A MODULAR APPROACH TO "PASSIVES" Osvaldo A. Jaeggli University of Southern California

A MODULAR APPROACH TO "PASSIVES" Osvaldo A. Jaeggli University of Southern California
Osvaldo A. Jaeggli
University of Southern California
Within the tradition of generative grammar the properties of the
construction commonly referred to as "the passive construction" have
been accounted for by a single rule which typically preposes the direct
object of an active -like structure, positions the subject of such a
structure in an agentive prepositional phrase, and inserts the auxiliary
and morphological trappings found in passive sentences. Within the
framework of the Standard Theory, such a rule can be stated approximately
as in (i): (cf. Chomsky(1957)).
X - NP1 - AUX - V - NP2 - Y
X - NP2 - AUX +be -en - V - by +NP1 - Y
We can call this approach to passive the "single -rule approach." More
recently, an alternative approach has been suggested, where the properties
of passive constructions do not follow from a rule as in (1), but rather
are derived from the articulation of several subtheories within a tightly
structured theory of grammar, in particular the theory of Abstract Case
and the theory of A- roles.
See Chomsky (1981) and references cited there.
We will call this alternative approach, which will be explicated in much
detail below (see section 2), the "modular approach ". The modular approach
is succintly characterized in Farmer (1980:128) as follows:
The task of accounting for the phenomena of, say, "passive,"
is viewed as a process of properly apportioning to the levels
, of the grammar the various aspects of the passive [construction].
This view is incompatible with a theory that attributes to a
single rule all the effects of [this construction]... Instead,
we will construct a system whose subparts operate independently
of each other.
We will show in this paper that there is a class of constructions in
Romance languages which necessitate a modular approach to passive. Without such an approach, important generalizations are missed, and it is
impossible to give a truly explanatory analysis of the phenomena we are
about to investigate. The analysis will assume the general theoretical
framework of the Extended Standard Theory, taking into consideration
recent developments such as the theory of Abstract Case and the theory
of 9 -roles as put forth in Chomsky (1980a, 1981) and references cited
Modern Romance languages, with the exception of Rumanian, have a class
of causative + infinitive constructions in which the subject of the infinitival surfaces as an agentive prepositional phrase. French, Spanish, and
Italian examples are given in (2):
Le professeur a fait lire ce livre par tous les étudiants.)
'The professor had this book read by all the students.'
- 41 -
El profesor hizo leer ese libro por todos los estudiantes.
'The professor had that book read by all the students.'
Il professore ha fatto leggere quel libbro da tutti gli studenti.
'The professor had that book read by all the students.'
This construction, which we will call 'the agentive causative,'2 has been
analyzed in much detail in Kayne (1975) for French, Aíssen (1974) and
Strozer (1976) for Spanish, and Radford (1977) for Italian. One of the
many interesting features of agentive causatives is that they can be shown
to be similar to passives in a number of significant ways. This similarity
is not shared by infinitivals embedded under causatives which do not contain an agentive PP, i.e., the so- called 'a construction'.
Kayne (1975:
234 -242) presents several arguments for French which clearly show that
there is a systematic similarity between passives and agentive causatives.
Strozer (1976:406 -412) notes that Kayne's arguments apply equally well to
(Radford (1978) mentions that Cinque (1975) argues the same
point for Italian.)
In this section we will present Kayne's arguments
for French and Strozer's extensions to Spanish in order to assess the
nature of this similarity.3
The first argument concerns the behavior of idiomatic expressions.4
It is well -known that certain idiomatic expressions retain their idiomaticity
under the deforming influence of rules like passive, and others don't. The
English expressions kick the bucket and take advantage of contrast in this
respect, as shown below:
Ron kicked the bucket.
*The bucket was kicked by Ron.
The rich took advantage of the poor once again.
Advantage was taken of the poor by the rich once again.
French and Spanish also exhibit ' passivizable' and 'non -passivizable' idioms.
Consider the following examples:
Sa famille a cassé la croúte.
lit.:His family has broken the crust
'His family had a snack.'
*La croúte a été cassée par sa famille.
The crust has been broken by his family
Son fils te pretera assistance.
'His son will help you.'
Assistance te sera pretee par son fils.
'Assistance will be given to you by his son.'
Pedro metió la pata.
lit.: Pedro stuck the foot
'Pedro stuck his foot in his mouth."
b. *La pata fue metida por Pedro.
The foot was stuck by Pedro
La Cruz Roja les prestó asistencia.
