*det framfor oss.
it was placed a document/*it before us
‘A document was placed before us.’ (=Eythórsson 2008, ex. 66a)
Eythórsson claims that “the Norwegian det-passive is a close parallel
to the New Passive in Icelandic in that the postverbal argument is an
object rather than a subject . . . the difference is that the direct object
NP must generally be indefinite in Norwegian” (Eythórsson 2008:206).
We find the claimed parallelism unconvincing; personal pronouns are
3 A search of the entire IcePaHC corpus (Wallenberg et al. 2011) uncovered only
one unambiguous example of an accusative NP object with a passive participle,
from Jón Steingrímsson’s diary/autobiography (1791):
i En þá
kvöl, . . .,
verður ei af mér útmálað.
but the-acc torment-f.sg. . . becomes not by me out.painted-n.sg.
ii En þá kvöl, sem eg hafði að bera af kitlum, sem eg hafði í yljum og tám,
verður ei af mér útmálað.
“But the torment which I had to endure from the tickling that I had in the
soles of my feet and toes will not be described by me.”
This example is less clear than one would like because two relative clauses intervene
between the fronted accusative object and the participle (Wallenberg et al. 2010).
Nothing Personal? / 119
excluded in Norwegian, whereas they are common in the Icelandic NI.
There are also theoretical problems with Eythórsson’s analysis of the
existential passive. He says that “the postverbal NP is standardly argued to be an object, assigned structural accusative case” (2008: 205),
and continues, “In sum, the Norwegian det-passive is a close parallel
to the New Passive in Icelandic in that the postverbal argument is an
object rather than a subject . . . the difference is that the direct object
NP must generally be indefinite in Norwegian” (p. 206). Eythórsson
seems to dismiss the significance of the Definiteness Effect (DE). A
hallmark of the Icelandic NI is the lack of NP-movement, and because
the DE only applies to postverbal subjects, it does not constrain the
postverbal object in the NI. In the Norwegian existential passive, however, the postverbal NP is a postposed subject, and must be indefinite.
Since personal pronouns are excluded, any argument that the postverbal NP receives accusative case in Norwegian (e.g. Hestvik 1986) is
theory-internal. In Icelandic, on the other hand, personal pronouns are
common in the NI, and there is overt morphological case marking on
nouns as well. Eythórsson (2008:212-213) provides an analysis for the
Icelandic NI under which accusative is the default structural case on
objects. “Once the postverbal NP has been reanalyzed as an object that
is assigned structural accusative case, the New Passive emerges” and
“Since the NP is not a subject but an object, the DE no longer applies.”
By this same logic, however, we would expect (contrary to fact) that
the DE should also not apply to Norwegian det-passives, since under
his hypothesis, the postverbal NP in Norwegian is an object assigned
structural accusative.
Eythórsson suggests that the predicted lack of the DE is found in
Norwegian ditransitives, since the Indirect Object of a ditransitive verb
can be definite. Observe, however, that only the Indirect Object can be
definite; the direct object must be indefinite, as shown in (11).
(11) Det vart overrekt vinnaren ein pokal /*pokalen.
itexpl was given
the.winner a cup /*the.cup
‘The winner was given a cup/*the cup.’ ( = Eythórsson 2008, ex.
The det-passive construction is an existential with a (personal) passive base. The construction targets the Direct Object, the theme, and
the Definiteness Effect follows; the Indirect Object is inert. We conclude that it is misleading to describe the Icelandic NI as a “parallel
development” to the Norwegian det-construction. We know of no evidence that Norwegian is extending it along the same lines to transitive
verbs, apart from the reflexive passive allowed by some speakers (Åfarli
120 / Joan Maling and Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir
1992:128). Crucially, however, only the simple reflexive seg is allowed,
and not the selv ‘self’ anaphor:
(12) Det ble låst seg (*selv) inn i fabrikken.
itexpl was locked refl (self) inside in the.factory
‘Someone/People locked themselves/himself in the factory’ (cf.
Maling 2006, ex. 26b)
This contrast supports the suggestion that for those Norwegian
speakers who do accept the reflexive passive, the simple reflexive seg
serves as an intransitivizing suffix (cf. Sells, Zaenen and Zec 1987;
Maling and Sigurjónsdóttir 2010).
Impersonal passives of intransitive verbs
The two nationwide surveys included examples of both the NI construction and the Canonical Passive. But they also included examples
of the traditional so-called “Impersonal Passive” exemplified in (13), a
construction which all linguists (including us) considered to be passive.
(13) Það var dansað
alla nóttina.
itexpl was danced-n.sg all night
‘there was dancing all night’ or ‘people danced all night’
Perhaps the most surprising result from the M&S survey was the
data from the 200 adult controls. What we discovered is that for many
of the adult subjects, the traditional Impersonal Passive displayed two
of the properties that we had identified as being associated with being
syntactically active, namely control of bound anaphors and subjectoriented adjuncts. The example of an impersonal passive with a reflexive object shown in (14) was included in both nationwide surveys.
The results from the second survey, shown in Table 5, clearly show the
striking age-related variation.
(14) Svo var bara drifið sig á ball.
then was just hurried refl to dance
‘Then everyone just hurried (themselves) off to the dance’ (Maling
and Sigurjónsdóttir 2002, ex. 30a)
For all age groups, the acceptance rate of reflexive impersonal passives is higher than the acceptance rate for the NI. In other words, the
Impersonal Passive was showing the same active syntactic property as
the New Impersonal, but at even higher levels of acceptance (compare
Table 5 with Table 2).
It turns out that the reflexive impersonal passive is a 20th century innovation. Eythórsson (2008:189) observes: “I have not been able to find
any cases of [impersonal passives] with reflexive verbs in Old Icelandic;
Nothing Personal? / 121
Impersonal Passive of Reflexive Verb
. . .Thus, the reflexive [impersonal passive] seems to be an innovation
of Modern Icelandic which is increasingly gaining ground and is accepted by many speakers who do not accept the [New Impersonal] . . .”
The historical timeline has been studied in more detail by Árnadóttir,
Eythórsson and Sigurðsson (2011).
The development of reflexive impersonal passives is a syntactic
change which had not been noticed before linguists began to investigate the syntactic properties of the NI in detail. Our initial assumptions
about the standard (adult) language were based on the grammaticality judgments of a few adult speakers (see also Sigurðsson 1989:355).
Barðdal and Molnár (2003:246) disagreed with the judgments reported
in M&S on the acceptability of adjuncts with impersonal passives,
and suggested as an alternative explanation that participial adjuncts
can be “controlled by the underlying agent in impersonal passive sentences.” But they were unaware of the variation that exists among
adult speakers.
To account for the variation we found among our adult controls, we
suggested that impersonal passives of intransitive verbs are in principle
syntactically ambiguous between active and passive (Maling and Sigurjónsdóttir 2002:126).4 If this suggestion is correct, then there are two
possible grammars, as sketched in (15a,b):
[e] [VP var dansað]
Grammar 1: syntactically passive
[proarb ] [VP var dansað] Grammar 2: syntactically active
4 Haspelmath (1990) independently made the same claim in a different framework
with different terminology.
122 / Joan Maling and Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir
The data generally available to the child learning Icelandic underdetermine the analyses. We suggested that roughly half of the adult
speakers responding to our survey analyzed the traditional Impersonal
Passive as a passive construction. The other half analyzed it as active,
i.e. having a syntactically accessible null subject. This makes bound
anaphors and adjuncts possible. So if a speaker’s grammatical representation of the Impersonal Passive is as sketched in (15a), then she
will not accept control of adjuncts because there is nothing to control them. There is some anecdotal evidence which supports this claim.
Consider the example of an impersonal passive with a subject-oriented
participial adjunct in (16):
(16) Það var komið
skellihlæjandi í
itexpl was come-n.sg laughing
into class
‘People came into class laughing.’
When asked to judge this example, one speaker in her 70s commented: Það vantar einhvern ‘Someone is missing.’ She reacted the way
an English speaker might react to a sentence like “There was running
into class”; the attempt to add an adjunct like “laughing” or “drunk”
creates the same feeling of a missing agent participant.
The hypothesis that there are two different grammars makes an interesting prediction: those speakers who accept the adjuncts in the Impersonal Passive should be more likely to accept the bound anaphors
in the Impersonal Passive, because their syntactic representation of the
construction provides for both. This prediction is borne out: for both
adolescents and adults in our study, acceptance of subject-oriented participles was significantly correlated with acceptance of reflexives in impersonal passives. For adolescents, the correlation was very significant
(r = 0.433, n=1693, p = .000, 2-tailed); for adults, the correlation was
also very significant (r = 0.532, n=199, p = 0.000, 2-tailed) (Maling
and Sigurjónsdóttir 2002:126, note 15). Our hypothesis is that speakers who accept subject-oriented participles and reflexives have an active
representation of the “Impersonal Passive” as sketched in (15b), while
speakers who reject subject-oriented participles and reflexives have a
passive representation of the “Impersonal Passive” as sketched in (15a).
The age-related variation uncovered in the two nation-wide surveys,
complemented with the historical evidence on the recent spread of reflexive impersonal passives over the last century, suggests the following
stages in the development of the NI (Maling and Sigurjónsdóttir 2010).
(17) a. Stage 1. Impersonal passives occur only with intransitive verbs
(e.g. dansa ‘dance’)
Nothing Personal? / 123
b. Stage 2. Impersonal passives start to occur with reflexive verbs
in the 20th century, as some speakers reanalyze the impersonal
passive as a syntactically active construction with a proarb
c. Stage 3. For Grammar 2 speakers, impersonal “passives” occur
with all transitive verbs, with acc on the postverbal object.
Stage 1 represents Icelandic before c. 1900; all speakers have Grammar
1, that is, they have the passive analysis sketched in (15a). In Stage 2,
there are two competing grammars of impersonal passives. In Stage 3,
the active analysis of impersonal passives of intransitive verbs extends
to transitive verbs, with accusative case occurring on any postverbal
object not assigned lexical case by the verb. This is what we now recognize as the “New Impersonal.”
Why is this change happening? One explanation that we can exclude
is borrowing. Although a similar syntactic change took place independently in Polish and Irish several centuries ago, none of the languages
commonly spoken by Icelanders have the construction, so the usual
scapegoats for linguistic contamination, namely, Danish and English,
cannot be blamed. Nor is this the result of any phonological change or
morphological weakening. This is a system-internal change which challenges the claim in generative theories that syntax is inert, as pointed
out to us by Anthony Kroch (p.c.). According to the Principle of inertia, proposed by Keenan (2001) and developed by Longobardi (2001),
syntax does not change on its own; rather syntactic change must be
triggered either by external forces (i.e., language contact), or some
prior change in another domain, e.g. phonology or morphology. Neither of these triggers apply to the Icelandic situation. Rather, a highly
marked option of Universal Grammar, namely a construction with an
accusative object but no apparent nominative subject, in violation of
Burzio’s Generalization, arose spontaneously in the language without
any prior relevant change in Icelandic morphology or phonology.
M&S suggested that we need to look beyond the historical identity
of the morphemes involved in order to understand the nature of this ongoing change. The hypothesis that the NI still behaves like a grammatical passive does not account for the variation among the adult controls
first revealed in the M&S study and now even better documented in
the Thráinsson et al. (in press) study. Conflicting grammaticality judgments have sometimes been reported (cf. Barðdal and Molnár 2003 and
Eythórsson 2008, who disagree with judgments reported in M&S). Now
124 / Joan Maling and Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir
with large survey data, we can see the complex dimensions of the problem. It can be difficult to deal with the inherent messiness/murkiness
of data found in surveys, large-scale corpora, and experimental studies,
but we need to account for the variation in syntactic judgments that
exists among adult speakers. We do not believe that all (adult) native
speakers necessarily come to the same grammatical analysis of every
construction; on the contrary, we believe that speakers may come to
radically different analyses of the same data. The readily observable
data underdetermines the analysis; it is only by pushing the speaker to
judge more complex, or less common (even “vanishingly rare”) sentences
that we can see the empirical consequences of choosing one syntactic
representation over another.
This research was supported by grants from Vísindasjóður Rannsóknarráðs Íslands (RANNÍS), Rannsóknarsjóður Háskóla Íslands, and
Lýðveldisjóður; the original pilot study reported in Maling and Sigurjónsdóttir (1997) was supported in part by NSF grant BCS-9223725 to
Brandeis University. Special thanks to Halldór Ármann Sigurðsson, Jim
Wood, and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on an earlier
draft. The material in this paper is based in part on work done while
the first author was serving as Director of NSF’s Linguistics Program.
Any opinions, findings and conclusions expressed in this material are
those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the
U.S. National Science Foundation.
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Down with Obliques?
György Rákosi
There is virtually no disagreement among linguists that idiosyncratically marked dependents of a verb are syntactic arguments and not
adjuncts. The PPs in (1) are idiosyncratically marked in the sense that
the choice of the preposition is fixed with respect to the relevant verbal meaning, and the preposition does not contribute compositionally
to the meaning of the verb phrase. Such PPs tend to be syntactically
obligatory, or at least their presence is required for the intended verbal
reading to hold.
(1) a. I rely on you/*in you.
b. I believe in you/*on you.
In contradistinction, the syntactic status of semantically marked PPs is
less obvious. These, like the directional to and the source-marker from
in (2) below, appear to make a systematic contribution to the meaning
of the clause across relatively well-definable classes of verbs.
(2) a. John sent flowers to/for Mary.
b. John drove from/past the house to/towards the school.
Furthermore, such PPs often are syntactically optional. It is not a priori
obvious whether they should be classified as syntactic arguments or
Therefore in any linguistic theory where the argument-adjunct distinction is treated as a valid dichotomy, a choice has to be made in
the syntactic analysis of semantically marked PPs. Lexical-Functional
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 127
128 / György Rákosi
Grammar is one such framework, where the argument analysis has been
the accepted practice ever since the birth of the theory. Bresnan (1982)
takes many types of these prepositional phrases to be possible grammatical arguments of the verb, which are f-structure obliques (obls). More
recently, Needham and Toivonen (2011) analyzed them as derived arguments. The underlying assumption in both works is that semantically
marked oblique arguments can be added relatively freely under specific
licensing conditions to the argument structure of what we can consider
the basic lexical entry of the verb.
Zaenen and Crouch (2009), however, argue that there are advantages
in treating all semantically marked obliques as syntactic adjuncts. Their
concerns are mostly implementational: other things being equal, the
oblique analysis of semantically marked optional PPs will generally
create obl/adj ambiguities in parsing. Given that, for example, send
has both a dyadic and a triadic entry under this analysis, sentence (2a)
can be analyzed either as construction involving the dyadic send with
an adjunct PP, or as the realization of a triadic entry with an oblique.
Such ambiguities multiply when several semantically marked obliques
are present in the clause. So, they argue, it is better to treat all such
PPs as adjuncts, whose range of interpretation is merely constrained
by the verb they apply to. This increases the efficiency of the parser by
reducing the number of ambiguities, and, furthermore, it obviates the
theoretical burden of distinguishing arguments from adjuncts in a good
number of cases.
In this paper, I want to contribute to this discussion by presenting
some remarks on the behaviour of two types of with-phrases: instrumentals (3) and comitatives (4).
(3) a. John cut the meat with a knife.
b. John wrote the letter with a pen.
(4) a. John corresponded with Kate.
b. John sang with Kate.
It is common to both pairs that the preposition with appears to make
essentially the same semantic contribution to the respective sentences:
it denotes an instrument controlled by the agent argument in both (3a)
and (3b), and it marks an individual who accompanies the agent subject
argument in the activity it pursues in both (4a) and (4b). Thus each of
the four with-phrases seems to be a semantically marked oblique. Yet,
the (a)-examples have been treated as arguments in much of the literature, whereas the (b)-examples are traditionally considered adjuncts.
For Zaenen and Crouch (2009), all four examples would presumably be
adjuncts, whereas in the classical LFG approach, as well as in its revised
Down with Obliques? / 129
version in Needham and Toivonen (2011), each would be a (derived or
basic) argument.
What I argue for is that there is good motivation to treat both withphrases in (3) as adjuncts, but an argument-adjunct distinction needs
to be drawn to account for (4a) and (4b), respectively. This conclusion lends some further support to the general program of reducing
the number of semantically marked obliques, as Zaenen and Crouch
(2009) suggest — even if there may be pockets of the lexicon where
semantically marked oblique arguments still abide.
Instrumental with-phrases show a mixture of argument and adjunct
properties with respect to well-known syntactic and semantic tests.
Here I only quote apparently contradictory pieces of data from Schütze
(1995), and refer the reader to his article for a detailed overview of
this issue. The do so VP pro-form test shows that instrumentals (5a)
pattern up with adjuncts (5b), and not with arguments (5c). On the
other hand, instrumentals allow direct preposition stranding in complex
constructions (6a), unlike true adjuncts (6b).
(5) a. John stirred the soup with a spoon, and Fred did so with a
b. John opened the bank on Tuesday, and Peter did so on Friday.
c. *John put the book on the table, and Kate did so on the shelf.
(6) a. This flimsy key is extremely hard to convince yourself to be
willing to open such a heavy door with.
b. *This lousy day is extremely hard to convince yourself to be
willing to go out on.
Schütze concludes that instrumentals have several argument properties
(1995: 132). In the LFG literature, a similar claim is made by Donohue
and Donohue (2004) in their survey of instrumentals in several Austronesian and Papuan languages. Needham and Toivonen (2011) argue
that all instrumentals are derived arguments.
The more restrictive approach is to assume that only some instrumentals are arguments. Reinhart (2002), for example, argues that
Levin’s (1993) verbs of cutting and Levin and Rappaport’s (1995)
manner verbs are triadic verbs that have exactly such an instrument
argument. Peel in (7) below represents this class, other members of
which are cut, screw, sow or drill. These verbs take an agent (7a) or
an instrument (7b) subject, but not a pure cause (7c), and they do not
undergo the anticausative alternation (7d).
130 / György Rákosi
(7) a.
John peeled the apple with a knife.
This knife wouldn’t peel the apple.
*The heat peeled the apple.
*The apple peeled.
Example (8) includes the not-necessarily agentive verb break. Break is
a dyadic verb that can take either agent (8a), instrument (8b) or cause
(8c) subjects, and it undergoes the anticausative alternation (8d).
(8) a.
John broke the glass with this hammer.
This hammer broke the glass.
The storm broke the glass.
The glass broke.
Thus it is clear that the two classes of verbs are not equivalent grammatically.
It is less evident though that this difference should include a difference between argument and adjunct instrumentals. Notice that the
(a) and (b) examples superficially appear to be representatives of the
same alternation. In the absence of the (c) and (d) examples, it is not
so easy to argue why the (a) and (b) examples involve instrumentals of
non-identical types. The two certainly do not differ much with respect
to the tests that Schütze (1995) catalogues, except for one: the intuition
that underlies the argument analysis of cut-instrumentals is that these
verbal concepts necessarily include an instrument participant. In other
words, the existence of the instrument is entailed by the verb in (7),
but not in (8).
But this is a rather contentious issue. We have no similar linguistic
intuitions in the case of write, for example, and it is not immediately
obvious why. Most writing events that occur in the world do include
some sort of an instrument (a pen, a board marker, or a keyboard). In
fact, such events are probably an overwhelming majority. It is true that
one can write words in the sand with his or her fingers, but one can
also cut someone’s face with his or her nails — no instrument external
to the agent is used in either situation. Thus, given that lexical semantic intuitions are a somewhat unreliable guide anyway and that there
does not seem to be a radical grammatical difference between the two
instrumentals in (7a) and (8a), we can treat the two as representatives
of the same grammatical type of semantically marked PPs.
To support this claim, I conducted a small-scale pilot corpus study
of the Corpus of Contemporary American English (Davis 2008-2012).
The survey includes four cut-type verbs (cut, peel, chop, and carve), and
four others that can also take instruments (write, open, break, close). I
Down with Obliques? / 131
searched for verb lemma plus any pronominal strings (e.g., cut it), and
did a separate search on verb lemma+pronoun+with strings (e.g., cut it
with). This search covered all the inflected forms of the respective verbs.
Within the with-list, I manually separated true instrumental uses from
other uses of the preposition. The non-instrumental uses include cases
where the base verb has an irrelevant reading (9a), or where the withPP has some other function, like the expression of manner (9b). For
the purposes of this survey, body-part with-PPs (10a) and metaphoric
extensions (10b) were treated as instrumental uses. The results are
summarized in Table 1.
(9) a. That argument doesn’t cut it with folks like Freddy Yoder.
b. I had to write it with a great deal of discretion.
(10) a. He peeled the orange with his fingers.
b. She was peeling me with her eyes.
I. verb
II. V + pronoun
III. V + pronoun + with
III.1. total III.2. instrumentals
Instrumentals in the Corpus of Contemporary American English
The figures in the cells are raw frequencies of occurrence. For example, the string ‘lemma cut+pronoun’ occurs 7,711 times in the corpus
(Column II), and it is only in 137 cases that this string is immediately followed by the preposition with (Column III.1.). Of these 137
occurrences, I classified 113 as truly instrumental (Column III.2).
The figures are surprisingly low, especially in the first four rows
(cut, peel, chop, carve). This is not what we would expect if cut-verbs
indeed took instrumental arguments. There seems to be a difference
between these verbs and the last four, inasmuch as the ratio of the true
instrumental uses and the total number of with-PPs is somewhat lower
in the latter group. Whether that difference is real and significant is a
question that requires more data to settle.
132 / György Rákosi
The upshot of this discussion is that there is no massive corpus evidence for the presence of an instrumental argument in the cut-class.
If these verbs have such an argument, why does it remain implicit in
98-99 percent of the cases and why is it realized as an oblique only in
the rest? Furthermore, the frequency of instrumental with-phrases is so
low across the board that we might indeed be better off as far as implementational issues are concerned if we treat all of these instrumentals
as adjuncts. This is the suggestion that Zaenen and Crouch (2009)
make, and I fully concur with them on the basis of the considerations
I presented here.
Comitative phrases can be added to agentive predicates relatively freely,
and they denote participants who actively accompany the referent of
the subject argument in the event ((4) repeated as (11)). A subset of
agentive predicates, Levin’s (1993) verbs of social interaction, also take
what looks like a comitative phrase ((4a) repeated as (11a)).
(11) a. John corresponded with Kate.
b. John sang with Kate.
The so-called discontinuous construction in (11a) has been taken to
include a dyadic reciprocal verb by a number of authors, including,
among others, Dowty (1991), Dimitriadis (2004, 2008), Rákosi (2003,
2008), Siloni (2001, 2008, 2011), as well as Hurst (2010) in the LFG
literature. In this section, I briefly argue that the with-phrase is a semantically marked PP in both constructions, but it indeed is an argument in (11a) and a true adjunct in (11b). Thus, unlike in the case of
instrumentals, here we have good empirical motivation not to collapse
the grammar of the two with-PPs.
The claim that the discontinuous with-PP is a semantically marked
oblique is supported by the fact that its presence is predictable across
relatively well-definable classes of verbs. In English, most verbs of social
interaction take with-phrases (12a), some optionally take a with-phrase
or an object (12b), and some only take an object (12c).
(12) a. John corresponded/flirted/negotiated with Kate.
b. John consulted/fought/met (with) Kate.
c. John embraced/kissed/married (*with) Kate.
It is a quirk of the English language that some of these verbs cannot or
may only optionally combine with a with-PP. However, the majority of
them do so (see Dowty 1991 and Levin 1993 for a more comprehensive
Down with Obliques? / 133
list). Such variation is not characteristic of other languages. In Hungarian, for example, each of these verbs co-occurs with a comitative
case-marked oblique (the same case marker is used on instruments):
(13) János levelezett/találkozott/csókolózott Kati-val.
John corresponded/met/kissed
‘John corresponded with/met/reciprocally-kissed Kate.’
Thus it is plausible to conclude that comitative with-phrases are a productive feature of the grammar of English verbs of social interaction,
even if their use is blocked by overriding lexical specifications in some
Verbs of social interaction denote reciprocal relations that are distributed over the subject set and the comitative set in the discontinuous construction (hence the name; see Dimitriadis 2004). Comitative
adjunct constructions (11b) do not involve such an underlying reciprocal relation. Nevertheless, the contribution of the with-phrase may be
considered to be constant in the two cases: it introduces a participant
who accompanies the agent in the action denoted by the verb. Any
further differences can be deduced from the fact that the discontinuous
construction in (11a) has reciprocal semantics, and the with-phrase fills
in one of the two argument slots of this relation (cf. Siloni 2011 for
related discussion).
The argument status of the comitative PP of reciprocal verbs is
supported by a number of independent considerations. Superficially,
one could assume that the following two pairs are representative of the
same sort of alternation.
(14) a. John negotiated with Kate.
b. John and Kate negotiated.
(15) a. John ran with Kate.
b. John and Kate ran.
Indeed, whether expressed as an oblique or as part of the subject, in (14)
Kate plays essentially the same role in the two sentences (but see Dowty
(1991) and Rákosi (2003, 2008) for arguments that the discontinuous
construction does license asymmetric interpretations). On the other
hand, the comitative adjunct construction in (15a) cannot be reduced
to the coordinate structure in (15b) without loss of meaning. (15a) may
also be true if Kate does not run but she is carried by John. And (15b)
has a distributive reading — on which there are two separate running
events, one performed by Kate and one by John — but (15a) seems to
allow for the collective reading only. Such facts point toward an analysis
where (14) is treated as an argument alternation, but (15) is not.
134 / György Rákosi
The semantic argument status of the comitative of reciprocal social
verbs is also evidenced by the intuition that (16a), unlike (16b), entails the existence of an extra participant not expressed directly in the
(16) a. John has always corresponded with pleasure.
b. John has always run with pleasure.
Here the intuitions are much clearer than in the case of instrumentals.
In fact, comitative arguments cannot normally be dropped in episodic
contexts in the presence of a singular subject, which is a clear indication
of their argument status.
As discussed in the literature cited in the first paragraph of this
section, the two types of comitatives show differences in their grammar
across a variety of languages. Let me quote here two illustrative tests
concerning Hungarian comitatives (and I refer the reader to Rákosi
(2003) for a more detailed presentation).
In Hungarian, a reciprocal anaphor is only licensed as a comitative
argument, but not as a comitative adjunct (see also Komlósy 1994).
Compare (17a) with (17b).
(17) a. János és Kati csókolóztak egymás-sal.
John and Kate kissed
‘John and Kate reciprocally-kissed each other.’
b. *János és Kati futottak egymás-sal.
John and Kate ran
‘John and Kate ran with each other.’
And, given that the two fall into two distinct syntactic categories, comitative adjuncts and comitative arguments can co-occur in the same
(18) Péter-rel ritkán flörtölt-em Kati-val.
Peter-with rarely flirted-1SG Kate-with
‘I rarely flirted with Kate (together) with Peter.’
To sum up, a number of semantic and syntactic considerations support
an analysis in which the comitative phrase by reciprocal verbs of social
interaction is treated as semantically marked oblique argument of the
verb. Such comitative arguments exist beside true comitative adjuncts,
which can freely be added to any agentive predicate.
Finally, I would like to add that the comitative analysis of this welldefined class of social verbs offers implementational advantages, too, as
even a quick search in the Corpus of Contemporary American English
testifies (Davis 2008-2012). I searched for four verbs in this class, once
Down with Obliques? / 135
for the lemma only (including all inflected forms), and then for ‘verb
lemma plus with’ sequences. The results are summarized in Table 2.
I. verb
II. V-lemma
III. V-lemma +with
III/II ratio
Social verbs in the Corpus of Contemporary American English
Though the frequencies vary across the verbs, it is clear that comitative arguments are much more frequent in the corpus than any of the
instrumentals discussed in the previous section (cf. Table 1). And, as
one reviewer points out, the verbs in Table 2 also have other subcategorization frames which are either non-reciprocal (e.g., correspond to)
or less reciprocal than the basic social interaction entry (e.g., transitive meet and consult). Thus the frequency of the comitative arguments
relative to truly ‘verb of social interaction’ uses must be even higher
than the raw frequencies in Table 2 suggest. This fact also supports an
analysis in which these with-phrases are treated as arguments.
Having briefly overviewed the grammar of two types of with-phrases, I
have concluded that instrumentals are best treated as adjuncts across
the board as in (3), but a distinction has to be made between comitative
arguments of reciprocal social verbs as in (4a) and comitative adjuncts
that freely appear with agentive predicates as in (4b).
(3) a. John cut the meat with a knife.
b. John wrote the letter with a pen.
(4) a. John corresponded with Kate.
b. John sang with Kate.
On the whole, these results give support to the program that Zaenen
and Crouch (2009) recommends: semantically marked PPs can generally be treated as syntactic adjuncts. The comitative scene only reminds
us that there may be certain well-definable classes of verbs which do
contain semantically marked obliques on their argument list. That conclusion is necessitated by observable grammatical differences between
comitative adjuncts and arguments, and, as I have tried to show, this
distinction may only add to parsing efficiency rather than decrease it.
136 / György Rákosi
These conclusions are at odds with the classical LFG approach by
Bresnan (1982), or its revised version by Needham and Toivonen (2011).
(19) a. John corresponded with Kate. < Agent, Comitative >
b. John sang. < Agent >
c. John sang with Kate. < Agent, Comitative >
In this analysis, all semantically marked obliques are introduced at the
level of argument structure. That makes it non-trivial to account for
the observed differences between what I call here comitative arguments
and comitative adjuncts, for the two argument structures in (19a) and
(19c) are technically non-distinct. Needham and Toivonen (2011: 413)
propose that arguments listed in the basic argument structure of a
verb as in (19a-b) have a different status than what they call derived
arguments of non-basic predicates (the comitative in (19c)). But it is
not obvious how the difference between basic and derived arguments
can be captured in LFG, unless one is ready to mark the latter category
by some non-canonical feature specification.
The approach I suggest here in the footsteps of Zaenen and Crouch
(2011) is to treat all but some specific classes of semantically marked
PPs as adjuncts, rather than semantic arguments realized as syntactic
obliques. This is not to deny that, as Needham and Toivonen (2011)
carefully show, all semantically marked PPs tend to be characterized
by a mixture of adjunct and argument properties, and their argument
properties must also be accounted for. This target, however, can possibly be reached by assuming that such PP adjuncts receive thematic
specification. I argue for such an analysis in Rákosi (2006), and similar
claims have been made by Webb (2008) and Hurst (2010) in the LFG
I thank the two anonymous reviewers for their comments. Any remaining errors are solely mine.
I acknowledge that the research reported here is supported, in part,
by OTKA (Hungarian Scientific Research Fund), grant number K
72983; by the TÁMOP-4.2.1/B-09/1/KONV-2010-0007 project, which
is co-financed by the European Union and the European Social Fund;
and by the Research Group for Theoretical Linguistics of the Hungarian
Academy of Sciences at the University of Debrecen.
Bresnan, Joan. 1982. Poliadicity. In J. Bresnan, ed., The Mental Representation of Grammar , pages 149–172. The MIT Press.
Down with Obliques? / 137
Davies, Mark. 2008–2012.
The corpus of contemporary American English: 425 million words, 1990-present.
Available online at
Dimitriadis, Alexis. 2004. Discontinuous reciprocals. Manuscript, Utrecht
Institute of Linguistics, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Dimitriadis, Alexis. 2008. Irreducible symmetry in reciprocal constructions.
In E. König and V. Gast, eds., Reciprocals and Reflexives: Cross-linguistic
and Theoretical Explorations, pages 375–410. Mouton de Gruyter.
Donohue, Catherine and Mark Donohue. 2004. On the special status of
instrumentals. In M. Butt and T. H. King, eds., Proceedings of the LFG04
Conference, pages 209–225. CSLI Publications.
Dowty, David. 1991. Thematic proto-roles and argument selection. Language
Hurst, Peter. 2010. The syntax of reciprocal constructions. In M. Butt and
T. H. King, eds., The Proceedings of The LFG10 Conference, pages 290–
310. CSLI.
Komlósy, András. 1994. Complements and adjuncts. In F. Kiefer and K. É.
Kiss, eds., The Syntactic Structure of Hungarian. Syntax and Semantics
Volume 27 , pages 91–178. Academic Press.
Levin, Beth. 1993. English Verb Classes and Alternations. A Preliminary
Investigation. The University of Chicago Press.
Levin, Beth and Malka Rappaport Hovav. 1995. Unaccusativity at the Syntax
- Lexical Semantics Interface. The MIT Press.
Needham, Stephanie and Ida Toivonen. 2011. Derived arguments. In M. Butt
and T. H. King, eds., Proceedings of the LFG11 Conference, pages 401–421.
CSLI Publications.
Rákosi, György. 2003. Comitative arguments in Hungarian. In W. Heeren,
D. Papangeli, and E. Vlachou, eds., Uil-OTS Yearbook 2003 , pages 47–57.
Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS.
Rákosi, György. 2006. On the need for a more refined approach to the
argument-adjunct distinction: The case of dative experiencers in Hungarian. In M. Butt and T. H. King, eds., Proceedings of the LFG06 Conference,
pages 416–436. CSLI Publications.
Rákosi, György. 2008. The inherently reflexive and the inherently reciprocal
predicate in Hungarian: Each to their own argument structure. In E. König
and V. Gast, eds., Reciprocal and Reflexives. Theoretical and Typological
Explorations. Trends in Linguistics Studies and Monographs 192 , pages
411–450. Mouton de Gruyter.
Reinhart, Tanya. 2002. The theta system — An overview. Theoretical Linguistics 28:229–290.
Schütze, Carson. 1995. PP attachment and argumenthood. In C. T. Schütze,
J. B. Ganger, and K. Broihier, eds., Papers on Language Processing and
Acquisition: MIT Working Papers in Linguistics Volume 267 , pages 95–
151. MIT.
138 / György Rákosi
Siloni, Tal. 2001. Reciprocal verbs. In Y. N. Falk, ed., Proceedings of
the Israel Association of Theoretical Linguistics. online publication at
http://atar.mscc.huji.ac.il/ english/IATL/17/.
Siloni, Tal. 2008. The syntax of reciprocal verbs: An overview. In E. König
and V. Gast, eds., Reciprocals and Reflexives: Crosslinguistic and Theoretical Explorations, pages 451–498. Mouton de Gruyter.
Siloni, Tal. 2011. Reciprocal verbs and symmetry. Natural Language and
Linguistic Theory 30:261–320.
Webb, James. 2008. Instruments in LFG’s argument structure. Master’s
thesis. University of Oxford.
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M. Butt and T. H. King, eds., Proceedings of the LFG09 Conference, pages
644–654. CSLI Publications.
Nested and Crossed Dependencies
and the Existence of Traces
Mary Dalrymple and Tracy Holloway King
Constraints on long-distance dependencies have long fascinated syntacticians. Recent work in constraint-based syntax has explored the issue
of the existence of traces, and many arguments for traces have been convincingly refuted (Kaplan and Zaenen, 1989, Sag and Fodor, 1994, Sag,
1998, 2010, Dalrymple et al., 2007, among many others). However, little
attention in this debate has been paid to patterns of nested and crossing
dependencies: in many languages, intersecting long-distance dependencies must be nested, not crossing, and there have been few attempts to
describe such patterns without appeal to traces. Here we provide the
basis of an account which combines functional and configurational constraints, refines the notion of f-command, and appeals to the Direct
Association Hypothesis (Pickering and Barry, 1991, Pickering, 1993)
to constrain the relation between a filler and the within-clause position
that is relevant for patterns of nesting and crossing.
The well-known prohibition in English against crossing dependences
was observed in early work by Kuno and Robinson (1972), who provide
the examples in (20).
(20) ?This is the knife that this salami is easy to cut
Nested, grammatical: Kuno and Robinson (1972, 477)
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 139
140 / Mary Dalrymple and Tracy Holloway King
(21) *This is the salami that my knife is easy to cut
Crossing, ungrammatical: Kuno and Robinson (1972, 477)
The prohibition seems to crucially involve not only a filler but also an
apparent gap position: the gap corresponding to the first filler must
follow the gap corresponding to the second filter in order for a nested
configuration to arise, and cases where the gap for the first filler appears
between the second filler and its gap are ruled out.
Interestingly, such a prohibition is not operative in all languages;
Maling and Zaenen (1982) were among the first to show that languages
vary in allowing crossing dependencies. In particular, Norwegian allows
crossing dependencies, as (22) shows:
(22) Denne gaven her vil du ikke gjette hvem jeg fikk
this gift here will you not guess who I got
‘This gift, you cannot guess who I got from .’
Norwegian: Maling and Zaenen (1982, 236)
This indicates that constraints on nesting/crossing are part of the grammar of some but not all languages and do not constitute a more general
psycholinguistic generalisation about how language is processed. Even
if it turns out that the genesis of such constraints is through grammaticisation of processing requirements, the grammar of languages like
English must be assumed to differ from the grammar of languages like
Norwegian in imposing a prohibition against crossing.
In the following, we discuss and provide the basis of an analysis of
crossing dependencies in languages like English. Of course, other factors are also known to influence the acceptability of long-distance dependency structures. These include d-linking (Pesetsky, 1987), relative
acceptability of the counterpart with resumptive or intrusive pronouns
(Maling and Zaenen, 1982, Engdahl, 1982), and general processing constraints (Gibson, 2000). Although we focus on the syntactic aspects of
the relevant constructions, it is important to keep in mind that nonsyntactic factors can give rise to unacceptability in examples which
otherwise meet syntactic requirements for grammaticality.
Patterns to account for
Crossing disallowed: English Fodor (1978) notes that only a nested
reading is available for the tough-construction in (23), though either a
nested or a crossing reading is pragmatically plausible.
(23) What are boxes easy to store
Fodor (1978, 448)
Nested and Crossed Dependencies and the Existence of Traces / 141
Not all examples involve the tough-construction; Pesetsky (1982) notes
the contrast between (24a) and (24b):
(24) a. What subject do you know who to talk to
b. *Who do you know what subject to talk to
(Pesetsky, 1982, 267)
Crossing allowed: Norwegian Maling and Zaenen (1982) and Christiansen (1982) show that Norwegian allows both nesting ((25a)) and
crossing ((25b)).
(25) a. Hvilke malerieri har ikke Petter noen veggj å henge opp
which paintingsi has not Peter any wallj to hang up
i på
i on
‘Which paintings doesn’t Peter have any wall to hang up on?’
Norwegian: Christiansen (1982, 79)
b. Hvilken veggj har ikke Petter noen malerieri å henge opp
which wallj has not Peter any paintingsi to hang up
i på
i on
‘Which wall doesn’t Peter have any paintings to hang up on?’
Norwegian: Christiansen (1982, 79)
Christiansen (1982, 78) also shows that non-interrogative sentences can
have both nested and crossing readings in topicalisation constructions.
Crossing dispreferred: Swedish In Swedish, dispreferences for
crossing readings are stronger than in Norwegian, though both nested
and crossing readings are allowed. In many cases, as described by Maling and Zaenen (1982), resumptive pronouns must be used instead
of gaps in crossing dependencies. However, Engdahl (1982) reports on
an experiment which showed that although nested dependencies are
preferred, both nesting and crossing readings are available, and Engdahl (1986) shows that when no ambiguity is possible, no resumptive
pronoun is necessary.1
1 The availability of crossing dependencies is not related to the number of dependencies. Maling and Zaenen (1982) show that Swedish and Norwegian allow three
or more gaps while Norwegian and Icelandic allow no more than two crossed gaps.
142 / Mary Dalrymple and Tracy Holloway King
(26) Strömming är den här kniven omöjlig
att rensa
is this here knife impossible to clean
‘Herring, this knife is impossible to clean with.’
Swedish: Engdahl (1986, 128)
Engdahl (1986) claims that the relative unacceptability of crossing dependencies is a tendency and not a firm rule, saying that “. . . when a
sentence is strongly pragmatically biased toward one association pattern, as in [(26)], people tend to report this reading, and only this reading, whereas a significant number of people report multiple readings for
sentences where both assignments are possible”.
Engdahl (1982, 169 ff.) shows that in many fully acceptable “crossing” examples, the gaps are adjacent ((27)). (28) allows either a crossing
or a nested reading, since pragmatics allows either resolution. We return
to the status of examples with adjacent gaps in Section 11.6.
(27) Det här problemet minns
This problem
jag inte hur jag bör
remember I not how I should solve
‘This problem, I don’t remember how I ought to solve.’
Swedish: Engdahl (1986, 128)
(28) Den här slaven minns
jag inte vem sultanen erbjöd
this here slave remember I not who the.sultan offered
‘This slave, I don’t remember who the sultan offered .’
Swedish: Engdahl (1982, 170)
Previous LFG analyses
In their trace-based analysis of intersecting dependencies in English,
Kaplan and Bresnan (1982) rule out crossing dependencies by disallowing cases where only one end of a filler-trace dependency appears
between the filler and the trace in another dependency. Taking the
Scandinavian data into account, Kaplan and Bresnan propose that languages may specify the degree of crossing that is allowed; they claim
that languages like Icelandic allow one degree of filler-trace crossing,
but not higher degrees, since in cases of two or more crossing dependencies a resumptive pronoun must be used.