'The Red Cross helped them.'
Asistencia les fue prestada por la Cruz Roja.
'Assistance was given to them by the Red Cross.'
Exactly the same contrast appears in agentive causatives. Those idiomatic
expressions which cannot be passivized, as in (5) and (7), cannot occur in
agentive causatives; while those which can be passivized, as in (6) and (8),
can also occur in agentive causatives.
*I1 a fait casser la croate par sa famille.
has made to -break the crust by his family
*Juan hizo meter la pata por Pedro.
Juan made to -stick the foot by Pedro
(10) a.
Il te fera prgter assistance par son fils.
'He will make his son help you.'
El gobierno les hizo prestar asistencia por la Cruz Roja.
'The government had the Red Cross help them.'
Second, there is a restriction on passivization if the object is an
'inalienable possession,' i.e., if it is a part of the body understood as
belonging inalienably to the subject. Cf:
(11) a.
Jean lèvera la main.
'Jean will raise his hand.'
*La main sera levée par Jean.5
The hand will -be raised by Jean
(12) a.
Juan levantó la mano.
'Juan raised his hand.'
*La mano fue levantada por Juan.
The hand was raised by Juan
A similar distribution holds for overt possessives, as originally pointed
out to Kayne by J. C. Milner:
(13) a.
Jean. apprendra son. rôle.
'Jean will learn his role.'
*Sons rôle sera appris par Jean..
His role will -be learned by Jean
(14) a.
Juan. aprenderá su. papel.
'Juan will -learn his role.'
*Su. papel sera aprendido por Juan..
His role will -be learned by Juan
The same restrictions occur in agentive causatives.
(15) a.
*Elle a fait lever la main par Jean.
She has made to -raise the hand by Jean
*Tu feras apprendre son rôle par Jean.
You will -make to -learn his role by Jean
(16) a.
*Maria hizo levantar la mano por Pedro.
Maria made to -raise the hand by Pedro
*Tu haras aprender su papel por Juan.
You will -make to -learn his role by Juan
Third, sentences which contain reflexive clitics cannot be passivized.
(17) a.
Jean s'achétera ce jouet.
"Jean will buy himself that toy.'
*Ce jouet se sera acheté par Jean.
That toy himself will -be bought by Jean
(18) a.
Juan se comprará ese juguete.
'Juan will buy himself that toy.'
*Ese juguete se será comprado por Juan.
That toy himself will -be bought by Juan
The same restriction is operative in agentive causatives. Cf.:
(19) a.
*Nous ferons s'acheter ce jouet par Jean.
We will -make himself -to -buy that toy by Jean
*Nosotros haremos comprarse ese juguete por Juan.
We will -make to- buy -himself that toy by Juan
Fourth, certain superficial objects which are in some sense locative
NPs may not undergo passivization or be embedded in agentive causatives.
(20) a.
Jean quittera ma maison demain
'Jean will leave my house tomorrow.'
*Ma maison sera quittée demain par Jean.
My house will -be left tomorrow by Jean
(21) a.
Juan dejará mi casa marrana.
'Juan will leave my house tomorrow.'
*Mi casa será dejada marrana por Juan.
My house will -be left tomorrow by Juan
(22) a.
*Je ferai quitter ma maison par Jean demain.
I will -make to -leave my house by Jean tomorrow
*Yo haré dejar mi casa mañana por Juan.
* will make to -leave my house tomorrow by Juan
Finally, verbs which are compatible with passives in de (in French)
can occur in a faire...de construction similar to the agentive causatives
discussed above.
_(23) Marie est haie de tout
le monde.
'Mary is hated by everybody.'
(24) Marie est arrivée á se faire hair de tout
le monde.6
'Marie managed to get herself hated by everybody.'
It should be noted that the ungrammatical sentences in (9), (15),
(16), (19), and (22) become grammatical if the preposition par /por is
In other words, only agentive causatives (i.e.
substituted with a /a.
the faire...par construction) share these properties with passives.
Causatives with á/a behave in a completely different way. We have
omitted examples of the a-construction for brevity's sake. The interested reader is invited to consider such cases which are exemplified
in Kayne (1975:234 -239) and Strozer (1976:406 -412).7
The data presented above strongly suggests that there is a systematic
An adequate analysis
relation between agentive causatives and passives.