In current LFG, long distance dependencies are handled by functional uncertainty (Kaplan and Maxwell, 1988), a relation between f-
Nested and Crossed Dependencies and the Existence of Traces / 143
structures which allows a displaced element to fill a grammatical function within the clause without requiring traces in the c-structure tree.
In this setting, the question of whether traces must be posited rests on
the analysis of constraints on certain constructions which are apparently stated in terms of linear order constraints involving traces, such
as the nested vs. crossing dependencies examined here.
A simple but inadequate account
We first consider and reject a simple account of the prohibition against
crossing dependencies which uses only f-precedence, a relation between
two f-structures based on the relative position of their c-structure counterparts. When analyzing these dependencies, we refer to the phrase
corresponding to the gap as the operator (in the syntactic sense, e.g.
a displaced wh-phrase in focus position); for purposes of discussion, we
also assume traces, represented in the following as T1 and T2, though
our final proposal does not assume that traces exist.
In sentences with multiple filler-gap dependencies, three possible
configurations must be accounted for (O1 and O2 are the operators):
(29) a. Non-overlapping (acceptable):
Nested (acceptable):
O1 . . . O2 . . . T2 . . . T1
O1 . . . T1 . . . O2 . . . T2
Crossing (unacceptable):
O1 . . . O2 . . . T1 . . . T2
A standard way of capturing ordering constraints in LFG is by using
f-precedence. Two definitions of f-precedence have been proposed, the
∀∀ and the ∀∃ versions shown in (30) and (31) respectively.2 A third
∃∀ definition of f-precedence is also in principle possible, as in (32).
(30) ∀∀ f-precedence (Zaenen and Kaplan, 1995, (12)):
For two f-structure elements f1 and f2 , f1 f-precedes f2 if and only
if all the nodes that map onto f1 c-precede all the nodes that map
onto f2 :
f1 <f f2 iff for all n1 ∈ φ−1 (f1 ) and for all n2 ∈ φ−1 (f2 ), n1 <c n2
(31) ∀∃ f-precedence (Bresnan, 1995, (12)):
f1 f-precedes f2 if and only if φ−1 (f1 ) and φ−1 (f2 ) are nonempty
and all c1 in φ−1 (f1 ) precede some c2 in φ−1 (f2 ).
2 Bresnan (1995, (17)) provides an alternative version of definition (31) which
makes reference to the rightmost node corresponding to an f-structure. For our
purposes, the two versions proposed by Bresnan (1995) are interchangable.
144 / Mary Dalrymple and Tracy Holloway King
(32) ∃∀ f-precedence:
f1 f-precedes f2 if and only if φ−1 (f1 ) and φ−1 (f2 ) are nonempty
and some c1 in φ−1 (f1 ) precedes all c2 in φ−1 (f2 ).
However, given the configurations in (29), none of these definitions correctly discriminates among the three cases: it is impossible to distinguish the acceptable nesting cases from the unacceptable crossing ones
with ∀∀ f-precedence, or the acceptable non-overlapping cases from the
unacceptable crossing ones with ∀∃ f-precedence. ∃∀ f-precedence distinguishes none of the cases.
No overlap
O1 f-precedes O2
no relation
no relation
O1 f-precedes O2
O2 f-precedes O1
O1 f-precedes O2
O1 f-precedes O2
O1 f-precedes O2
O1 f-precedes O2
Redefining the problem
Schematically, we require that if two dependencies intersect, then if
operator O1 is superior in the relevant sense to operator O2, then T2
must be superior in the relevant sense to T1.
(34) a.
O1 . . . O2 . . . T2 . . . T1
O1 . . . O2 . . . T1 . . . T2
Bresnan (1995) points out that different superiority factors are relevant for weak crossover constraints in different languages, with some
languages defining superiority in terms of f-structure, and others as a
c-structure relation. Below, we consider how to define intersection of
dependencies, the nature of O1 and O2 and the superiority relation
between them, and the definition of superiority for T1 and T2.
Operator superiority
Many of the English examples which best illustrate the prohibition
against crossing dependencies involve so-called tough-movement. Dalrymple and King (2000) show that the tough-construction involves an
unpronounced operator in the subordinate clause. This means that the
classic nesting and crossing examples involve at least one nonovert operator, as shown in (35).
Nested and Crossed Dependencies and the Existence of Traces / 145
(35) Which violin is this sonata tough to play on?
spec ‘which’
 udf O1: pred ‘violin’
 pred ‘toughhsubj,compi’
 subj
pred ‘sonata’i
udf O2: pred ‘pro’i
i 
pred ‘proarb ’  
 comp  subj
 obj
The operator O2 is the value of the udf attribute (Unbounded Dependency Function: Asudeh 2010, 2012; see also Alsina 2008), and is
also the object of play. There is no constituent in the c-structure that
corresponds to O2. This means that the superiority relation between
operators cannot be defined in terms of position in the c-structure tree;
the relevant relation must be f-command, a hierarchical relation defined at f-structure. The standard definition of f-command, shown in
(36), works for many cases.
(36) F-command (original definition, to be replaced):
f f-commands g if and only if f does not contain g, and all fstructures that contain f also contain g.
(Bresnan, 1982)
However, this definition does not always make the right predictions
when two attributes share the same value, which is the situation we are
interested in (R. Kaplan, p.c.; Dalrymple 2001). In (37), the f-structure
f does not f-command the f-structure g, because there is an f-structure
h that contains f but does not contain g.
(37)  subj f [ ]
 obj g[ ]
xcomp h subj
Instead, we use the definition of f-command in (38).
146 / Mary Dalrymple and Tracy Holloway King
(38) F-command (final definition):
f f-commands g if and only if:
¬(f gf∗ ) = g (f does not contain g) and
((gf f ) gf+ ) = g (an f-structure whose value for some grammatical function gf is f also contains g).
(Dalrymple, 2001)
Using this definition, we can define the relevant relation between the
f-structure operators O1 and O2 as a special case of f-command which
we call udf-command, as in (39).
(39) F-command between operators:
Operator f udf-commands operator g if and only if:
¬(f gf∗ ) = g (f does not contain g) and
((udf f ) gf∗ udf) = g (an f-structure whose value for the attribute udf is f also contains an f-structure whose value for
the attribute udf is g).
We can now define the superiority requirement for operators:
(40) If two dependencies intersect, then if operator O1 udf-commands
operator O2, then T2 must be superior to T1.
Intersecting dependencies
We next consider the definition of intersection between dependencies.
We claim that O1 and O2 intersect when they are in a mutual fcommand relation (general f-command, not udf-command). In (35), the
f-structure O1 f-commands the f-structure O2, and O2 also f-commands
O1, since O1 is the value of the oblon attribute in the comp f-structure.
We can, then, further specify our constraints by defining intersection
as mutual f-command:
(41) If two dependencies f-command each other, then if operator
O1 udf-commands operator O2, then T2 must be superior to
Anchoring the dependencies
Finally, we turn to the definition of superiority for the bottom of the
dependency. At first glance, LFG’s grammatical function (gf) hierarchy
seems to give the right result for many of the cases.
(42) Proposal 1, to be discarded:
The f-structure corresponding to T2 (=O2) must be higher on the
grammatical function hierarchy than the f-structure corresponding to T1 (=O1).
Nested and Crossed Dependencies and the Existence of Traces / 147
This produces the correct results for examples like Which violinO1 is
this sonata tough O2 to play T2 on T1?, because the on-marked oblique
argument of play (T1 ) is lower than the object of play (T2 ) on the gf
hierarchy. However, it does not work for equally-ranked obliques, as
in (43), where there are two obliques, but only the nested reading is
(43) WhoO1 is Bill easy O2 to talk [to T2 ] [about T1 ]?
(modelled on Falk 2012, example 25)
The grammaticality of examples like (43) suggests that the nesting
restriction has to do with linear order or f-precedence, not f-command
or the grammatical function hierarchy. How can linear order constraints
be imposed in a traceless theory of long-distance dependencies?
We appeal to the Direct Association Hypothesis (Pickering and
Barry, 1991, Pickering, 1993) to constrain the relation between T2 and
T1. Pickering and Barry (1991) and Pickering (1993) propose that the
apparent presence of traces arises from the retrieval and integration of a
displaced constituent at the time of processing the predicate which subcategorises for the displaced item, which they call the subcategoriser.
(44) Direct Association Hypothesis (Pickering, 1993, 165): The filler
is associated with the subcategoriser directly, without going via
an empty category.
In many cases, the trace is assumed to appear immediately adjacent
to the predicate (e.g., when it is the object), making it difficult to
distinguish the purported position of the trace from the position of the
predicate. Pickering and Barry (1991) and Pickering (1993) argue that
where it is possible to distinguish the two, the predications of the Direct
Association Hypothesis fare better than trace-based theories.
Adopting the Direct Association Hypothesis, we claim that the positions of the predicates subcategorising for the displaced items are
crucially involved in constraints on nested/crossing dependencies. We
refer to the relevant predicates as anchors, and we say that a longdistance dependency is anchored at its predicate. In (45), the anchor
for which violin is play, and the anchor for the operator associated with
this sonata is on.
3 In his discussion of such examples, Pesetsky (1982) proposes that reanalysis has
taken place, with the first preposition reanalysed as part of the verb; this reclassifies
the first gap as an object and thus restores the required gf hierarchical relations
between the two gap. We see no compelling evidence for reanalysis in these cases.
148 / Mary Dalrymple and Tracy Holloway King
(45) Which violin is this sonata O2 tough to play
Anchor2 Anchor1
We can now provide the final version of the constraint disallowing crossing dependencies:
(46) Nested dependencies, final version:
If two dependencies f-command each other, then if operator
O1 udf-commands operator O2, then the anchor for O1 must
not f-precede the anchor for O2.
We require that O1 does not f-precede O2 rather than that O2 fprecedes O1 because of the grammaticality of examples with shared
anchors (§11.6). Due to space limitations, we leave the formal details
of the anchoring relation and how it is established for future work.
Predictions: Shared Anchors
In the Swedish examples in (27) and (28), as well as in some Icelandic
examples discussed by Maling and Zaenen (1982), the two gaps are adjacent and are arguments of the same verb. Such examples are claimed
to be completely acceptable, although examples with crossing dependencies are otherwise somewhat degraded. In theories with traces, the
traces are assumed to be in the same order as the canonical order of
the overt NPs, and it is mysterious why they do not pattern with the
other crossing cases in terms of acceptability.
On our analysis, these examples involve two operators anchored to
the same predicate, and we correctly predict that these examples are
grammatical even in a language where crossing dependencies are disallowed or dispreferred. This is because we disallow cases where the
anchor of the earlier dependency precedes the anchor of the later dependency; when the dependencies are anchored to the same predicate,
this constraint is not violated.
(47) þessum krakka hérna geter ðu aldrei ímynað þér hvaða gjöf ég gaf
you never imagine
what gift I gave
Icelandic: Maling and Zaenen (1982, 236)
Unfortunately, it is difficult to come up with comparable examples in
English to test our theory. We could try to construct examples with a
double-object verb as the complement in a tough-construction, with extraction of one of the complements, but these examples seem quite bad,
Nested and Crossed Dependencies and the Existence of Traces / 149
as in (48). However, it is difficult in general for double object verbs to
appear as a complement in the tough-construction (though see Langendoen et al. 1973), as in (49), and so the source of the ungrammaticality
in (48) is unclear.
(48) ??What kind of present is Bill tough to give?
(49) a. ??Bill is tough to give that kind of present.
b. ??That kind of present is tough to give Bill.
We have proposed an account of the prohibition against crossing dependencies which combines f-structural and c-structural constraints and
appeals to the Direct Association Hypothesis (Pickering and Barry,
1991, Pickering, 1993) in a traceless analysis of constraints on nested
dependencies in LFG. By defining a notion of udf-command and using
the subcategorizing predicates to anchor the gaps, our account involves
no significant extensions of the LFG formalism, does not require traces,
and remains within the spirit of LFG.
This initial proposal leaves many avenues of exploration, the foremost of which is a formal account of how the anchoring relation is
established and constrained. From the syntactic perspective, related
phenomena such as superiority, resumptive pronouns, and restrictions
on the number of crossing dependencies need to be addressed. From a
broader perspective, pragmatic and processing constraints proposed on
this topic should be reexamined.
Annie Zaenen’s seminal and influential work on unbounded dependencies in Scandinavian is the basis upon which our proposals are built.
For helpful comments on this work, we are grateful to Alex Alsina, Ash
Asudeh, Yehuda Falk, Ron Kaplan, Prerna Nadathur, two anonymous
reviewers, and audiences at: the workshop “Approaches to unbounded
dependencies”, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, March 2012 [funded by the
grant “The syntax and information structure of unbounded dependencies”, Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Gobierno de España, PI Alex
Alsina]; SE-LFG09 (9th South of England LFG Meeting), SOAS, March
2012; and the Syntax Working Group, University of Oxford, May 2012.
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dependencies and parasitic gaps. In M. Butt and T. H. King, eds., On-line
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Asudeh, Ash. 2010. Towards a unified theory of resumption. In A. Rouveret,
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University Press.
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Part III
Semantics and Beyond
Representing Paths of Motion in
Jena D. Hwang, Martha Palmer, and Annie Zaenen
Rich, explicit semantic representations are necessary elements in the
automatic interpretation and processing of natural text. VerbNet, a
lexical resource that incorporates both semantic and syntactic information, has been used in various tasks in Natural Language Processing
(NLP) including semantic role labeling (Swier and Stevenson, 2004)
and creation of conceptual graphs (Hensman and Dunnion, 2004). Furthermore, the detailed semantic predicate information that VerbNet
provides in its verb classes has been used to derive appropriate inferences from natural texts (Zaenen et al., 2008). Thus, whether it is for
text-specific semantic representations or for inferencing, it is important
that VerbNet’s representation be explicit, unambiguous and consistent.
Consider the following examples:
(1) a. The horse jumped in the paddock.
b. The horse jumped into the neighbor’s garden.
In both sentences, the italicized prepositional phrases refer to a location of a sort. The unmistakable difference here is that the phrase in the
first sentence refers to a location that remains static over the course of
the event, while the phrase in the second sentence refers to the location
at which the horse has arrived by the end the event. Additionally, the
implication present in the second sentence, though lacking in the first,
is that of the change of location: at the beginning of the event the horse
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 155
156 / Jena D. Hwang, Martha Palmer, and Annie Zaenen
is located in an unknown location and by the end of the event it has
moved to the neighbor’s garden.
In a study by Zaenen et al. (2008), the authors seek to extract such
inferences relating to the pre- and post-states of change of location from
VerbNet predicate information. Their general conclusion is that even
though many of the VerbNet classes contain information leading to a
path interpretation, VerbNet is limited in that not all VerbNet classes
of change of location code for path information and is inconsistent
in its representation across classes. That is, when comparing classes
that do contain the desired path information for inference making, the
information is not necessarily consistent across all of VerbNet, making
the inferencing difficult.
The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the current status of VerbNet’s representation of path phrases to identify the existing inconsistencies and limitations, and finally, to suggest a more explicit and semantically informed representation for paths of motion in VerbNet. Unifying
the current path representations into a single established representation is becoming critical as we are also now attempting to identify and
classify constructions that involve paths of motion. Studies such as the
one in Hwang et al. (2010) show the separation of caused motion from
non-caused motion usages in text is possible with high accuracy. Consequently, it calls for an explicit representation of path that can then
be associated with the caused motion usages.
12.1.1 VerbNet Background
VerbNet (Kipper et al., 2008) is a lexical resource that expands on the
verb classification of Levin (1993). In accordance with Levin’s work,
VerbNet’s classification of verbs is based on the hypothesis that verbs
that are realized in similar syntactic environments will share in their
semantics. That is, VerbNet class membership is determined by shared
meaning and shared syntactic alternation. Thus, a class is characterized by (1) a set of semantic roles shared by all members in the class,
(2) syntactic frames in which the verbs occur, and (3) the semantic
representation of the event (designated by E ). Additionally, VerbNet’s
class definition is hierarchical in nature; meaning that a member can
either be associated at the most general level of class description or at
one of the more semantically specific subclass levels. Take as an example the put-9.1 class1 shown in example 2. The put-9.1 class includes
verbs of putting, such as arrange and position and is associated with
the thematic roles: Agent, Theme, Destination.
1 The question mark in front of the semantic representation means that in that
given sentence the role is not instantiated
Representing Paths of Motion in VerbNet / 157
class: put-9.1
subclass: put-9.1-1
Agent, Theme, Destination
arrange, position, situate, etc.
NP V NP PP.destination
I put the book on the table.
Agent V Theme Destination
cause(Agent,E) motion(during(E),Theme)
bury, deposit, embed, etc.
I stashed the book.
Agent V Theme
cause(Agent,E) motion(during(E),Theme)
The subclass put-9.1-1 and its member verbs (i.e., bury, deposit) inherits all of the roles and frames associated with its parent class put-9.1.
Additionally, the subclass defines a more specific frame (i.e., NP V NP)
that does not apply to the parent class. Each of the syntactic frames
in this class is defined by both syntactic and semantic representations.
12.1.2 Goals
For the purposes of our study we hope to address the issues of representing paths or elements of paths involved in physical changes of location.
First, we seek to distinguish the representation of a static location from
a path of motion. That is, we want to be able to distinguish arguments
denoting the path of motion (see ex. 1b) from constituents that encode
locative information about where an event occurs (see ex. 1a). Second,
we want to be able to account for all the pieces of a path of motion:
source – where the moving entity is at the beginning of the event, trajectory – the path over which the moving entity travels, and destination
– where the moving entity is at the end of the event. Third, we aim
for a representation that is guided by semantics rather than syntax.
Consider the following two sentences:
(3) a. The horse jumped the fence.
b. The horse jumped over the fence.
Both phrases in italics, despite their differing syntactic functions,
semantically are the same. They refer to the trajectory over which the
158 / Jena D. Hwang, Martha Palmer, and Annie Zaenen
horse travels. A successful semantic representation of path of motion
should treat the two phrases in the same manner, in such a way that
the same motion inference available to one is available to the other. Finally, what we seek is an explicit representation that supports proper
inferencing and reasoning based on what we know about motion and
change of location (Zaenen et al., 2008, 2010). For example, given sentence 1b we want to be able to conclude that the horse is outside the
neighbor’s garden at the beginning of the event and is located inside
the neighbor’s garden at the end of the event.
Current VerbNet Treatment of Path of Motion
There currently is no established or consistent manner representing
path information of change of location verbs in VerbNet. However, we
observe that there are a number of general tendencies in how VerbNet
currently handles the path of motion. We will focus on specific predicates (i.e., location(), Prep(), via() and direction()) and what
we perceive as inconsistencies in their current usage.
Predicate location()
In general, for classes in which the realized piece of the path refers to
either endpoint of the change of location, VerbNet makes use of the
location() predicate in conjunction with the motion() predicate to
represent path information. Consider the slide-11.2 class:
Agent, Theme, Source, Destination
NP V PP.source
The book slid from the table onto the floor.
Theme V Source Destination
motion(during(E), Theme)
location(start(E), Theme, Source)
location(end(E), Theme, Destination)
The specification of path in terms of location() allows for VerbNet
to specify that the Theme is at the specified location at the start of
the event (i.e., the table), is set in motion during (i.e., during(E)) the
event, and is located at Destination (i.e., the floor ) by the end of the
event. However, it is not always the case that only change of location
type events will have location() predicates marked as the start or end
of an event. In the example sentence in (5), the predicate location()
is used as a means of indicating that the decoration (i.e., Theme; the
name) is made on the ring (i.e., Destination) and does not indicate
Representing Paths of Motion in VerbNet / 159
that there was a change of location that occurred over the course of the
The jeweler decorated the ring with the name.
Syn Agent V Destination Theme
Sem cause(E, Agent) created_image(result(E), Theme)
location(end(E), Theme, Destination))
Even if we were to say that change of location happens only for
classes that have the motion() predicate along with a location()
predicate, it is not a reliable measure as there are classes such as banish10.2 (e.g., The king deported the general to the isle.) that fail to specify
the predicate motion() in their frames.
12.2.2 Predicate Prep()
If the sentence expresses the trajectory of the motion, rather than the
starting or ending location, VerbNet currently tends to favor the use of
the Prep() accompanied by the motion() predicate as seen in example 6:
Agent, Theme, Location
Frame NP V PP.location
The horse jumped over the fence.