In connection to
should express this relation in its relevant aspects.
this, Kayne (1975:242) writes:
The significant relationship between passives and the faire...par
construction can be made precise only in the context of an analysis
specifying the derivation of the latter. The most straightforward
proposal would be to derive the faire...par construction through the
embedding under faire of a sentence which has undergone the passive
In this way (111) [ =Marie fera boire cette eau par
cette eau être bu par
son chien] would be derived from Marie fera
son chien] ... (111) could be derived from such an intermediate
structure ... if the auxiliary être were deleted.
However, he ultimately concludes that "despite its initial plausibility, such
an analysis would have serious defects ", Kayne (1975:243). What leads him to
this conclusion? The central reason why such an analysis would have serious
defects concerns the rule deleting the passive auxiliary être. This rule is
a necessary component of such an analysis, since the intermediate structure
mentioned above, e.g., Marie fera [cette eau âtre bu par son chien], is
totally ungrammatical. Kayne (1975:243 -244) argues very convincingly that
such a rule "is not well motivated and is subject to reservations on general
grounds." We will not repeat his arguments here. We accept his conclusion
as valid.
Notice however, that such a rule is needed only under the "single -rule
Under such an approach, every passive sentence contains
approach" to passive.
the passive auxiliary (Eng. be -en, Fr. être -é, Sp. ser -do, etc.), as can
clearly be seen by looking at rule (1)8 Thus, a "single -rule approach" to
passive fails to relate agentive causatives to passives in "the most straightforward way."
On the other hand, if we assume a theory of passive which does not require
that every passive sentence contain a passive auxiliary, but rather derives
those cases in which an auxiliary does show up from independent considerations,
we would then have a way of getting around the problem posed by the undesirable
deletion rule mentioned above. In fact, within such a theory there would be
The correct theory would explain why the
no need for such a deletion rule.
passive auxiliary is not permitted in those contexts. We argue below that a
modular approach to passives provides just such a theory. In order to do so,
however, we must look at that approach in greater detail, a task to which we
turn in the next section.
As mentioned in section 0, within a modular approach to passives the
properties of such constructions do not follow from a single rule, as in (1),
but rather are derived from the articulation of several subtheories of a
The subtheories most centrally intightly structured theory of grammar.
volved in such an account are the theory of Abstract Case and the theory
In this section we will explicate the functioning of these
of 9- roles.
subtheories as they relate to the passive construction. An interesting
property of modular accounts which is well -worth mentioning is that the
theoretical principles which are used typically enter into explanatory
accounts of a wide -range of data. That is, they are completely independently motivated; they are not 'construction- specific'. This consideration
alone makes them preferable to construction- specific accounts such as the
"single -rule approach" to passives. Needless to say, however, to present
the wide range of facts which independently motivates such theories would
fall way beyond the scope of this paper. Therefore, we will usually omit
such presentation.
(The reader is referred to Chomsky (1981) for a detailed
discussion of these theories.)
Instead, we will concentrate on the relevance
of these principles to the passive construction. And even here we will limit
our attention only to what is essential to our concerns, leaving much else
(For a detailed discussion of passive under a modular approach, see
Chomsky (1981), chapter 2, section 7.) We will proceed as follows: we will
first present the core principles of the theory of Abstract Case and the
theory of 9- roles, and then we will show how such principles account for
simple (tensed) passive constructions. What will emerge is a theory which
analyzes the different components found in passive constructions, e.g.,
NP- Preposing, NP- Postposing, and the presence of the passive auxiliary, as
being independent from each other.
This is the theory promised in the last
paragraph of the preceding section.
In section 3 we will apply these methods
of analysis to the problem of agentive causatives.
The theory of Abstract Case regulates the appearance /non- appearance of
lexical NPs in syntactic structures.
Roughly speaking we can say that it
specifies those structural configurations in which a lexically filled NP
can occur. This is achieved through the device of Case assignment. We
suppose, following Chomsky (1980a, 1981), that the fundamental properties
of Case assignment are as in (25):
(25) a.
NP is nominative if governed by INFL.9
NP is objective if governed by V.
NP is oblique if governed by P.
NP is inherently Case - marked as determined by lexical properties
of its [ -N] governor.
Furthermore, let us suppose that there is a principle which embodies the requirement that every lexical NP be Case marked. This can be accomplished with
a filter, as in (26):
(26) *NP, where NP has a phonetic matrix but no Case
(25) and (26) entail directly that lexical NPs can appear in the following
positions: 1) the subject of a tensed sentence, 2) the direct object of a
verb, 3) the object of a preposition, and 4) other objects of certain verbs
which may be inherently Case - marked.