Syn Theme V Location
Sem motion(during(E), Theme)
Prep(E, Theme, Location)
The most obvious problem is that unlike the location() predicate
that represents the location of an event, the Prep() predicate, on its
own, does not represent a specific meaning. That is, given the Prep()
predicate alone, it is difficult to determine what relationship Theme
and Location have with each other and how they relate to event E.
Even if we set this problem aside, this representation of path is somewhat problematic since the same predicate Prep() is used to represent
a static location of an object such as in the corner in the sentence “The
statue stood in the corner” (spatial_configuration-47.6 ), which is unlike
the trajectory Prep() as used in example 6. The way to distinguish such
instances is seemingly to look for the motion() predicate along with
the Prep(). However, such a heuristic is not fail-safe either. Consider
example 7 as a comparison to example 6, in which the representation
(e.g., the use of the Prep() in the presence of motion()) seems to look
160 / Jena D. Hwang, Martha Palmer, and Annie Zaenen
much like the representation we see in (6). However, unlike (6), the
Prep() in the swarm-47.5.1 class refers to a static location in which
the motion occurs.
Bees are swarming in the garden.
Syn Theme V Location
Sem exist(during(E), Theme)
motion(during(E), Theme)
Prep(during(E), Theme, Location)
Finally, unlike the location() predicate, which we have seen in the
previous section, and via() and direction() predicates, which we
will see in the following section, Prep() is a variable predicate that
gets instantiated by a specific preposition. Our intent is to replace this
with predicates such as via() or direction() that have argument slots
of prepositions, thus avoiding second order logic.
Predicates via() and direction()
Less frequent representations of the path of motion are the direction()
and the via() predicates. Like location() and Prep(), they are used
in conjunction with the motion() predicate. The following is an example of the use of the direction() predicate:
Agent, Theme, Location
Frame NP V NP.location
The horse jumped the stream.
Syn Theme V Location
Sem motion(during(E), Theme)
via(during(E), Theme, Location)
Although Location roles in examples 6 and 8 specify the trajectory
along which the Theme moves, the creators of this class chose to treat
(8) as a case of via() instead of Prep() as seen in (6). The motivation
behind this treatment was likely a syntactic one – the Location in
(6) is found in a prepositional phrase, while the same role appears
as the noun phrase in (8). The predicate via() appears in two other
classes, vehicle-51.4.1 (e.g., She skated the canals.) and nonvehicle51.4.2 (e.g., She rowed the canals.); both of which are also classes where
the syntactic frame in which the path of motion appears is taken into
account in the creation of the semantic frames.
Representing Paths of Motion in VerbNet / 161
The direction() predicate is generally found to represent the meaning of the trajectory in a given path of motion as seen in example 9.
This representation is comparable to the one for (6). One advantage this
representation has over the use of Prep() is that while with Prep() the
actual preposition is instantiated from the context, the direction()
specifies that the Theme is directed towards the Location during
the event. Outside of this factor, it is not clear that VerbNet needs to
distinguishes the path information in (9) from that in (6).
Theme, Location
Frame NP V PP.oblique
The prisoners advanced across the field.
Syn Theme V Oblique
Sem motion(during(E),Theme)
direction(during(E),Prep_Dir2 ,Theme,Oblique)
Semantic Roles
VerbNet, as discussed above, currently does not have an established
method of representing the path of motion. The representations for
source, trajectory and destination are currently spread over several different representations, and they are generally specific to the needs of
the class in which they are found. Furthermore, another difficulty in
representing path of motion comes from the fact that VerbNet classes
do not contain the necessary semantic roles to properly represent the
path of motion. For example, consider the run-51.3.2 class seen in example 6. Currently this class specifies Agent, Theme and Location,
allowing for sentences such as The horse jumped over the river or The
horse jumped onto the shore. However, when more than one piece of
the path of motion is realized, these roles are no longer adequate.
(10) a. The horse jumped from the rock over the river.
b. The horse jumped from the rock over the river onto the shore.
For complete representations of sentences 10a and 10b, we would
need three semantic roles: source, trajectory and destination. A majority of the classes of motion have at least one of these three roles. A
number of classes such as slide-11.2 (see ex. 4) and pour-9.5 currently
assign up to two semantic roles for the path of motion. Other classes
of verbs that readily take motion paths such as push-12 do not specify
any of the roles above.
162 / Jena D. Hwang, Martha Palmer, and Annie Zaenen
Proposed Path Predicate
For a consistent and semantically informed VerbNet representation of
path of motion, we propose a single path() predicate accompanied by
a consistent inclusion of a motion() predicate:
Source, Trajectory, Destination
motion(during(E), Theme)
path(E, Source, Trajectory, Destination)
The proposed predicate includes the event E that links the path to
the E of the motion() predicate, and by association, the Theme in
motion. Additionally, the path() predicate includes all three roles that
indicate the different parts of the path of motion, namely, the Source,
Trajectory and Destination roles. The path() predicate would allow for the representation of all possible combinations in the expression
of path, which thus far has not been possible in VerbNet. Here is the
revised view of the run-51.3.2 class:
run-51.3.2 (revised)
Agent Theme Source Trajectory Destination
Frame: NP V PP.trajectory
The horse jumped over the river.
path(E, ?Source, Trajectory, ?Destination)
Frame: NP V NP.trajectory
The horse jumped the river.
path(E,?Source, Trajectory, ?Destination)
Frame: NP V PP.source PP.destination
The horse jumped from the rocks onto the shore.
path(E, Source, ?Trajectory, Destination)
The path() predicate, thus, would replace both the Prep() (see ex. 6)
and the via() (see ex. 8). With the replacement of Prep(), we are
achieving a more semantically explicit representation of the path. The
replacement of via() allows us to represent the semantics of the trajectory independently of the constituent’s syntactic expression.
Additionally, as seen in the examples above, not all roles in the
path() predicate have to be instantiated in the sentence, which are allowed under representation VerbNet’s semantic representation. These
Representing Paths of Motion in VerbNet / 163
uninstantiated roles or null instantiated complements (Fillmore, 1986)
are syntactically unexpressed but, nonetheless, semantically essential.
For example, even though Source and Destination are not expressed
in “Horse jumped the river”, the semantics of these roles are still implicit in the sentence. Recognizing the existence of uninstantiated roles
allows us to make semantically implicit information explicit in the representation. (Palmer et al., 1986).
Furthermore, the path usage of the location() predicate (as opposed to the static location usage as shown in ex. 5) and the direction()
predicate would be united under the same representation.
(12) a.
slide-11.2 (revised from ex. 4)
The book slid from the table onto the floor.
Sem motion(during(E), Theme)
path(E, Source, ?Trajectory, Destination)
escape-51.1 (revised from ex. 9)
The prisoners advanced across the field.
Sem motion(during(E),Theme)
path(E, ?Source, Trajectory, ?Destination)
Finally, the advantage of a consistent and explicit representation of
path of motion is that we get the desired change of location inferences
for free. In other words, in the sentence in example 4, the inference we
want to retrieve is that the the book is on the table before the event
begins and is no longer there at the end of the event. In the same way,
the book is not on the floor before the event, but is there at the end of
the event. Currently, VerbNet generally, albeit inconsistently, handles
this by using the start() and end() predicates to show where the
Theme is located at the specified point in time. Take the banish-10.2
class as an example:3
(13) a. “The king banished the general from the army.”
cause(Agent, E)
location(start(E), Theme, Source)
not(location(end(E), Theme, Source))
b. “The king deported the general to the isle.”
cause(Agent, E)
location(start(E), Theme, ?Source)
location(end(E), Theme, Destination)
3 It is not by omission that motion() is not present in this example. This class
does not currently include it, although it should as a class expressing change of
164 / Jena D. Hwang, Martha Palmer, and Annie Zaenen
Even in a single VerbNet class we see that the representation is
incomplete and inconsistent. In (13a), only the Source location is
marked as being true at the beginning of the event but not at the
end of the event. In (13b), both Source location and Destination
are represented, but neither of them are marked as not being true at
the other points in time. For a complete representation of all possible
inferences we would have had to specify:
location(start(E), Theme, Source)
location(end(E), Theme, Destination)
not(location(start(E), Theme, Destination))
not(location(end(E), Theme, Source))
By having separate roles for Source, Trajectory, and Destination
roles, we can make a generalization that for every instance of a path()
predicate the entity in motion will be (1) located at the source at the
beginning (and only at the beginning) of the event, (2) located over the
specified trajectory during (and only during) the event, and (3) located
at the destination at the end (and only at the end) of the event.
Final Considerations and Conclusion
In this paper, we have presented the current status of VerbNet semantic representations with respect to verbs expressing change of location.
Currently, VerbNet has no consistent way of handling the path of motion required for representing change of location. Moreover, semantic
predicates that currently represent path of motion are not exclusive
to path of motion, making the identification and extraction of change
of location verbs difficult. We have therefore proposed new predicates
that can be used to represent the verbs that specify path information.
There still remain outstanding issues and linguistically interesting
considerations that will require our attention. These include, although
are not limited to, the possibility of additional path elements (e.g.,
“The horse trotted towards the stables”), possible need for recognizing
verbs that imply but do not strictly entail motion (e.g., “She urged her
mother into the basement”) and the need for allowing for multiple and
semantically varied trajectories (e.g., “The hamster ran over the table,
under the fridge and across the kitchen floor”). Even so, the representation we have proposed in this paper will take us a step further towards
to making paths more semantically explicit and meaningful, and more
consistent across all relevant classes, allowing for easier inferencing.
The next step to our study is the implementation of this representation in VerbNet. We noted at the beginning of this paper that we hope
to limit the scope of what we mean by “motion” to physical changes of
Representing Paths of Motion in VerbNet / 165
location. However, defining a clear boundary between the physical and
the abstract or metaphorical will be no small task. Because VerbNet
classes do not make a distinction between abstract and physical meanings of verbs (e.g., throw-17.1 includes both Steve threw the ball into the
box and Steve threw light into the corners of the room) we cannot avoid
abstract or metaphorical expressions of change of location. However, if
we try to expand our predicate representations to also include more
abstract changes, such as change of state, then they may no longer be
appropriate for simple changes of location.4
Another implementation challenge is the possibility of semantic coercion. In other words, verbs such as rumble in the sound_emission-43.2
class or shiver in the body_internal_states-40.6 class do not intrinsically carry or readily allow the semantics of motion. However, there are
attested usages such as The truck rumbled past or I shivered into the
driver’s seat, where the semantics of directed motion is coerced by the
virtue of the addition of the path phrase. Thus, the direct inclusion of
a path of motion representation in the classes such as sound_emission43.2 and body_internal_states-40.6 would not be representative of the
class in question. However, for such classes we envision that a frame
that defines the path of motion representation should be linked to the
class as a means of signalling that such a construction (and its corresponding semantic representation) is also available for these classes
(Hwang et al., 2010, Bonial et al., 2011).
We gratefully acknowledge the support of DARPA/IPTO funding under the GALE program, DARPA/CMO Contract No. HR0011-06-C0022 and the National Science Foundation Grants NSF-1116782, A
Bayesian Approach to Dynamic Lexical Resources for Flexible Language Processing. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do
not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Bonial, Claire, Susan Windisch Brown, Jena D. Hwang, Christopher Parisien,
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4 We also expect challenges posed by verbs that specify path but do not indicate
changes in location as exemplified by the sentence A river runs from Palo Alto to
Menlo Park.
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and Evaluation (LREC’08). Marrakech, Morocco: European Language Resources Association (ELRA).
You Will Be Lucky To Break Even
Lauri Karttunen
There is a substantial body of literature on the semantics of English
verbal complement constructions starting with Kiparsky and Kiparsky
(1970) and Karttunen (1971a, 1973), including Rudanko (1989, 2002),
Nairn et al. (2006), Egan (2008) and Karttunen (2012). These studies
have developed a semantic classification of verbs and verb-noun collocations that take clausal complements. They focus on constructions
that give rise to implied commitments that the author cannot disavow
without being incoherent or without contradicting herself. For example,
(1a) presupposes that Kim had not rescheduled the meeting, while (1b)
entails that she did not and presupposes that she intended to reschedule
(1) a. Kim forgot that she had not rescheduled the meeting.
b. Kim forgot to reschedule the meeting.
Factive constructions like forget that X involve presuppositions; implicative constructions like forget to X give rise to entailments and may
carry presuppositions.
Presuppositions persist under negation, in questions and if-clauses.
Questions and if-clauses do not yield any entailments about the truth
of embedded complements but negations of some types of implicative
sentences have entailments. For example, the simple negation (without
any focus intonation) of (1b), Kim did not forget to reschedule the
meeting, entails that Kim did reschedule the meeting and presupposes,
as (1b) does, that it was her intention to do so.
It is well-known that there are factive adjective constructions (Norrick, 1978) such as be pleased that X but there is no systematic study yet
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 167
168 / Lauri Karttunen
of implicative adjective constructions. This paper makes a start with
one such case, the be lucky to X and its sister constructions be unlucky
to X, be fortunate to X, and be unfortunate to X.
We show that be lucky to X has a regular meaning of a two-way implicative construction (Section 13.1) and an idiomatic sense limited to
the future tense that suggests that X probably will not happen (Section
13.3). We show (Section 13.2) that the construction is not factive, contrary to the ensconced view in recent literature, and propose a way to
understand and reconcile the opposing intuitions. Most of the example
sentences in the paper were collected with Google searches.1
Be lucky to X is a two-way implicative
Table 1 presents a few examples of two-way implicative verbs and verbnoun collocations from Karttunen (1971a, 1973, 2012). Two-way implicative constructions yield an entailment both in positive and negative
contexts. The ++ | −− signature indicates that manage to X and use
the occasion to X yield a positive entailment about X in positive contexts and a negative entailment in negative contexts. The +− | −+ signature indicates that fail to X and waste the opportunity to X give us
a negative entailment about X under positive polarity, and vice versa.
++ | −− implicatives
manage to X
remember to X
use the occasion to X
have the chutzpah to X
+− | −+ implicatives
fail to X
forget to X
squander the chance to X
waste the opportunity to X
Examples of two-way implicative constructions
The examples of be lucky to X in (2) and (3) show that the the
construction has the same implicative signature as manage to X and
use the occasion to X, ++ | −−.
(2) a. A family of eight is lucky to be alive after flames destroyed
their home.
b. India has been lucky to witness several eclipses over the past
two years.
c. He thought Fraser had been lucky to come home in one piece.
The sentences in (2) entail that the complement clause is true, the
examples in (3) have a negative entailment.
1 The
exceptions are (1), (6), (7), and (8) that were made up by the author.
You Will Be Lucky To Break Even / 169
(3) a. Anyway, I was not lucky to get a table on this trip. Maybe
next time.
b. Pakistan has not been lucky to have genuine leaders after the
demise of the Quaid-i-Azam.
c. At thirty-one, Esther had not been lucky to find a man to
marry her.
The examples in (4) show the interaction of be lucky to X with some
other two-way implicatives.
(4) a. I was really lucky to manage to recover some files.
b. She had been lucky to forget to wear her watch yesterday.
c. I still have not been lucky to manage to get my orchids to
flower again.
(4a) entails that the innermost complement clause is true. In (4b) and
(4c), forget to and not flip the polarity to yield a negative entailment.
The negative examples in (3) and (4) feature the ordinary not, the
examples in (5) contain a metalinguistic not (Karttunen and Peters,
1979, Horn, 1985).
(5) a. He is not lucky to be alive, he is blessed.
b. The girl is NOT lucky to have 2 mums, she needs a father
c. Cody is not lucky to get to go to Cornell. Cornell is lucky to
have him!
In all the examples in (5), the complement clause of lucky is presumed
to be true. The author is not in disagreement about the objective facts.
The point of metalinguistic negation is to assert that it is inappropriate
to use the construction be lucky to X to describe the situation, contrary
to what someone might have said or thought. In the case of (5c), it is
understood that Cody is going to Cornell, the issue is whether it is
Cody or Cornell that can be said to be lucky.
Be lucky to X is not factive
Given the examples in (3) it is obvious that be lucky to X is not a factive construction although it has been erroneously classified as such by
Karttunen (1971a) and many later authors. Norrick (1978) and Barker
(2002) cite Wilkinson (1976). If be lucky to X were factive, the X complements in (3) would be presupposed to be true but in fact the sentences in (3) entail that the complement clauses are false. Norrick and
Barker make the wrong call because they fail to consider any lucky
examples with negation. Wilkinson (1976) classifies be lucky to X as
170 / Lauri Karttunen
factive but correctly identifies be lucky enough to X as implicative because of its behavior under negation (p. 173, fn. 13).
Let us consider two kinds of conversational situations, A and B,
to help us understand how the illusion of be lucky to X being factive
might arise. In situation A the participants in the conversation have
not talked about X, the truth or falsity of X is not self-evident, X is
not part of the “common ground” of the conversation. If we hear (6) in
such a situation, without any previous knowledge about Kim’s finances,
(6) Kim was not lucky to have a well-paying job. She needed more
we conclude that Kim did not have a well-paying job because be lucky
to X is a ++ | −− implicative construction. The same may be true of
some of the other evaluative adjectives listed by Barker (2002).
If we replace lucky in (6) by an emotive adjective such as content,
the conclusion is different.
(7) Kim was not content to have a well-paying job. She needed more
The construction be content to X is factive: it presupposes X. If Kim
having a well-paying job is not yet in the common ground, it becomes
part of it in (7) by accommodation (Karttunen, 1974, Stalnaker, 1974,
Lewis, 1979). But there is no accommodation in the case of (6): it
does not add to the common ground the assumption that Kim has a
well-paying job, in fact it entails the opposite. The accommodation test
shows that an emotive adjective such as content is factive, an evaluative
adjective such as lucky is not factive.
The other type of conversational situation, B, for be lucky to X is
a situation where X being true is part of the common ground, already
accepted by the discourse participants at least for the sake of the conversation. This is the kind situation for the examples of metalinguistic
negation in (5). In the B type situation (6) has to be understood as not
contradicting that Kim had a well-paying job but the presupposition
that she was lucky to have it.
The difference between A and B type situations is relevant not only
for the interpretation of negation, it also carries on to questions. In an
A type situation the question
(8) Was Cody lucky to get into Cornell?
is a genuine question about whether Cody got into Cornell with the
presupposition that it would have been a good thing for Cody. In a
B situation where we already know that Cody got into Cornell, (8)
becomes a question about whether getting into Cornell was lucky for
You Will Be Lucky To Break Even / 171
Cody in some sense of lucky. Did Cody get in on his merits or because
of some fortuitous sequence of events that he cannot take any credit
for? Or, given what we know about how the future unfolded or might
have unfolded, was getting to Cornell overall a good thing for Cody or
The idiom will be lucky to X
Although be lucky to X can be a two-way implicative in all of its tense
forms, in the future tense, and only in the future tense, it may have
another, idiomatic, interpretation.
(9) Wong Kwan will be lucky to break even.2
Without special emphasis on any of the words, (9) entails that Wong
Kwan is not likely to break even. It is possible to read (9) differently, to
interpret it as a positive prediction about Kwan’s return on investments
but that requires a non-standard stress pattern, Wong Kwan WILL be
lucky to break even. But without a special emphasis on will and with
emphasis on lucky, (9) favors the idiomatic interpretation, a pessimistic
prognostic on Wong Kwan’s financial future. As we will see in Section
13.4, this idiomatic reading of will be lucky to X is also subject to several
other conditions.
A sample of idiomatic will be lucky to X examples picked from Google
searches is shown in (10).
(10) a. Without a track record, they will be lucky to get anyone to
listen to, much less steal, their ideas.
b. Scientists claim that we will be lucky to have 50 more years
before turtles and tortoises are extinct.
c. Relative or not if anyone ever lays an inappropriate hand on
my kids they will be lucky to be left breathing afterwards.
d. I think they will be lucky to not get the wooden spoon.
e. The Raiders will be lucky to win six games in 2012.
It is possible to strengthen lucky to quite lucky, very lucky and extremely lucky without losing the idiomatic meaning, examples in (11).
(11) a. You will be quite lucky to find a place that allows ONE dog,
let alone two.
2 This example comes from FactBank (Saurí and Pustejovsky, 2009). It is the only
example in FactBank that contains the adjective lucky with a clausal complement.
FactBank annotates the veridicality of each predicate on a seven-point scale: ct+
(certainly true), pr+ (probably true), ps+ (possibly true), unmarked, ps− (possibly false), pr− (probably false) and ct− (certainly false). FactBank tags break in
(9) as pr− (probably false). This is correct but not of much use without additional
be lucky to X judgments in other tenses, under negation, interrogatives, etc.
172 / Lauri Karttunen
b. With the worst starting QB in the league throwing to the
worst wide receiving corps in the league, they will be very
lucky to win 6 games.
c. If you hit moguls at high speed you will be very lucky to stay
d. Yeah we will be extremely lucky to get either of those guys.
e. The bank will be very lucky to reach even that diminished
level again in the immediate future.
When lucky in will be lucky to X is strengthened towards extremely
lucky, the likelihood of X gets correspondingly diminished.
As we will see in Section 13.4, lucky enough is incompatible with the
idiomatic reading and so lucky is biased against it. In section 13.5 we
give examples to show that almost lucky is also incompatible with the
idiomatic reading.
In all of the examples in (9)–(11) the infinitival complement could
be replaced by an if-clause. Wong Kwan will be lucky to break even and
Wong Kwan will be lucky if he breaks even are paraphrases. In languages
such as French and German the infinitival complement translates to an
if-clause. This is nicely demonstrated by the earliest instance of the will
be lucky to X idiom we have found so far. It appears in a 1813 book
Memoirs of the kings of Spain of the House of Bourbon, Volume 3, by
William Coxe. On page 307 we find the passage:
(12) This measure appeared a death blow to the authority of Philip;
when the news was communicated at Versailles, marshal Villars
could not refrain from exclaiming, “Adieu, court of St. Ildefonso;
you will be lucky to be assured of a regular supply of your daily
But of course le maréchal de Villars did not say that. He spoke French.
Coxe gives the original exclamation in a footnote: “Adieu, la cour de
St. Ildefonso. Elle sera heureuse si son dîner et son souper sont bien
assurés.” The infinitival complement in (12), to be assured of a regular
supply of your daily meals, is a translation of an if-clause in French: si
son dîner et son souper sont bien assurés.3 The word si is if in French.
3 Coxe translates son dîner et son souper as your daily meals. Translating this
phrase as dinner and supper would have been misleading. In the Versailles court
dîner was at lunch time and souper a meal late in the evening, not interchangeable
words for the same meal. Coxe could have translated elle sera heureuse si literally
as it will be lucky if but he chose the idiomatic English you will be lucky to instead.
Choosing you instead of it to address the court of St. Ildefonso adds a nice touch.
Chapeau, M. Coxe !
Thanks to http://books.google.com/ngrams/ for the discovery of this example.
You Will Be Lucky To Break Even / 173
All the examples in (9)-(12) are future affirmative sentences containing will with proper names, definite NPs, or pronominal subjects.
These are all crucial enabling features of the idiomatic reading. Switching from affirmative to negative makes a difference.
(13) Wong Kwan will not be lucky to break even.
(9) implies that Wong Kwan is not likely to break even; (13) entails that
he will not break even. It is a stronger statement than (9). Switching
from the future to the past tense also has an unexpected side effect.
(14) entails that Wong Kwan broke even, not that he might not have
broken even.
(14) Wong Kwan was lucky to break even.
In (13) and (14) be lucky to X can only have its literal meaning of a
++ | −− implicative construction.
The brittleness of the idiom
There are many environments where the idiomatic sense of will be lucky
to X is not present at all. It is possible only when there is uncertainty
about whether the complement will be true even though that is not
a sufficient condition. In the following examples only the literal interpretation is possible because it is known, expected or independently
implied that X will in fact be true.
(15) a. Wherever she ends up, they will be lucky to have her.
b. The college that you choose will be lucky to have you as student.
c. California is the largest state in the US. This means you will
be lucky to have several schools offering RN programs.
d. Obviously, the more leads you will be lucky to get the higher
your profits will become.
Sentences with indefinite subject NPs seem to admit only the literal
(16) a. Some man will be lucky to receive your love some day.
b. A few people will be lucky to have permanent reduction in as
little as only three treatments.
4 The indefinite NPs that disallow the idiomatic reading all seem to be intersective quantifiers; Keenan (1987), Section 6.3 in Peters and Westerståhl (2006).
The idiomatic reading is possible if someone is used to refer to a specific individual: I was about to hang up when I heard you call me a hopa. Someone [= you]
will be lucky to avoid a sexual harassment suit.
174 / Lauri Karttunen
c. Very few people will be lucky to have a job once the financial
armageddon settles upon us.
d. Another woman will be LUCKY to have you in her life.
But universally quantified subject NPs are compatible with the idiom.
(17) a. A case of Mid-East meets Mid-West and everyone will be lucky
to get out alive.
b. Everyone will be lucky to even look at them, let alone purchase
c. The looming slump/recession means everyone will be lucky to
even get close to – or at best match nevermind exceed – this
year’s sales.
d. Police officials in Virginia Beach and Newport News insist this
isn’t about generating revenue, that everyone will be lucky to
break even.
The presence of negative polarity items favors the idiomatic reading.
(18) a. Motorola will be lucky to get another dime from me ever again.
b. In fact you will be lucky to see any traffic at all.
Replacing the negative polarity items in (18b), any by some and at all
by at least takes away the idiomatic reading.
(19) In fact you will be lucky to see at least some traffic.
Any adverbial modification of will be lucky to X takes away the idiomatic reading. Removing the adverb restores it in (20).
(20) a. (Perhaps) you will be lucky to find your buyer in a simple
passer-by or your next-door neighbour.
b. (Maybe) you will be lucky to stalk the elusive eland or find a
hive of wild honey.
c. If you employ a farm and permit a field take care of itself, you
will (always) be lucky to have virtually any crop from it.
d. You will (sometimes) be lucky to find an editor who can also
typeset your completed book.
It appears that lucky enough is compatible only with the literal interpretation.
(21) a. She will be lucky enough to escape her own execution.
b. The road to recovery will be long, but she will be lucky enough
to walk it with the love and support of so many around her.
c. This will be Ponder’s first start against Detroit, but he will
be lucky enough to face their defense without the suspended
Ndamukong Suh.
You Will Be Lucky To Break Even / 175
d. You will be lucky enough to receive a signed copy of the completed EP before anyone else!
Although the very lucky and extremely lucky are fine in the examples
in (11) that feature the idiomatic reading, will be so lucky to X favors
the literal interpretation, some examples in (22).
(22) a. You will be So Lucky to have these boots from Naughty Monkey.
b. When in need, they will be so lucky to receive the level of care
that saved Mr. Savov’s life against the odds.
c. The women who are attending this Sunday’s salon will be so
lucky to have been touched by Amy. It’s not a promise, it’s a
d. My future boyfriend will be so lucky to have me cooking
yummy food like this every day.
Here so is an empathetic intensifier unlike the detached very and extremely. Somehow that makes a difference. Examples with so lucky that
have the idiomatic sense such as (23a) and (23b) are hard to find.
(23) a. However, in the real world you will be so lucky to even get
three quarters of the information required.
b. You will be so lucky to find a guy that doesn’t play Call of
Duty and if you do he is probably taken already.
Two interpretations of be almost lucky
Because almost X is a counteractive, one expects almost be lucky to X
to have only the literal interpretation entailing not X. That prediction
is correct for a few examples of this pattern found on the web (24).
(24) I have to head to work right now. You almost were lucky to get
to talk to the cool cat that is me.
If almost goes between the copula and lucky, two patterns emerge. The
examples in (25) work like (24), no idiomatic interpretation, negative
(25) a. I was almost lucky to take a chick for lunch but she turned
me down.
b. I was almost lucky to escape stretch marks the 2nd time but
I ended up getting a couple small ones a week or so before
Aiden was born.
c. The last plate, I was almost lucky to guess what it was, is
Suman Panna Cotta.
176 / Lauri Karttunen
The second pattern is also based on the literal interpretation but with
a positive entailment.
(26) a. Mitch Heard was almost lucky to have such an easily satirized
last name.
b. I think I was almost lucky to have been forced to embrace my
own psychopathology early.
c. I sometimes think that Fred was almost lucky to die when he
The contrast between (25) and (26) might be correlated with a difference in stress, ALMOST lucky in (25) but almost LUCKY in (26). In
(25) almost has wide scope over the complement clause as it clearly
does in (24); in (26) it is a modifier of lucky.
Sister adjectives: unlucky, fortunate, unfortunate
All the findings in the previous sections about be lucky to X generalize
to be unlucky to X, be fortunate to X and be unfortunate to X. They can
all have the idiomatic “X is not likely” interpretation under the same
conditions as be lucky to X; otherwise they too are ++ | −− implicative
constructions. (27) gives examples with the idiomatic reading.
(27) a. We will be unlucky to encounter rain, but it is certainly possible.
b. Yields are so pathetically low today that you will be fortunate
to get much of a yield at all.
c. She will be unfortunate to get six months in jail, usually she
is put on parole and released.
All the examples in (27) imply that the complement clause X is not
The idiomatic readings of lucky and unlucky mirror each other in a
predictable way.
(28) a. You will be lucky to receive a C in this course.
b. You will be unlucky to receive a C in this course.
The two examples in (28) agree in that the addressee is not likely to
get a C. (28a) suggests that the grade might be a D; (28b) suggests
that the grade will be a B or an A.
The examples in (29) and (30) only have the literal ++ | −− interpretation.
(29) a. He was unlucky to miss out on an Academy Award nomination.
You Will Be Lucky To Break Even / 177
b. I have been fortunate to have followed my passion for most of
my life.
c. We were unfortunate to have lived in the path of two tornados.
(30) a. I had not been unlucky to be near twin towers on 9/11 but
once was at major accident on highway.
b. For those clinicians who have not been fortunate to study with
Dr. Faye, his technique dvds are truly a blessing.
c. I have not been unfortunate to pick an absolutely dismal game
(29c) entails that we lived in the path of two tornados and presupposes
that it was a misfortune. (30c) entails that I have not picked an absolutely dismal game and presupposes that, if I had, it would have been
a misfortune.
This investigation started from the simple observation in FactBank that
Wong Kwan will be lucky to break even implies that most likely Wong
Kwan will not break even. The example taught us that be lucky to X
can have an idiomatic ‘most likely not X’ reading in the future tense.
It appears to be a new discovery.5 We gave ample evidence to show
that in its literal sense be lucky to X is an implicative construction,
not factive as has been sometimes claimed. In the literal sense Wong
Kwan will be lucky to break even entails that he will break even with
the presupposition that it will be a lucky outcome for Kwan.
We found a complex set of structural features that enable or disable
the idiomatic reading of be lucky to X. They include: tense, negation,
type of subject, negative polarity items, and adverbial modification.
We know that the distinction between generic and non-generic sentences also plays a role but we have not worked that out yet. There
are undoubtedly many non-structural features that favor or disfavor
the idiomatic reading such as whether the sentence is embedded in a
context that triggers the expectation of good news or bad news. These
contextual features are now the subject of an ongoing investigation at
CSLI as part of DARPA’s Machine Reading project. We will report on
the results in a future joint paper by all the members of the Language
and Natural Reasoning group at CSLI.
5 There is the well-known sarcastic expression I should be so lucky that means,
roughly, ‘there is no chance that it will happen.’ It comes to English from Yiddish
and seems unrelated to the idiomatic sense of will be lucky this paper is about.
178 / Lauri Karttunen
Thanks to Daniel G. Bobrow, Elizabeth Traugott and my fellow participants in the Natural Language and Reasoning group at csli (Cleo
Condoravdi, Miriam King Connor, Marianne Naval, Stanley Peters,
Tania Rojas-Esponda and Annie Zaenen) for their help on the content and style of this presentation. Thanks also to Daniel Lassiter and
Christopher Potts for their help on the judgments about will be so
lucky to X, to Herbert Clark for raising the issue of unlucky, and to the
other members of the audience for their comments and suggestions at
the presentation of this work at the SemFest meeting at Stanford on
March 16, 2012. Special thanks to Laurence Horn and Craige Roberts
for the contrarian view (p.c.) that be lucky to X is a factive construction because the crucial negative examples in (3) and (4) in their dialect
presuppose that the complement is true instead of implying falsehood
as they clearly do on Google. For Horn and Roberts, the implicative
reading requires replacing lucky by lucky enough. Because the examples
in (3) come from websites outside of the US, it is possible that there is
a systematic difference between “US English” and “World English” in
whether be lucky to X is a factive or a two-way implicative construction
in its literal sense.
The author gratefully acknowledges the support of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Machine Reading Program under Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) prime contract
no. FA8750-09-C-0181. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and
do not necessarily reflect the view of DARPA, AFRI, or the US government.
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M. Pollack, eds., Intentions in Communication, pages 325–363. MIT Press.
Wilkinson, Robert. 1970. Factive complements and action complements. In
CLS 6 , pages 425–444.
Wilkinson, Robert W. 1976. Modes of predication and implied adverbial
complements. Foundations of Language 14(2):153–194.
On Presenting Something in English
and Hungarian
Tibor Laczkó
In this paper1 I present an analysis of the English verb present as
used in constructions like present something to somebody and present
somebody with something. I systematically compare it with its two Hungarian counterparts, with particular attention to the partially different
behavior of their derived nominal equivalents. In Section 2, I summarize my analysis in Laczkó (1991) in the classical framework of LexicalFunctional Grammar (LFG), then in Section 3 I outline my modified
account couched in the version of the Lexical Mapping Theory (LMT)
component of LFG proposed by Ackerman (1992) and Zaenen (1993).
This is followed by some concluding remarks in Section 4.
gratefully acknowledge the inspiration I have received for the analysis developed here from Annie Zaenen’s work in this particular domain of grammar. I am also
thankful to two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments. Naturally,
all remaining errors are my sole responsibility. The research reported here has been
supported, in part, by OTKA (Hungarian Scientific Research Fund, grant number: K 72983), by the Research Group for Theoretical Linguistics of the Hungarian
Academy of Sciences and the University of Debrecen, and by the TÁMOP 4.2.1./B09/1/KONV-2010-0007 project, which is implemented through the New Hungary
Development Plan, co-financed by the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, and the Research Group for Theoretical Linguistics of
the Hungarian Academy of Sciences at the University of Debrecen.
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 181
182 / Tibor Laczkó
The pre-LMT analysis
Rappaport (1983) is probably the most influential paper on (event)
nominalization in English in the classical framework of LFG.2 The
essence of this approach is that the semantic identity of verbs and
the nouns derived from them should not be captured in terms of the
(constituent) structural isomorphism of the two predicate types; instead, it should be analyzed in terms of shared argument structure.
Consequently, the systematic behavioral differences between the two
types should not be captured in terms of differences between verbs and
nouns with respect to their governing and case-assigning properties
in the context of general principles of Government and Binding Theory (GB). Rappaport (1983) points out several empirical and theoryinternal problems with Kayne’s (1981) GB analysis along these lines.
She claims that the greatest problem for Kayne’s analysis is the existence of derived nominals with two complements, as in (1a), as opposed
to (1b).
(1) a. John’s presentation of a medal to Mary
b. *John’s presentation of Mary with a medal
c. John presented a medal to Mary.
d. John presented Mary with a medal.
Kayne has to assume two different, and otherwise syntactically unmotivated, representations for verbal predicates with two internal arguments. This can be taken to be a brute force way of ensuring that certain verbal predicates in a particular configuration have nominal counterparts in the corresponding (isomorphic) NP configuration, whereas
other verbal predicates in the other configuration do not have such
nominal counterparts. In Rappaport’s (1983) approach, the partial difference between verbal and nominal predicates can be feasibly captured
by dint of the following two basic assumptions. (i) Nominal predicates
can only assign semantically restricted grammatical functions to their
arguments.3 (ii) This grammatical function assignment must always
2 The paper appeared in a volume entitled Papers in Lexical Functional Grammar, edited by Annie Zaenen, Lori Levin, and Malka Rappaport (Levin et al. 1983).
Not only this paper but also other papers in the volume, including a paper coauthored by Annie, were so influential that twenty-five years later the book was reissued as Lexical Semantics in LFG (Butt & King 2008), and the introduction to this
reissue was cowritten by Annie.
3 It is to be noted that I and some other researchers assume that at least in Hungarian the poss grammatical function is semantically unrestricted; see, for instance,
Laczkó (1995,2004), Komlósy (1998), and Chisarik & Payne (2003). However, this
issue is irrelevant from the perspective of this paper.
On Presenting Something in English and Hungarian / 183
respect the principle of thematic constancy, i.e. the grammatical functions must match the semantic roles of the arguments they are associated with. Verbal predicates are exempt from both constraints: they
can assign unrestricted functions (subj and obj), and they may assign
restricted functions in violation of the thematic constancy principle.
Rappaport’s explanation for the contrast between (1a) and (1b) is that
in the former, the assignment of the two obl functions respects thematic
constancy: oblTH is assigned to the theme argument (of a book), and
oblGO is assigned to the goal argument (to Mary), while in the latter,
there are mismatches. The reason why (1d) is grammatical, as opposed
to (1b), is that the assignment of semantically restricted grammatical
functions does not necessarily have to obey the constancy principle in
the verbal domain.
In Laczkó (1991) I make a comparison between these English constructions and their Hungarian counterparts.4 Consider the following
Hungarian examples and compare them with their English translations,
which are identical to the English examples in (1).5
(2) a. egy érme
oda-ajándékoz-ás-a Máriá-nak János által
a medal.nom to-present-dev-3sg Mary-dat John by
‘John’s presentation of a medal to Mary’
b. Mária
meg-ajándékoz-ás-a egy érmé-vel
János által
Mary.nom perf-present-dev-3sg a medal-with John by
‘*John’s presentation of Mary with a medal’
c. János
(oda-)ajándékoz-ott egy érmé-t
John.nom to-present-past.3sg a medal-acc Mary-dat
‘John presented a medal to Mary.’
d. János
Máriá-t egy érmé-vel.
John.nom perf-present-past.3sg Mary-acc a medal-with
‘John presented Mary with a medal.’
The contrast is between the grammatical Hungarian construction in
(2b) and its ungrammatical English counterpart in (1b). In the paper, I
4 Note that this 1991 paper is based on a presentation five years earlier: Conference in English and American Studies at Attila József University, Szeged, 1986.
5 In the glosses, dev stands for the nominalizing suffix. As the glosses show,
the Hungarian verb is combined with preverbs; in (2a) and (2c) the preverb is oda
glossed as to, meaning something like ‘to there’, and in (2b) and (2d) it is meg
which is the par excellence perfectivizing preverb in Hungarian, glossed as perf.
Also note that oda is optional and meg is obligatory. (Rarely another preverb is also
used in this construction type: neki ‘to, against’.) It is also important to point out
that in Hungarian there can only be one possessor constituent within a noun phrase.
It is for this reason that in the Hungarian examples in (2a) and (2b) the agent is
expressed by a postpositional phrase corresponding to the English by-phrase.
184 / Tibor Laczkó
assume that Rappaport’s (1983) thematic constancy generalization also
holds within the domain of Hungarian noun phrases and I claim that
the contrast can be explained by postulating that, although the situations described by the relevant constructions are very similar, and also
there are straightforward parallels between the corresponding grammatical functions in the two languages, in Hungarian the two (formally
also different) predicates do not share the same argument structure as
regards the semantic roles of some of their arguments. Consider Table
1, summarizing my generalizations.
Situation in both languages: x gives y to z as a present
<subj obj oblGO >
<subj oblINST obj>
<subj obj oblGO >
Hungarian (oda-)ajándékoz
<subj oblINST obj>
A classical LFG analysis of present and its Hungarian
I assume that in Hungarian the (obligatory) presence of the perfectivizing preverb causes the semantic change that affects the semantic
roles of two arguments. This change in the semantic roles of the relevant
arguments makes the Hungarian derived nominal construction grammatical even from the perspective of Rappaport’s (1983) thematic constancy principle. In support of my analysis, in the paper I also discuss
another contrast between certain English and Hungarian predicates.
Compare the following Hungarian examples and their English translations.
(3) a. János
a ház felé.
John.nom approach-past.3sg the house towards
‘John was approaching the house.’
b. János
a ház-at.
John.nom perf-approach-past.3sg the house-acc
‘John approached the house.’
On Presenting Something in English and Hungarian / 185
(4) a. János
a ház felé
John.nom approach-dev-3sg the house towards
‘John’s approach to the house’
b. a ház
János által
the house.nom perf-approach-dev-3sg John by
‘John’s approach of the house’ (ungrammatical in English)
The parallel I draw should be straightforward: the appearance of the
perfectivizing preverb meg results in a semantic role change: a goal
becomes a theme.
In Laczkó (1991) I also deal with several predicates of the spray,
load type in both English and Hungarian, and I show that they behave
similarly in the two languages. Consider the following very often cited
English examples.
(5) a. He loaded the hay (on the cart).
b. his loading of the hay (on the cart)
(6) a. He loaded the cart (with the hay).
b. his loading of the cart (with the hay)
In Hungarian we find exactly the same patterns. My generalization
about the omissibility of arguments in this domain (holding for both
languages) is that only a non-theme argument can be optional.