Notice that the position subject -of an
infinitive is conspicuously absent from this list. In fact, infinitival
structures rarely have lexically filled subjects.10 When they do, some
special mechanism will have to be invoked.
This brief presentation of the
theory of Abstract Case will suffice for the moment. We will return later
to certain assumptions concerning this theory which are, in a sense, specific
to passive constructions.
The theory of 9-roles is concerned with traditional notions such as
'agent -of action,' 'goal -of- action,' 'experiencer,' 'theme,' etc. which
enter into many different theories of semantic description.
Chomsky (1981) we will assume that LE must be so designed that expressions
such as John, the man in John saw the man are assigned thematic (or semantic)
roles; that is, they are assigned the status of terms in a thematic relation.
Such expressions are called 'arguments,' as opposed to idiom chunks, expletive (or pleonastic, non -pronominal) it, or existential there, elements which
assume no O-role. We will refer to a position in LF to which a 9 -role is
assigned as a "9- position."
A reasonable criterion of adequacy for LF so- conceived is (27):
(27) The 0-Criterion
Each argument bears one and only one 9 -role, and each
0-role is assigned to one and only one argument.
The 9- Criterion requires that there be a one -to -one correlation between arguments and 9- roles. We will see that it has important consequences for NP-
movement and other related matters. Although much more can be said about
the theory of 9- roles, this much will suffice for our purposes.11
We can now sketch a modular approach to passive in detail. Before we
consider how the theories of Abstract Case and 9 -roles enter into such an
approach, it should be mentioned that the 'modularization' of passive was
begun as early as Chomsky (1965). In fact, the first steps away from a rule
as in (1) above were taken in Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, where it is
argued that the passive rule should be decomposed into two parts: 1) NPPostposing, which vacates the subject position, and 2) NP- Preposing, which
moved the direct object into the empty subject position, after NP- Postposing.
We will assume that such a decomposition is essentially correct, but we will
make the further assumption that NP- Postposing does not really exist at all.
Rather, we assume, following Bresnan (1972), Hornstein (1975), Emonds (1976),
and Dresher & Hornstein (1979), that agentive phrases are generated directly
in their position by the base rules of the grammar. Consider in connection
with this issue a sentence as in (28), mentioned in Dresher & Hornstein (1979):
(28) John's portrait of Mary by Warhol.
In (28), Warhol could not have been postposed from the NP subject position
(i.e., the Spec -N position), since that position is filled with John's.
Furthermore, John's could not have been preposed from some other position
because all sources are already filled up. Such sentences demonstrate
that at least in some cases NPs must be generated directly in w phrases.
And if this is true in some cases, there is little motivation for positing
another source.
Notice that in Romance languages agentive phrases in nominals are
always generated by the base.
They could never be filled -in by NP- movement
from determiner position, since NPs cannot appear in the determiner position
of nominals. That is, a structure such as Warhol's portrait of Mary, which
might serve as the source for the portrait of Mary by Warhol in English, is
never allowed in Romance languages. Cf.:
(29) a.
*Juan retrato de Maria.
Juan portrait of Maria
*Jean portrait de Marie.
Jean portrait of Maria
*Gianni ritratto di Maria.
Gianni portrait of Maria
In these cases, the rule of NP- Postposing would have to be made absolutely
obligatory, and the only reason for positing it would be to maintain that
phrases are always transformationally derived. The base -generation
alternative seems clearly preferrable. We conclude, then, that there is
phrases. Rather, agentive phrases
no rule of NP- Postposing to create
are generated independently by the base.12
Passive, then, consists of two operations: 1) NP- Preposing, and 2)
These two operations must be considinsertion of the passive auxiliary.
Note that the operation we have been
ered independent from each other.
calling NP- Preposing occurs equally well, with all its essential properties, in constructions which do not contain passive auxiliaries, namely
Raising constructions, as in (30):
(30) a.
John seems [t to have left early]
Juan parece [t haber salido temprano]
Jean semble [t être parti tôt]
Gianni sembra [t essere partito presto]
(t marks the D- structure position of John /Juan /Jean /Gianni.)
in some Romance languages it is possible to show that the insertion of the
passive auxiliary does not require NP- Preposing. Consider the following
Spanish and Italian examples:
(31) a.
Fue declarada la independencia por los revolucionarios.
'Independence was declared by the revolutionaries.'
Fu arrestato Gianni.