I also point out that there are at least three spray, load predicates in
English which can be combined with the prefix be-, and the resulting
predicate will no longer have the well-known alternation, cf.:
(7) a. He sprinkled water on the flowers.
b. He sprinkled the flowers with water.
(8) a. *He besprinkled water on the flowers.
b. He besprinkled the flowers with water.
I suggest that this English prefix has a function very similar to that
of perfectivizing meg in Hungarian. Its appearance triggers the theme
(re)interpretation of an argument which “originally” is a goal.
Now I would like to make the following remarks on my analysis in
Laczkó (1991).
(A) My description of the function of the be- prefix in English is not
consistent. At one point I claim that its function is to turn the goal
argument of a verb like sprinkle into a theme argument. However, at
an earlier point I assume and exemplify that such a predicate (even
without be-) has to be analyzed as being polysemous, and the two
homophonous versions have partially different argument structures (cf.
(7a) and (7b)). I think this is the correct approach, and in this light the
186 / Tibor Laczkó
appropriate generalization about be- is that it overtly (morphologically)
reinforces (endorses) the theme interpretation of an otherwise goal-like
argument to the exclusion of the other interpretation.
(B) My generalization that if a predicate has two internal arguments
then only the non-theme argument can be optional is strongly supported by the English nominalization facts in the light of Rappaport’s
(1983) thematic constancy principle (i.e. if the derived nominal’s argument is expressed by a prepositional phrase, then it must be a theme
because such a prepositional phrase encodes the oblTH grammatical
(C) Now I have found additional evidence in favor of assuming that
in the relevant cases the preverb meg can be taken to affect argument
structure. Its essence is as follows. In Hungarian, particle verb constructions are typically telic (and the telicizing function is attributed to the
particle).6 When they are used in progressive (non-perfect) aspect, the
particle (aka the preverb) has to follow the verb (while in neutral sentences, it obligatorily immediately precedes the verb). It is a generally
accepted generalization in the Hungarian generative literature that if
the sole role of the preverb in a particle verb construction is telicization,
then, in a sentence with a progressive interpretation, it usually does not
show up, not even postverbally. Consider the following examples.
(9) a.
‘write (atelic)’
‘write something (telic)’
(10) a. János
(??meg) a level-et, amikor . . .
John.nom write-past.3sg
perf the letter-acc when . . .
‘John was writing the letter when. . .’
b. János
??(meg) a szeker-et (széná-val),
John.nom load-past.3sg
perf the cart-acc hay-with
amikor . . .
when . . .
‘John was loading the cart (with hay) when . . .’
As (9) shows, in the case of the ír ∼ meg-ír pair, the only function of the
preverb meg is telicization. It is for this reason that in the progressive
sentence in (10a) its occurrence is rather strongly dispreferred (although
marginally acceptable). By contrast, in the case of meg-rak ‘load’ we
have the opposite scenario: the absence of the preverb is strongly dispreferred (and it is only marginally acceptable). The most natural and
6 For an LFG (implementational) analysis of Hungarian, English and German
particle verbs, see Forst et al. (2010).
On Presenting Something in English and Hungarian / 187
straightforward explanation for this contrast is that in (10b) the preverb is not only a mere telicizer: it exerts an additional semantic effect
on the argument structure of the input verb.
(D) The analysis in Laczkó (1991) is couched in a pre-LMT and
pre-Proto-Roles LFG framework, using the classical (quite widely criticized) semantic role labels. This makes the approach marked in the
well-known sense: its essence is relabelling certain arguments with respect to their semantic roles: goal −→ theme; theme −→ instrumentlike secondary theme. In the next section I will briefly discuss the key
issues from an LMT perspective. I will point out that the version of
LMT that I use (based on Ackerman (1992), Zaenen (1993) and Ackerman & Moore (2012)) provides an appropriate mechanism for capturing
the relevant phenomena in a more principled fashion.
(E) In Laczkó (1991) I seek to account, in a more or less descriptive manner, for a contrast between English present and Hungarian
(oda)ajándékoz ∼ megajándékoz, see (1), (2), and Table 1 above. However, I do not address a more general and substantial question: what
may be the reason for this contrast? This question is all the more valid,
because in English, too, the “semantic-role-changing” dual pattern is
available: see the famous group of spray, load verbs. A closer look at
the nature and meanings (uses) of these verbs in the two languages
readily provides us with a straightforward answer: although the verb
forms themselves do contain the ‘gift’ meaning element, the Hungarian
verbs are absolutely unambiguous, while the English verb is multiply
ambiguous. It is a further, and not at all insignificant, difference that
while in English there is conversion (that is, the form of the input noun
and that of the output verb are identical morphologically), in Hungarian there is noun −→ verb derivation by dint of suffixation (that is, a
verbal suffix is added to the noun stem). This facilitates the identification of the ‘gift’ meaning element in the Hungarian verb forms.
Hungarian monolingual explanatory dictionaries give only one meaning or definition, roughly the same as we have indicated in Table 1 in
the description of the background situation: ‘x gives y to z as a present’;
see Juhász (1972), for instance. By contrast, present is massively (and
polysemously) ambiguous. For example, in Hornby (1982), an English
monolingual explanatory dictionary, one finds the following main meanings: (i) give/offer/submit; (ii) introduce formally; (iii) show/reveal;
(iv) produce.7 It is meaning (i) that is involved in the construction under investigation. It is my conviction that the contrast between present
7 It is for this reason that the title of this paper is (deliberately) multiply ambiguous.
188 / Tibor Laczkó
and (oda)ajándékoz ∼ megajándékoz can be explained by these aforementioned differences between these English and Hungarian verbs.
I think that this approach is strongly supported by the fact that
in English there is a verb that is much closer to the Hungarian
(oda)ajándékoz ∼ megajándékoz pair: gift used as a verb.8 Its form
is really nominal and in this case, too, conversion takes place (compare this with the Hungarian nominal stem serving as input to noun
−→ verb suffixal derivation). When gift is clearly used as a verb (for
instance, when it occurs in a typical verbal position and (very often)
it is inflected as a verb (for instance, when a verbal suffix like -ed or
-ing is attached to it)) then the conversion effect and the presence of
the ‘gift’ meaning component are absolutely obvious. It is also quite
natural (following from the etymology of the word: give −→ gift) that
as a verb it is typically used to express the ‘x gives y to z as a present’
sense from the perspective in which the given object is interpreted as
the theme of the event. The real question is whether there is evidence
for the use of the word gift as a verb in such a way that the receiver
of the gift is interpreted as the theme of the event, undergoing a kind
of a change of state: by receiving the gift (s)he has become richer in
the relevant sense. The most efficient way of testing whether the use of
this “converted” verb in this special interpretation is possible or not is
as follows. We need to check whether it can be nominalized in such a
way that the construction clearly suggests that the recipient is really
viewed as the theme of the event. Despite the fact that, as I mentioned
above, the verbal use of the word gift extremely strongly brings about
the other interpretation of the situation, in which the theme is the entity undergoing a change of possession, even a short browsing exercise
(Google search) on the internet provides evidence that the verb can
be used in this alternative sense. In (11) I give two randomly selected
examples in which (as is even much more evident from the context) the
nominalized form (gifting) is clearly used in the sense we are after: the
argument expressed by the of prepositional phrase is the recipient of
the gifting event and it is interpreted as the theme, which is straightforwardly borne out by the fact that it can be realized by this particular
prepositional phrase. Compare the examples in (11) with (1b).9
8 Note
that this verb would also disambiguate the title of the paper: On Gifting
Something in English and Hungarian.
9 The link to (11a), which is a title, is http://sarahoual.com/2011/07/13/
wedding-weekend-the-gifting-of-the-maids/, and the relevant context is this: “What
would each of them love? They’re all so freaking different. I could get them each
something different. . .” The link to (11b) is http://www.spiritgivengifts.com/.
On Presenting Something in English and Hungarian / 189
(11) a. Wedding Weekend: The Gifting of the ‘Maids
b. the reality of God’s love for, and gifting of everyone
An LMT approach
In Laczkó (2000) I develop a more comprehensive and more detailed
analysis of the relationships between the argument structure of verbal
predicates and that of derived nominal predicates. I point out the advantages of Lexical Mapping Theory as outlined, for instance, in Bresnan & Zaenen (1990) and Bresnan (1991) and then I show that the
account of Hungarian spray, load verbs developed by Ackerman (1992)
elegantly avoids the problem of associating distinct and discrete semantic role labels to arguments. He applies Dowty’s (1991) Proto-Agent
and Proto-Patient properties to calculate the intrinsic classification of
arguments in terms of the [±r] and [±o] features.10 Furthermore, he distinguishes what he calls morphosyntactic and morpholexical processes.
The former result in (partial) reassignment of grammatical functions
but they leave argument structure (including the semantic roles of the
arguments) intact. In Ackerman’s approach passivization and the dative shift belong here.11 By contrast, morpholexical rules are capable of
affecting argument structure, in addition to the (partial) reassignment
of grammatical functions. According to Ackerman, the alternation in
the lexical forms of Hungarian spray, load verbs is such a process.
Ackerman’s (1992) solution can be naturally extended to the treatment of the Hungarian (oda)ajándékoz ∼ megajándékoz verb pair. Compare my original analysis in Laczkó (1991) and the new one along these
lines in Table 2, which also compares them with the analyses of present1
and present2 . The basic idea is that the same gifting situation can be
viewed from two significantly different perspectives: either the gift can
be interpreted as the most affected participant in the situation (this is
grammatically expressed when we use (oda)ajándékoz) or the recipient
of the gift can be taken to be significantly affected (this is grammatically expressed when we use megajándékoz). Affectedness is a crucial
Proto-Patient property; therefore, it will result in the [−r] intrinsic
specification of the argument in question: the gift in the former case
and the recipient in the latter, and, thus, it is this argument that is
10 Zaenen (1993), in her analysis of Dutch participles, proposes the same combination of Dowty’s proto-properties and LFG’s LMT. For the most recent discussion
of combining these two approaches, see Ackerman & Moore (2012).
11 It is noteworthy that Bresnan’s (1991) treatment of ditransitive verbs like cook
(cf. cook somebody something and cook something for somebody) is essentially along
the lines of a morpholexical process, although she does not explicitly address (the
details and consequences of) this issue.
190 / Tibor Laczkó
Situation in both languages: x gives y to z as a present
pre-LMT account
LMT account
subj obj oblGO
< x y
ag th
< x
subj oblIN obj
z >
subj obj oblGO
Hun. (oda-)ajándékoz
< x y
ag th
subj oblIN obj
< x
z >
inst th
< x
z >
[−o] [−r] [−o]
< x
z >
[−o] [−r] [−o]
< x
z >
[−o] [−r] [−o]
< x
z >
[−o] [−o] [−r]
A special LMT analysis of present and its Hungarian counterparts
mapped onto the obj grammatical function in LMT. Given that Hungarian is an asymmetrical language in Bresnan & Moshi’s (1990) sense,
this means that the other argument can only receive the [−o] specification, and this results in its mapping onto an obl function.
The crucial point here is that this approach does not employ discrete semantic roles, and, thus, it is not forced to postulate that the
two alternative predicates require the relabeling of the arguments with
different semantic roles.12
I would like to add that this analysis is independently supported by
the behavior of a particular Hungarian participle, which the traditional
descriptive literature calls perfective, and which I call passive (in an extended sense).13 In Laczkó (1995, 2005), the crucial generalization in my
LMT style analysis is that in Hungarian the -t/-tt participial suffix can
only be attached to a verb, whether transitive or intransitive, which
has a [−r] argument (a theme argument in the pre-LMT approach),
and its attachment triggers or endorses the mapping of that argument
onto the subj grammatical function. In the case of a transitive input
verb, standard passivization takes place (the suffix suppresses the high12 It is especially problematic that when in the discrete semantic roles approach
the “receiver” argument is associated with the theme role, it is rather hard to associate the gift, that is, the “original theme” argument, with a well-motivated discrete
and individual semantic role. Given the form of the constituent in question, an
instrument-like role is, perhaps, the most likely candidate, but it is easy to see that
this argument is quite far from being a canonical instrument.
13 For a recent descriptive grammatical approach, see Keszler (2000).
On Presenting Something in English and Hungarian / 191
est [−o] argument), and, thus, the [−r] argument is mapped onto subj
(triggering). The sole [−r] argument of an intransitive input verb continues to be mapped onto subj (endorsement). This approach has been
partially motivated by Bresnan’s (1982) theme condition on participle
−→ adjective conversion in English and Zaenen’s (1993) LMT analysis
of certain Dutch participles. Compare (2c) and (2d) with (12a) and
(12b), respectively.14
(12) a. egy Máriá-nak János által (oda-)ajándékoz-ott érme
a Mary-dat John by to-present-part
‘a medal presented to Mary by John’
b. a János által egy érmé-vel
meg-ajándékoz-ott Mária
the John by a medal-with perf-present-part Mary
‘Mary presented by John with a medal’
The relevance of the obvious parallels between the examples is that,
for the participle forming rule to be applicable, in the argument structures of the two verbal predicates we have to assume that the [−r]
feature is assigned precisely to the argument whose [−r] status I postulated in my analysis of the nominalization processes involving these
two predicates.
Concluding remarks
In this paper I have outlined an LFG-LMT analysis of the following English and Hungarian verbal predicates: present ∼ gift and (oda)ajándékoz ∼ megajándékoz.15 Space limitations prevent me from elaborating,
in a systematic and detailed manner, on the consequences and ramifications of my analysis, and I have to confine myself to two general
1. Languages may differ considerably as to the ways in which they
employ predicates to reflect the perspective from which a particular situation is viewed. For instance, in English approach exclusively requires
a “goal” second argument (in a generalized and neutral sense), whereas
in Hungarian it has two (morphologically) distinct counterparts, one requiring (and encoding) a “goal” and another requiring (and encoding)
a “theme”.16
2. Whether a particular verb form is capable of encoding different
14 Note
the homophony of the past tense marker and the participial suffix.
I pointed out in passing, some aspects of my approach have been directly
influenced by Annie’s work, for which I am most grateful. This paper can also be
partially seen as a small present that I have gifted Annie with.
16 The contrast between present in English and (oda)ajándékoz ∼ megajándékoz
in Hungarian is essentially of the same nature.
15 As
192 / Tibor Laczkó
perspectives on a situation may depend on external factors like (massive) polysemy, as shown by the contrast between the verbs present and
gift in the relevant sense.
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and deverbal nominal predicates: A lexical-functional approach]. In I. Kenesei, ed., Igei vonzatszerkezet a magyarban [Verbal Argument Structure
in Hungarian] , pages 67–126. Osiris Kiadó.
Laczkó, Tibor. 2004. Grammatical functions, LMT, and control in the Hungarian DP revisited. In M. Butt and T. H. King, eds., Proceedings of
the LFG ’04 Conference. CSLI On-line Publications. ISSN 1098-6782,
Laczkó, Tibor. 2005. Nominalization, participle-formation, typology and lexical mapping. In C. Piñón and P. Siptár, eds., Approaches to Hungarian: Volume 9: Papers from the Düsseldorf Conference, pages 205–230.
Akadémiai Kiadó.
Levin, Lori, Malka Rappaport, and Annie Zaenen, eds. 1983. Papers in
Lexical-Functional Grammar . Indiana University Linguistic Club.
Rappaport, Malka. 1983. On the nature of derived nominals. In L. Levin,
M. Rappaport, and A. Zeanen, eds., Papers in Lexical-Functional Grammar , pages 113–142. Indiana University Linguistic Club.
Zaenen, Annie. 1993. Unaccusativity in Dutch: Integrating syntax and lexical
semantics. In J. Pustejovsky, ed., Semantics and the Lexicon, pages 129–
161. Kluwer.
A Semantic Account of Contextual
Valence Shifting
Livia Polanyi and Martin Henk van den Berg
Beginning with Turney (2002) and Pang and Lee (2002)’s seminal work
in classifying documents in terms of the positive or negative opinions
expressed in the text, research in Sentiment Analysis has been a focus
of computational natural language processing research. The interest in
sentiment analysis is application driven. Businesses need to know how
their products are being received; consumers rely on the opinions expressed in reviews of movies, hotels and other goods and services to
choose what to buy; political analysts as well as politicians care keenly
about how policies or individuals are viewed, while government agencies are similarly concerned with the attitudes expressed by persons
or organizations. The explosive growth of social media since 2010 has
fueled interest in sentiment even further, as efforts to mine the attitudes revealed in postings on social sites have increased. Commercial
companies as well as open source systems that provide sentiment analytic services have only proliferated since 2008 when at least twenty
companies were known to be operating in this area (Bo and Pang, 2008)
Despite the commercial frenzy, from a scientific perspective, providing a satisfactory account of the intent of a writer or speaker to
express positive or negative opinions of an entity remains a challenging
open research problem. Workshops and symposia associated with major conferences in a number of computational fields are held frequently.
A recent version of Wiebe’s online bibliography (2012) lists over five
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 195
196 / Livia Polanyi and Martin Henk van den Berg
hundred publications including several dissertations like Wilson (2008)
and Somasundaran (2010) as well as at least one full length monograph
(Pang and Lee 2008).1
Despite the progress that has been made, even if one concentrates
only on the deployment of lexical items used to express positive or
negative sentiment, and excludes such issues as intonation, gesture,
facial expression or punctuation, their typographical proxies, or indirect rhetorical devices such as irony, litotes or hyperbole, devices that
may be of less interest to a theoretical linguist, one is still confronted
with a number of complex issues that need to be solved in order for
fully satisfactory computational sentiment analytic systems to be built.
Chief among these: foundational problems arise for symbolic theoretical linguistic analyses as annotating a lexicon for positive or negative
sentiment remains a large stumbling block. Some of these difficulties
originate in the nature of the lexicon itself: as a string of phonemes
makes its way through history, its core meaning might change or, while
some meaning core may stay intact, various senses of the term may
themselves have different connotations expressing differing polarities.
Thus, the term, hussy, encountered in early texts carries a neutral connotation while in a contemporary text, the term is only negative. From
a synchronic perspective, different senses of a word or a term applied
in different domains may differ in sentiment — i.e. lightweight is a positive property for a camera while labeling a theoretical argument as
lightweight expresses a negative evaluation. Even within a domain, a
term might have a negative connotation in one context and a positive connotation in another: a camera described as light referring to
its weight is being praised, while a camera that produces images that
are light is being criticized. Machine learning methods involving collocation are often employed to try to address these problems with often
very disappointing results.
However, the lexicon per se, is not the main focus here. Rather, we
will build upon and generalize the approach to sentiment first sketched
in Polanyi and Zaenen (2006) that introduced the notion of contextual valence shifters including general negation, modals, presuppositions and irony. In that paper, it was demonstrated that simple views
of sentiment assigned by a value associated with the lexical item were
inadequate because valence shifters reverse or nullify core sentiment
values when deployed in context.
In the present paper, we will propose that viewing sentiment assignment from the perspective of semantic scope phenomena provides
1 See
Liu (2010) for an excellent overview of the field.
A Semantic Account of Contextual Valence Shifting / 197
a unified account of a variety of context valence shifting phenomena
first proposed in Polanyi and Zaenen. We will argue that entities or
events are assigned sentiment by sentiment carrying expressions that
have scope over them at any level of linguistic structure, and that if
there is more than one expression that assigns a sentiment to a given
entity or event, the assigned sentiment will be that of the expression
with the widest scope, even if there is a conflict between the different
sentiment carrying expressions and/or the inherent sentiment of the
target. Taking the position that discourse syntax subsumes sentential
syntax and encodes semantic scope relations as do negation, reported
speech, modality, etc. we will demonstrate how sentiment context shifting operates in discourse after a brief discussion of sentiment conflict
resolution at the sentential and sub-sentential levels.
Sentiment as a Semantic Scope Phenomena
Within the sentence, semantic scope is expressed using syntactic embedding and is normally directly derived from it. Sentential sentiment
assignment is a semantic phenomenon that is informed by syntactic
structure at the sentence level and below. Just as the adjective in an
Adjective Phrase such as red house restricts the meaning of the noun
that it modifies, the house referred to by the term beautiful house receives a positive interpretation because the NP house is within the scope
of beautiful which has a positive valence. Similarly, The cat purred is
interpreted as a positive event — purr having a positive connotation
— and The cat purred sweetly is even more positive, the positive connotation of purr being intensified by sweetly which has scope over the
verb. More interestingly, just as a negation has scope over its target
and can thus negate the sentiment of a term in its scope, i.e. not kind
has negative sentiment despite kind being positively valenced, a conflict in valence within an Adjective Phrase between the noun and its
modifier results in a phrase bearing the valence of the adjective. For example, if we assume the word kitten normally has positive associations,
vicious kitten eliminates the possibility of a positive interpretation altogether. Similarly, the Adverbial Phrase the dangerous lovely summer
evening is negatively valenced, as is the sentence The lovely young lady
whined throughout the wonderful evening and the adverbial quantifying
expression Every lousy evening the kitten purrs.
Scope interaction within other parts of speech and phrases may
similarly influence attitude calculations. While negation or the use of
antonyms usually shifts valence, this is not always the case. For example, faint praise is not real praise, and therefore is not positive and, in
198 / Livia Polanyi and Martin Henk van den Berg
the phrase although he is a brilliant mathematician the term although
blocks the positive evaluation, preparing the reader for a negative continuation. Similarly, in the sentence The friendly dog does not like the
horrible cat, dog is in the scope of friendly, cat is in the scope of horrible,
and the whole predication is in the scope of the negation.
Wilson et al. (2005), Moilanen and Pullum (2007), Choi and Cardie
(2008), Moilanen et al. (2010) and Nakagawa et al. (2010), often working within a Machine Learning paradigm, concentrated on sentential
and sub-sentential phenomena and proposed approaches based on sentential syntax which can be characterized as claiming that sentential
constituents c-commanded by a dominating constituent will inherit the
sentiment of the dominating constituent. While we agree that these
approaches capture important linguistic behavior at the sentence level,
they cannot account for the phenomena of contextual valence shifting in
general because they are necessarily bounded at the sentence level and
contextual sentiment assignment occurs at the discourse level as well.
And it is to the discourse level to which we next turn our attention.
Overview of the LDM
We will use the Linguistic Discourse Model (LDM) (Polanyi 1983, 2003;
Polanyi and Scha 1984; Scha and Polanyi 1988; Polanyi and van den
Berg 1999; Polanyi et al. 2004a, 2004b; Prüst et al. 1994; van den
Berg 1996) to assign a structural representation to texts containing
sentiment bearing expressions and show how the dominance relations
exposed in the discourse level representation enables assignment of the
proper sentiment to entities encoded in constituent phrases.
LDM takes as input sequences of propositional signals and outputs a
structural and semantic representation of its input. The data structure
that is created through the parsing process is called a Discourse Parse
Tree (DPT). It is an Open Right Tree that only allows attachment
of input along the right edge and is designed to capture the discourse
history of an Interaction. The DPT is not structure preserving but
allows for insertion of new nodes between two existing nodes on the
Right Edge of the Tree.
The LDM consists of four elements: a set of discourse units, a set of
relations that hold among units, a data structure in the form of an Open
Right Tree that represents the history of the emergent discourse and a
set of semantic interpretations created through discourse processing.
15.3.1 Content and Function Units
In the LDM, we have adopted the distinction from linguistics between
(i) function terms that encode relations among elementary or con-
A Semantic Account of Contextual Valence Shifting / 199
structed units that encode propositional information and (ii) proposition encoding units themselves which characterize linguistic units at
the discourse level.2
Function Units encode information about how previously occurring (or possibly subsequent) linguistic gestures relate structurally, semantically, interactionally or rhetorically to other units in the discourse
or to information in or out of the context in which the discourse takes
place. They include terms such as for example, however, but, so, anyway, good bye, yes, as well as vocatives, interjections, hesitation and
back channel markers, connectives as well as coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. Preposed adjectival and adverbial clauses with
wide discourse scope are also classified as functional units.
Discourse Units are content encoding units. Complex Discourse
Constituent Units (DCUs) are formed from recursive sequencing and
embedding of elementary content encoding units called Basic Discourse
Units (BDU). The BDU is semantic construct that projects onto the
discourse level the interpretation of a verb based structure that is able
to carry both content and indexical information.
The feature structure of a BDU contains both all surface structure
information that the BDU expresses including how that information is
expressed (e.g. the words used, the order of the terms and placement of
constituents in the string, the full syntactic parse) and a rich representation of semantic information including a specification of all pertinent
context indices (e.g. temporality, modality, polarity, genericity, as well
as sentiment source and target, stylistic information and various dimensions of Point of View in addition to interaction, speech event and
text or genre unit information). The propositional meaning of the BDU
is also represented. Performance information that typographical details
such as script, font size, bolding, etc. for written text is also available
at the node. Because BDUs have information about their context of
interpretation, they are able to act as an anchor for subsequent units
that either will be interpreted relative to the same context or to another
context depending on the information in that new unit.
15.3.2 Discourse Parsing with the LDM
Discourse parsing under the LDM involves an analysis of the incoming
string and attaching the resulting structure to the emerging Discourse
Parse Tree (DPT). The DPT is an Open Right Tree data structure of
Discourse Constituent Units (DCUs) that provide a record of the his2 Some verbal structures such as gerunds or nominalizations that do not carry
contextual information because they derive their temporal and modal interpretation
from other sentential units are not BDUs.
200 / Livia Polanyi and Martin Henk van den Berg
tory of a discourse up to that attachment. The terminal nodes of the
tree are the BDUs. The BDUs have features that encode all relevant
linguistic information for discourse derived from the syntactic and semantic analysis of the corresponding string, as well as information from
the utterance context. Larger DCUs have the same set of features, with
values calculated from the corresponding features of their constituents.
If the incoming string is a simple sentence, sub-sentential unit or
fragment, the string will correspond to one BDU. If it has a more
complex syntactic structure, it will be composed of more than one BDU,
and the sentence will give rise to its own, small discourse tree. The result
of this analysis is referred to as the incoming DCU, or simply DCU if
no confusion is possible.
In the LDM, there is no special status to BDUs, except for being
the minimal units that all larger units are constructed from. In fact,
all nodes in the Discourse Parse Tree are first class citizens: all content
nodes, terminals and constructed nodes alike have computable content
and can combine freely with each other. There is no theoretic distinction
between BDUs, the terminal nodes of the tree, discourse nodes created
through re-analysis of the sentential structure of a sentence as a DPT
consisting of BDUs, and nodes constructed via discourse attachment
To attach the incoming DCU to the tree, the parsing process involves
selecting where to attach on the right edge of the tree, the Attachment
Point (AP), and how to attach to it, the Discourse Relation. In the
following three sections, we will briefly discuss the possible discourse
relations and the attachment process.
Discourse Relations (DPT)
We distinguish three main types of discourse attachment relations:
. Subordination (elaborations, interruptions)
At attachment, a new Subordination node is created with an extension that inherits all information present at the subordinating
(usually left) daughter. The incoming subordinated DCU is attached
to the tree as the right daughter of a newly created Subordination
. Coordination (lists, narratives)
At attachment, either a new Coordination node is created with an
extension that inherits all information common to all child nodes,
or the incoming DCU is added to an already existing Coordination
A Semantic Account of Contextual Valence Shifting / 201
. N-Ary (if/then, question/answer sequences, etc.)
This covers a number of specific, language specific constructions,
many of which, but not all, are sentence internal. The extension of
an n-ary node is constructed out of all information present at all
child nodes.
Once a node is no longer on the Right Edge, it is no longer accessible.
Discourse Structure and Sentiment
From the perspective of discourse analysis, sentiment which is a valuation relation between a participant having the sentiment and the entity
(action, etc.) the sentiment is attributed to is one of many modal indices
in the feature set. For example, (1) and (2) illustrate how implicaturecanceling by the contrast relation applies to sentiment just as it applies
to other contrasting features:
(1) John has a really great voice, but I do not like his singing.
(2) I admit that John has a really great voice. You would be surprised,
however, how bad his singing is.
Example (1) expresses a negative sentiment valuation of the speaker
to John’s singing, even though the antecedent has the (canceled) presupposition that John would sing well. Of course, the contrast has to
be between the sentiments expressed. For example, in the case of
(3) Mary loved the concert but John hated it.
the opinions of two different people are contrasted. In this case, the
inherited value is the two valuation relations: mary-loving-concert
and john-hating-concert.
Calculation of the overall sentiment of (part of) a text is determined
by the general rules of discourse construction. So in the case of coordinations, comparable sentiment values can, in a first approximation, be
added up using simple arithmetic:
In example (4):
(4) My sister got married last month and I needed a place to stay
for the wedding. Anyway, I found this great little hotel. It had a
clean, confortable bed. It also had the greatest view of the city.
The construction of the coordinated list of positive characteristics of
the hotel located on the right edge of the DPT involved the inheritance
up to that coordination node of the positive sentiment in the semantics
of clean (+) comfortable (+) and greatest view (+). This constructed
List DCU with its three + terms, is subordinated to great little hotel
(++) with the positive valence of the sentiment carrying term in each
202 / Livia Polanyi and Martin Henk van den Berg
subordinated DCU along with the hotel related term licensing the assignment of the Subordination relation. In these cases, the presence of
the +++ valences of the subordinated DCU reinforces the ++ valence
of the dominating node. This really was a great little hotel!
15.4.1 Sentiment Inheritance (down)
Now let us consider a case in which sentiment bearing DCUs dominate
or evaluate non-sentiment bearing DCUs and thereby express the author’s or speaker’s opinion towards information with no overt marking
in the dominated sentences. Consider (5) and (6), a minimal pair of
texts. The only difference between them is that the first two sentences
in (5) contain negative sentiment terms, and in (6) positive terms.
(5) (1) I had a horrible day at work yesterday. (2) Super ghastly.
(3) My boss was in and out of my office all day. (4) He kept
asking for last month’s sales figures. (5) He kept saying over and
over that he couldn’t believe them. (6) You should have seen the
expression on his face. (7) Now, I know what’s going to happen
with my raise.
(6) (1) I had a wonderful day at work yesterday. (2) Super fantastic. (3) My boss was in and out of my office all day. (4) He kept
asking for last month’s sales figures. (5) He kept saying over and
over that he couldn’t believe them. (6) You should have seen the
expression on his face. (7) Now, I know what’s going to happen
with my raise.
Structure for (5) and (6)
Both (5) and (6) have the same structure, since they differ only in
the valence that the author assigns to the experience of day in the
first two nodes. Yet, although the text never indicates explicitly at the
sentence level what those sales figures were like, we have no trouble
A Semantic Account of Contextual Valence Shifting / 203
understanding that the figures the boss examined in (5) were pretty
terrible, while the figures the boss in (6) examined were pretty wonderful. The speaker is confident of her raise in (5) and probably fearful for
her job in (6).
The negative interpretation of the first text and the positive interpretation of the second can be understood only with reference to the
discourse as a whole. The sentiment in the description of the day is,
in each text, inherited from the sentiment expressed explicitly in the
DCUs dominating the identically phrased elaborations of what went on
at the office.
15.4.2 Sentiment Inheritance (up)
Elaborations provide more detail about an entity. In the following example, a hotel is mentioned, followed by a subordination that gives more
detail about some aspects of that hotel (e.g. the rooms, the view).
(7) (1) In Granada, I found a hotel. (2a) The room was very clean,
(2b) the service was excellent and (2c) the breakfast room had a
great view of Alhambra.
(8) (1) In Granada, I found a hotel. (2a) The room was not clean,
(2b) the service was poor and (2c) the breakfast room had a lousy
view of a neighboring gas station.
Because the hotel is the sum of its parts, and we can assume, all else
being equal, that the subordinated lists (7.2a–c) and (8.2a–c) express
that the author of (7) liked and the author of (8) did not like the hotel.
This is shown in Figure 2.
Note that it is easy to cancel the implicatures of the subordinate
clauses by adding more information, for example, by following (7) with
Still, I hated staying there or (8) with I did love the stay there, though,
because I met my future wife in the entry hall. In this case the opinions
of the room, service and breakfast are still the same, but do not carry
over to the hotel as a whole.
In conclusion, then, our argument is simple: discourse syntax encodes
semantic scope exactly as sentential syntax encodes scope. Sentiment
assignment is a semantic phenomenon. By viewing the interpretation
of sentiment both within and beyond the sentence as respecting the
well-known semantic rules for interpretation based on scopal relations,
we have provided a uniform account of contextual valence assignment.3
3 While Asher and his colleagues (Asher et al. 2008a,b) have recently implemented
a sentiment analysis component using the S-DRT framework that can handle dis-
204 / Livia Polanyi and Martin Henk van den Berg
Structures for (7) and (8)
clean room
excellent service
not clean room
great view
lousy view
poor service
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Two Maps of Manhattan
Hinrich Schütze
Representations of meaning
What should an adequate formal theory of the meaning of linguistic
expressions look like? The most serious contender in terms of coverage of phenomena (linguistic and semantic) and languages is perhaps
traditional formal semantics, including Montague semantics (Chierchia
and McConnell-Ginet, 1991), discourse representation theory (Kamp
and Reyle, 1993) and file change semantics (Heim, 2008, Karttunen,
1976), to name a few older incarnations. It provides elegant explanations for negation, quantification, conditionals and many other phenomena. However, there is an arguably equally large set of phenomena that
I would argue it has difficulty with: vagueness, uncertainty, prototypicality, embodiment (Zadeh, 1965, Rumelhart et al., 1986, McClelland
et al., 1986, Lakoff, 1987, Barsalou, 2008).
Because I was frustrated with these perceived shortcomings of formal
semantics, I became interested in statistical approaches to semantics in
1990/91. It was at this point that Annie Zaenen introduced me to the
information access group at Xerox PARC. Her motivation probably was
that nobody at Stanford linguistics would have been able to supervise
a thesis on statistical approaches, and therefore I should consider collaborating with statisticians like Jan Pedersen and John Tukey. This
introduction did a great service to me. I would not have been able to
complete my PhD and then make my living as an academic without the
supportive and interdisciplinary environment that I enjoyed at PARC
for many years.
The contrast between the two polar opposites I have just introduced
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 209
210 / Hinrich Schütze
– formal semantics and statistical semantics or, more generally, symbolic and statistical approaches – has become a cliché in computational
linguistics. The view of semantics and meaning that I would like to argue for is that meaning is heterogeneous and that semantic theory will
always consist of distinct modules that are governed by different principles. The main argument for this view is that human experience of the
world is highly heterogeneous; thus, the theory of the representation of
this experience could plausibly have the same property.1
Prominent and frequently studied domains of “semantic heterogeneity” are time, space, motion, causation, number and color. We can
hardly survive in the world without an adequate understanding of
these domains and without the ability to communicate effectively about
them. Because these domains pose interesting challenges to semanticists, there is a long tradition of work on them in theoretical linguistics.
My hypothesis is that the human cognitive system has unique representation and processing mechanisms for each of these domains, and
that in turn the linguistic encoding of each domain will have different properties in human language. If this hypothesis is correct, the
alignment between different modes of human experience and different
semantic domains can guide our linguistic and cognitive theories.
One could perhaps object that representation and processing could
differ cognitively without affecting language and, in particular, without
affecting semantics. However, there is evidence that linguistic organizing principles are correlated with general cognitive organizing principles. A nice example of this are the Thaayorre people who conceptualize
space in terms of absolute compass directions and this is directly reflected in the linguistic encoding of their language (Boroditsky, 2011).
So part of the heterogeneity hypothesis is that differences in cognitive
representation and processing translate into linguistic and semantic differences between modes/modalities – not necessarily, but frequently,
and that therefore semantics is also heterogeneous.
One small project in this vein was the only time Annie and I directly
worked together. Stanley Peters and Annie hired me as a student researcher in 1990/91 to look into the linguistics of particular types of relative spatial linguistic expressions (cf. Wunderlich and Herweg (1991)).
For example, “left” in “the left door of the car” is usually resolved with
respect to the standard orientation of the car – the direction of travel;
but in some circumstances it can refer to the door that is positioned
to the left of the speaker or the hearer. The set of doors identified by
1 There is an interesting parallel to the skepticism expressed by Dupré (1993)
about the plausibility of a grand unified theory of science. I do not explore this
parallel in this contribution.
Two Maps of Manhattan / 211
“doors open to the left” when a train enters a terminus station is distinct from the set of doors referred to by the same phrase after the
train has left the terminus and is entering the next station.
These are the types of “domain-specific” phenomena that may require
domain-specific semantic theories. I regret that I never contributed anything to Annie and Stanley’s project because I became excited about
statistical semantics at the same time and focused all my energy on
publishing in this emerging subfield (Schütze, 1992b, 1993, 1995). However, the phenomena we investigated in the project have stayed with
me as examples of the complexity of semantics and the impossibility of
reducing meaning to a single simplistic unified notion.
An example
I will not provide a detailed argument for heterogeneous semantics in
this paper. In general, arguments for the non-existence of something –
in our case a unified grand theory of semantics – are difficult. Instead,
I will provide an example and hope that the reader will view the heterogeneity of meaning elements needed in this case as evidence that
semantics is heterogeneous.
The example I have chosen is Manhattan and its neighborhoods. I
will use the abbreviations in Table 1.
Battery Park City
East Harlem
East Village
Financial District
Greenwich Village
Little Italy
Lower East Side
Upper East Side
Upper West Side
Washington Heights
Abbreviations used for Manhattan neighborhoods
212 / Hinrich Schütze
Table 2 lists a small number of facts or propositions that could be
formal semantics representations of the meaning of some linguistic expressions about these neighborhoods.
subarea_of(SoHo, Lower_Manhattan)
south_of(SoHo, NoHo)
eastern_boundary(Upper_West_Side, Central_Park)
located_in(World_Trade_Center, Financial_District, 1974, 2001)
Facts about Manhattan neighborhoods
The first three (1-3) could also be read off of a map of Manhattan.
For example, Figure 1 shows that SoHo (So) is located south of NoHo
(No). However, the two ways of representing this piece of knowledge
– propositional vs. on a map – may not be cognitively equivalent as
representation can make a difference in ease of access and processing.
Propositional representations are a mainstay of much of the work in
symbolic artificial intelligence (McCarthy, 1993) and theoretical and
applied semantics (Van Benthem, 1986, Bobrow et al., 2007).
Facts 4–6 are more complex than the simple “map” facts 1–3. They
capture complex conceptual knowledge, including temporal relativization (fact 6), that symbolic formalisms are best equipped to handle.
Facts 7–10 are intended as examples of features that are prominent versus those that are not. Chinatown and Little Italy are often
perceived as similar neighborhoods because they share a number of
prominent characteristics, including the fact that they are historic ethnic neighborhoods. Greenwich Village and Harlem also share a number
of characteristics, including the fact that their names are derived from
Dutch (Greenwijck and Haarlem); but in this case these characteristics
are not salient and the two neighborhoods are not perceived as similar.
This is the type of inference that is difficult to do in a purely symbolic
system because graded phenomena like salience cannot be naturally
handled without weights, probabilities, confidences or similar indicators of grading.
Two Maps of Manhattan / 213
East River
So LiIt
A map of Manhattan
214 / Hinrich Schütze
Figure 2 is a multidimensional scaling (MDS) of the 16×16 similarity
matrix of the 16 neighborhoods shown in Table 1.
WaHe Tr
Multidimensional scaling (MDS) of Manhattan neighborhods
based on word space similarities
Following roughly the approach pursued by Schütze (1992a, 1998)
at PARC in the early nineties, each neighborhood was first represented
in a high-dimensional word space. To simplify the computations, I ran
a Google search on each neighborhood and took as contexts the top
100 hits – using both titles and snippets – that were returned (instead
of looking for mentions of the neighborhood in a corpus). The average
number of words per context was 35, including a fair number of tokens
that could have been cleaned in more careful preprocessing: URLs, truncated title words like “Hypno. . .”, meta-information like “cached”, etc.
The weight of a neighborhood vector on the dimension corresponding
to a word w was calculated as 1 + log fw where fw is the number of
times w occurred in the contexts. The similarity between two neighborhoods is defined as the cosine of their vectors. Multidimensional scaling
is an approximative technique for depicting the similarity relationships
Two Maps of Manhattan / 215
between objects in a high-dimensional space in lower dimensionality.
It is clear that Figure 2 conveys a type of information that is not symbolic. Similarity and dissimilarity are often used for semantic processing
in statistical natural language processing (Manning and Schütze, 1999).
The upscale residential areas Upper East Side (UpEaSi) and Upper
West Side (UpWeSi) are neighbors in the uppermost part of the figure even though they are not adjacent geographically. Conversely, the
geographical neighbors Upper East Side (UpEaSi) and East Harlem
(EaHa) are not adjacent on the MDS map, which is a reflection of their
disparity in a number of important properties. The quality of Figure
2 is somewhat hampered by the fact that it represents a distribution
of contexts as a single point, its mean or centroid. More accurate and
complex statistical inferences can be made when the distribution of
contexts as a whole is taken into account, e.g., by clustering the contexts (Schütze, 1998). Despite its shortcomings, hopefully Figure 2 is
a sufficiently clear contrast to Table 2 to make the point that these
two formal ways of approaching semantics have different strengths and
In addition to the two by now traditional symbolic and statistical
meaning representations, there is also “domain-specific” semantics here
– in this case space. Figure 1 is a simplified version of a conventional geographic map of Manhattan. We see that the 16 selected neighborhoods
cover Manhattan in a geographically very uneven way. We can infer
that starting in Chelsea (Che), it takes a long time to walk to Washington Heights (WaHe) and a much shorter time to walk to Greenwich
Village (GrVi). We also see which neighborhoods border the rivers and
on what side. All of this spatial information is directly and naturally
encoded in the map representation. We can of course also represent
it in a “non-map” way, but the natural representation is a map and
is arguably closer to cognitive reality than propositions or similarity
Unified and non-unified theories of meaning
There is no particularly deep insight in the three sketches of representations of Manhattan I have presented. The example is simply meant
as an illustration of the fact that each of them is good at representing
certain types of meaning and bad at representing others.
Symbolic representations are good at representing the type of information shown in Table 2. However, there is no satisfactory treatment
of uncertainty, similarity and probability in these frameworks.
Statistical representations are good at handling uncertainty, similar-
216 / Hinrich Schütze
ity and probability. However, to the extent that a probabilistic model
is a parameterized structure, a non-symbolic probabilistic approach is
impossible: all statistical models have a symbolic core. This is also true
for neural networks whose symbolic core is a structure consisting of neurons and their connections. We need symbolic categories and relations
between them for any type of semantics.
Finally, there is evidence that special domains like space, time and
color have given rise to specialized cognitive processing and representation capabilities. In the case of space, these capabilities include the
ability to remember paths and to create internal maps that let us plan
and act appropriately when we encounter a particular spatial layout in
a novel way; for example, we know that the door that is on our right
as we walk towards the dining car will be on our left on the way back.
These considerations suggest that it will be difficult to come up with
a grand unified theory that explains all semantic phenomena.
To summarize, we have explored the hypothesis that semantics is heterogeneous because human experience consists of heterogeneous modalities that are encoded by human languages in diverse and modalityspecific ways. For the example of Manhattan, we have looked at three
types of semantic knowledge people have about a geographic area:
propositional formulas, similarity judgments and the spatial representation of the area. This example was designed to convey the intuition
that different types of semantic knowledge are fundamentally different
and cannot be unified in one grand theory.
If we accept semantic heterogeneity, then two questions arise. First,
without a unifying formal model, how do the heterogeneous modalities
interface with each other? Increasingly complex NLP systems provide
one answer to this question. My impression is that in these systems
interaction is implemented in an ad-hoc and manually optimized way.
For example, the IBM question answering system Watson (Ferrucci
et al., 2010) has many heterogeneous modules that each contribute
information useful for solving a Jeopardy task. The final design of the
components that integrate this information into the Jeopardy answer
seems to have been the result of careful and time-intensive fine tuning.
Another answer as to how different modalities interact could come
from research on the brain. Many areas of the brain are specialized for
particular modalities: vision, sound, motion, etc. The neural activities
in these areas interface with each other for complex tasks like eye-hand
coordination and the control of whole-body actions like walking and
Two Maps of Manhattan / 217
reaching. Thus, a detailed model of neural processing in the brain may
also turn out to be a model of how different modules of a heterogeneous
theory of semantics interface with each other. However, our understanding of how the brain works will probably remain too rudimentary for a
while to shed light on this issue.
The second question that arises if we accept semantic heterogeneity
is how we can investigate the nature of semantic representations and
how language is mapped to them. Grand theories have the advantage of
being more easily falsified since a few phenomena that they do not cover
suffice for falsification. If semantics is heterogeneous, then we have to
develop distinct theories for different domains – which is much harder.
One way to approach the problem is psychological and (more recently) brain imaging research. Maybe methodological advances will
be so great that at some point all the answers will come from these
fields. I doubt it.
An alternative approach is linguistics. Language is a window into
the mind and linguists have always exploited the great diversity of human languages to make inferences about how we process and represent
When I look back at Annie’s work so far, I see this as one of the
threads in her research over the years. It certainly was an important
element in the space project that she and Stanley led and that I participated in. Her work on unaccusativity and quirky case (Zaenen et al.,
1985, Zaenen, 1993) is relevant here because it investigates the grammatical means languages use to express the participants of an event or
action. Her work on animacy (Zaenen et al., 2004) addresses the syntactic and morphological encoding of this important semantic category,
with implications for mental representation and processing as well as
for computational linguistics. The work at PARC on textual inference
she contributed to (Zaenen et al., 2005) makes a convincing case that
there are crisp logical phenomena that are not subject to probabilites
and relativization by context and world knowledge.
My hope is that we can continue this type of deep linguistic analysis
and will eventually be able to put forward formal models of semantics
– even if they are not part of a grand unified theory – that are both
linguistically and cognitively adequate and computationally powerful
in NLP applications.
I would like to thank the reviewers of this contribution for their questions and their constructive feedback.
218 / Hinrich Schütze
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Part IV
Annie Zaenen: Curriculum
Vitae and Bibliography
Curriculum Vitae and Bibliography
Annie Zaenen
Kandidatuur in Romance Philology, Rijksuniversiteit
Gent, Gent, Belgium ‘with great distinction’
Licentie in Philosophy, Rijksuniversiteit Gent
Gent, Belgium ‘with great distinction’
Ph.D. in Linguistics, Harvard University,
Cambridge, MA,
Dissertation title: Extraction Rules in Icelandic
Grants and Scholarships
N.F.W.O. doctoral dissertation grant,
National Foundation for Scientific Research, Belgium
Frank Boas Scholarship for Graduate Study,
Harvard University
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Center for Cognitive Science,
Faculty Summer Research Grant, Cornell University
1 The editors would like to thank Lauri Karttunen for providing the CV and
bibliography for this section.
From Quirky Case to Representing Space: Papers in Honor of Annie Zaenen.
Tracy Holloway King and Valeria de Paiva.
c 2013, CSLI Publications.
Copyright 223
224 / Annie Zaenen
Research and Managerial Experience
Sum. ’72
Research Associate, Centre de Recherches et
d’Information Socio-Politiques, Brussels
Research Assistant, Prof. H. Weiss (C.U.N.Y.), Zaire
Research Associate, Prof. J. Maling,
(N.S.F. Grant 78-16522 ) "Investigations in
Comparative Germanic Syntax", Brandeis University
Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Cognitive Science, M.I.T.
Research Affiliate LFG-project,
Center for Cognitive Science, M.I.T.
Staff member, Xerox-PARC, ISTL,
formerly: System Sciences Laboratory;
formerly: Intelligent Systems Laboratory
Member, Center for the Study of Language and
Area Manager, MLTT, RXRC-Grenoble
Scientific Programme Coordinator,
Participant European Projects,
Compass, Eagles, Trindi
Project leader ParGram, XRCE-Grenoble
Principal Scientist, NLTT, ISL, PARC
Acting Area Manager, NLTT, ISL, PARC
Teaching Positions
Lecturer in Ethics, Normaalschool, Brugge, Belgium
Substitute Teaching Assistant in Psycholinguistics,
Institut de Psychologie, Université de Genève Spring semester
Teaching Assistant in Philosophy, R.U.G., Belgium
Teaching Fellow in French, Harvard University,
intermediate and advanced level
Teaching Fellow for Introduction to Linguistics,
Harvard University, fall semester
Lecturer in Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania
Teaching Fellow for Introduction to
Transformational Syntax, Harvard University, fall semester
Lecturer in Linguistics, Harvard University
Curriculum Vitae and Bibliography / 225
Assistant Professor in Linguistics and French
Language and Linguistics, Cornell University
Consulting Professor in Linguistics,
Stanford University
Consulting Professor in Linguistics and
Symbolic Systems, Stanford University
Visiting Appointments
Summer School in Linguistics, Munich, Germany
LSA Summer School in Linguistics, Stanford University
University of Stuttgart, Germany
Summer School on the Lexicon, Pisa, Italy
ILTEC, Lisbon, Portugal Course in LFG
LSA Summer School, UCSC Santa Cruz, CA
Paris 7, France, Course in LFG
Summer School, Prague, Czechoslovakia, Lectures on LFG
Elsnet Summer School, Edinburgh, Scotland,
Variation and Universals in Syntax
University of Pennsylvania, Spring semester, Bantu Syntax
LSA Summer School, M.I.T.
ESSLI, Malaga, Spain
LSA Summer School, Stanford University
LSA Summer School, University of Colorado Boulder
Books and Edited Volumes
Extraction Rules in Icelandic, Annie Zaenen,
Garland Publishers
Edited volumes:
1990 Modern Icelandic Syntax, Joan Maling and Annie Zaenen,
editors, Academic Press. Volume 24 of Syntax and Semantics
1995 Formal Issues in Lexical-Functional Grammar,
Mary Dalrymple, Ronald M. Kaplan, John T. Maxwell III,
and Annie Zaenen, editors, CSLI Publications
1996 Survey of the State of the Art in Human Language
Technology, Ronald A. Cole, Editor in Chief, Joseph
Mariani, Hans Uszkoreit, Annie Zaenen and Victor Zue,
editors, Oxford University Press
2008 Architectures, Rules and Preferences:
Variations on Themes by Joan W. Bresnan,
Annie Zaenen, Jane Simpson, Tracy Holloway King, Jane
Grimshaw, Joan Maling, and Chris Manning, editors,
CSLI Publications
226 / Annie Zaenen
Zaenen, Annie. 1967. Is Das Kapital een wetenschappelijk werk? Studia
Philosophica Gandensia 5.
Zaenen, Annie and F. Vandamme. 1970. Review of Dirven et al.: Transformationele generatieve grammatica. Communication and Cognition 3.
Zaenen, Annie. 1973. The understanding of relative clauses by Dutchspeaking children (ages 4-9). Communication and Cognition 6(3/4).
Zaenen, Annie. 1974. Preface to the special issue on language learning. Communication and Cognition 7(2).
Zaenen, Annie and Jessie Pinkham. 1976. The discovery of another island.
Linguistic Inquiry 7(4):652–664.
Maling, Joan and Annie Zaenen. 1978. The nonuniversality of a surface filter.
Linguistic Inquiry 9(3):475–497.
Zaenen, Annie. 1979. Infinitival complements in Dutch. In CLS 15 , pages
378–389. Chicago, IL: Chicago Linguistic Society.
Maling, Joan and Annie Zaenen. 1981. Germanic word order and the format
of surface filters. In F. Heny, ed., Binding and Filtering, pages 255–278.
London, UK: Croom Held.
Zaenen, Annie. 1981. Characterizing binding domains. In Occasional Paper
17 . Cambridge, MA: Center for Cognitive Science, M.I.T.
Zaenen, Annie, Elisabet Engdahl, and Joan M. Maling. 1981. Resumptive
pronouns can be syntactically bound. Linguistic Inquiry 12(4):679–682.
Bresnan, Joan, Ronald M. Kaplan, Stanley Peters, and Annie Zaenen. 1982.
Cross-serial dependencies in Dutch. Linguistic Inquiry 13(4):613–635.
Zaenen, Annie and Joan M. Maling. 1982a. A phrase-structure account of
Scandinavian extraction phenomena. In P. Jacobson and G. Pullum, eds.,
The Nature of Syntactic Representation. Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel.
Zaenen, Annie and Joan M. Maling. 1982b. Resumptive pronouns in Swedish.
In E. Ejerhed and E. Engdahl, eds., Readings on Unbounded Dependencies in Scandinavian Languages, Acta Universitatis Umensis. Stockholm,
Sweden: Almqvist and Wiksell.
Clements, George N., James McCloskey, Joan Maling, and Annie Zaenen.
1983. String-vacuous rule application. Linguistic Inquiry 14(1):1–17.
Zaenen, Annie. 1983a. On syntactic binding. Linguistic Inquiry 14(3):469–
Zaenen, Annie. 1983b. Verb-first clauses in Icelandic, successive cyclic Whmovement and syntactic binding. In L. Tasmowski and D. Willems, eds.,
Current Research in Syntax , Acta Universitatis Umensis. Ghent, Belgium:
Communication and Cognition.
Curriculum Vitae and Bibliography / 227
Perlmutter, David M. and Annie Zaenen. 1984. The indefinite extraposition
construction in Dutch and German. In D. M. Perlmutter and C. G. Rosen,
eds., Studies in Relational Grammar , vol. 2, pages 171–216. Chicago, IL:
University of Chicago Press.
Zaenen, Annie. 1984. Double objects in Kikuyu? In Cornell Working Papers
in Linguistics, vol. 5, pages 199–206. Ithaca, NY: Department of Modern
Languages and Linguistics, Cornell University.
Zaenen, Annie and Lauri Karttunen. 1984. Morphological non-distinctiveness
and coordination. In ESCOL, vol. 1, pages 309–320. Columbus, OH: Department of Linguistics, Ohio State University.
Zaenen, Annie, Höskuldur Thráinsson, and Joan Maling. 1984. Passive and
oblique case. In Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax . Trondheim,
Norway: Linguistics Department, University of Trondheim.
Maling, Joan and Annie Zaenen. 1985. Preposition stranding and oblique
case. In Cornell Working Papers in Linguistics, pages 149–161. Ithaca,
NY: Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, Cornell University.
Kaplan, Ronald M. and Annie Zaenen. 1988. Functional uncertainty and
functional precedence in Continental West Germanic. In H. Trost,
ed., Österreichische Artifical Intelligence-Tagung, vol. 176 of InformatikFachberichte, pages 114–123. Berlin, Germany: Springer Verlag.
Kaplan, Ronald M., Klaus Netter, Jürgen Wedekind, and Annie Zaenen.
1989. Translation by structural correspondences. In EACL, pages 271–
Kaplan, Ronald M. and Annie Zaenen. 1989. Long-distance dependencies, constituent structure, and functional uncertainty. In M. Baltin and
A. Kroch, eds., Alternative Conceptions of Phrase Structure, pages 17–42.
Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.
Dalrymple, Mary, John Maxwell III, and Annie Zaenen. 1990. Modeling
syntactic constraints on anaphoric binding. In Coling’90 , pages 72–76.
Kaplan, Ronald M. and Annie Zaenen. 1990. Functional precedence and
constituent structure. In C. Huang and K. Chen, eds., ROCLING II ,
pages 19–40. Taipei, Taiwan: Academia Sinica.
Zaenen, Annie and Joan Maling. 1990. Unaccusative, passive and quirky
case. In J. Maling and A. Zaenen, eds., Modern Icelandic Syntax , vol. 24
of Syntax and Semantics, pages 171–216. New York, NY: Academic Press.
Zaenen, Annie, Joan Maling, and Höskuldur Thráinsson. 1990. Case and
grammatical functions: The Icelandic passive. In J. Maling and A. Zaenen,
eds., Modern Icelandic Syntax , vol. 24 of Syntax and Semantics, pages 95–
136. New York, NY: Academic Press.
Bever, Thomas G., Steven Jandreau, Rebecca Burwell, Ron Kaplan, and Annie Zaenen. 1991. Spacing printed text to isolate major phrases improves
readability. Visible Language 25(1):74–87.
Bresnan, Joan and Annie Zaenen. 1991. Deep unaccusativity in LFG. In
K. Dziwirek, P. Farrell, and E. M. Bikandi, eds., Grammatical Relations:
228 / Annie Zaenen
A Cross-theoretical Perspective, pages 45–57. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.
Dalrymple, Mary and Annie Zaenen. 1991. Modeling anaphoric superiority.
In International Conference on Current Issues in Computational Linguistics, pages 235–247. Penang, Malaysia.
Wescoat, Michael T. and Annie Zaenen. 1991. Lexical Functional Grammar.
In F. G. Droste and J. E. Joseph, eds., Linguistic Theory and Grammatical Description: Nine Current Approaches, vol. 75 of Current Issues in
Linguistic Theory, pages 103–136. Amsterdam, Holland: John Benjamins
Publishing Company.
Karttunen, Lauri, Ronald M. Kaplan, and Annie Zaenen. 1992. Two-level
morphology with composition. In Coling’92 , pages 387–396. Nantes,
Nunberg, Geoffrey and Annie Zaenen. 1992. Systematic polysemy in lexicology and lexicography. In Euralex II , pages 387–396. Tampere, Finland.
Goldberg, Adele E. and Annie Zaenen. 1993. Review of Grimshaw, Argument
Structure. Language 69(4):807–816.
Jackendoff, Ray, Joan Maling, and Annie Zaenen. 1993. Home is subject to
principle A. Linguistic Inquiry 24(1):173–177.
Zaenen, Annie. 1993. Unaccusatives in Dutch and the syntax-semantics interface. In J. Pustejovsky, ed., Semantics and the Lexicon, pages 129–161.
Dordrecht, Holland: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Zaenen, Annie. 1994. Unaccusativity in Dutch: integrating syntax and lexical
semantics. In J. Pustejovsky, ed., Semantics and the Lexicon, vol. 49 of
Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy, pages 129–162. Dordrecht, Holland:
Zaenen, Annie and Elisabet Engdahl. 1994. Descriptive and theoretical syntax in the lexicon. In B. T. S. Atkins and A. Zampolli, eds., Computational
Approaches to the Lexicon, pages 181–212. Oxford, UK: Oxford University
Zaenen, Annie and Geoff Nunberg. 1994. Communication technology, linguistic technology and the multilingual individual. In T. Andernach, M. Moll,
and A. Nijholt, eds., Proceedings of the Fifth CLIN Meeting. Parlevink
Research Group, Centre for Telematics and Information Technology of the
University of Twente, Enschede, Holland.
Bauer, Daniel, Frédérique Segond, and Annie Zaenen. 1995. Locolex: the
translation rolls of your tongue. In ACH-ACCL, pages 6–8. Santa Barbara,
Zaenen, Annie and Ronald M. Kaplan. 1995. Formal devices for linguistic
generalizations: West Germanic word order in LFG. In M. Dalrymple,
R. M. Kaplan, J. T. M. III, and A. Zaenen, eds., Formal Issues in Lexical
Functional Grammar , pages 215–239. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.
Segond, Frédérique and Annie Zaenen. 1996. Cherche linguiste informaticien
désespérément. Traitement Automatique des Langues 37(1):7–16.
Curriculum Vitae and Bibliography / 229
Zaenen, Annie. 1996. Contrastive dislocation in Dutch and Icelandic. In
E. Anagnostopoulou, H. V. Riemsdijk, and F. Zwarts, eds., Materials on
Left Dislocation, pages 119–148. Amsterdam, Holland: John Benjamins
Publishing Company.
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déscription lexicale. Langue française 113:12–23.
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information states. In 1st SIGdial Workshop on Discourse and Dialogue,
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2000. Coreference resolution evaluation based on descriptive specificity.
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Zaenen, Stephanie Rayot, and Georges Antoniadis. 2000. Annotating a
large corpus with anaphoric links. In DAARC2000 , pages 28–38. Lancaster, UK.
Larsson, Staffan, Agnes Sandor, David Traum, and Annie Zaenen. 2001. Text
and dialogue. In The TRINDI Book , pages 261–296. Gothenburg, Sweden:
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Frank, Anette and Annie Zaenen. 2002. Tense in LFG: syntax and morphology. In H. Kamp and U. Reyle, eds., How We Say When it Happens:
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approaches, edited by Yael Ravin and Claudia Leacock (Oxford University
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German and Dutch, pages 127–150. Amsterdam, Holland: John Benjamins
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condensation. In M. Butt and T. King, eds., Proceedings of the LFG’04
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Zaenen, Annie, Jean Carletta, Gregory Garretson, Joan Bresnan, Andrew
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Question Answering, pages 31–36. Pittsburg,PA: AAAI.
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of Language and Linguistics, 2nd Edition, pages 127–150. Cambridge, UK:
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inference: Can it be defined or circumscribed? In Proceedings of the ACL
Workshop on Empirical Modeling of Semantic Equivalence and Entailment, pages 31–36. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Association for Computational
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LFG. In M. Butt and T. H. King, eds., Lexical Semantics in LFG. Palo
Alto, CA: CSLI Publications.
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Zaenen, Annie, Daniel Bobrow, and Cleo Condoravdi. 2008. The encoding
of lexical implications in VerbNet predicates of change of locations. In
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reading: Normalizing complex linguistic structures onto a Knowledge Representation. In S. Nirenburg and T. Oates, eds., Spring Symposium: Learning by Reading and Learning to Read. AAAI, Palo Alto.
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