'Gianni was arrested.'
Italian is particularly telling in these cases. In Italian, ne- cliticization is possible only from object position, but not from pre -verbal subject
position nor from the post - verbal position that results from adjunction of
an inverted subject. Cf. Burzio (1981). Burzio observes the ne- cliticization is possible from a post -verbal passive subject, as in (32):
(32) a.
Ne erano riconosciuti molti.
'Many of them were recognized.'
Ne sono limitati troppi.
'Too many of them were limited.'
Thus, we cannot claim that passives with post -verbal subjects, as in (31),
are the result of double movement: NP- Preposing + subject inversion.
least, if inversion is always adjunction, as we assume.) We are led to
conclude, rather, that no movement at all occured in (31). Thus, passive
morphology does not require preposing.
Williams (1979) observes the same phenomenon in English. He points
out that in some cases passive morphology appears but there is not evidence
of movement.
(33) It was believed /held /reasoned that the conclusion was false.
He observes that some of these verbs do not allow the "extraposed" S to
appear in pre -verbal position (e.g. *That the conclusion was false was
Thus, we cannot assume that in general there is preposing followed
by extraposition in such cases.
To summarize, we conclude that the phenomena typically associated with
passive constructions, such as Preposing, NP- Postposing, and the presence
of the passive auxiliary and passive morphology, should not be stipulated
as formally dependent on each other.
Rather, they are to be thought of
as independent operations which need not co- occur. The obvious question
that arises out of this conclusion is the following: why is it that these
independent operations do (and must). co -occur in certain structures? That
is, why are the following sentences ungrammatical?
(34) a.
*NP was hit John by Mary.
*John hit Mary by Peter.13
(34a) shows that in some cases NP- Preposing is obligatory in the sense that
if it does not apply the sentence is ungrammatical. (Contrast (34a) with
(33), to which we return below.) .(34b) shows that in some cases an agentive
a phrase is not allowed to appear in a sentence. What accounts for these
requirements? As we shall see, the theories of Abstract Case and 9 -roles
provide elegant answers to this question.
In order to provide these answers, we must make explicit two crucial
assumptions concerning Abstract Case and 9 -roles in structures of the type
shown in (34). They are:
(35) In a "passive" construction:
[NP,S] does not receive a 9 -role.
[NP,VP] does not receive objective Case.
In other words, in a passive sentence, the [NP,S] position is non -thematic,
and the direct object position is left with no Case. These assumptions are
quite natural, given that 1) passive participles are not [ -N] elements, but
rather [ +V] elements, and only [ -N] elements (i.e. true verbs and prepositions) are capable of assigning Case; and 2) the subject of a passive
sentence is the subject of a VP headed by the verb be, a verb which does
These assumptions, together with
not assign a 9 -role to [NP,S] position.
the principles of the theory of Case and the 9- Criterion, suffice to
characterize the structures in (34) as ill- formed. Let's consider them
one -by -one.
(34a) is marked ungrammatical because it contains a lexical NP, John,
The passive participle does not assign Case
which does not receive Case.
to [NP,VP] position. Thus, the Case filter (26) rules this sentence out.
Notice that if 'direct object' position is occupied by something other than
an NP in a structure as in (34a), the Case filter will not rule the sentence
out, since only NPs are required to have Case. This is what accounts for
the grammaticality of Williams' example, sentence (33).
This problem does not arise in (34b). This sentence does not contain
a passive participle. Here the tensed verb can assign Case to [NP,VP]
Something else must obviously be wrong with this sentence.
Consideration of the A- structure of this sentence immediately reveals
what the problem is. We can assume that John and Mary are both assigned
appropriate e- roles -- perhaps 'agent' and 'theme,' respectively --as they
are in the grammatical sentence John hit Mary. What about Peter? To
answer this question we must consider what A -role is assigned by the
preposition IT. As noted in footnote 13, this preposition is semantiIt can have a
cally (at least) two -ways ambiguous -- perhaps more.
locative sense, under which (34b) is perfectly grammatical, with the
meaning of (roughly) "John hit Mary while he /she was next to Peter."
Assume then that by can assign the 9-role 'locative' to Peter.
sentence will then meet the 9-Criterion, and all else being in order,
(34b) is ungrammatical only if we
it will be pronounced grammatical.
interpret the by-phrase in an agentive sense. That interpretation
assigns the 9-role 'agent' to Peter. But in that
arises only when
case, the 9-Criterion will rule the sentence out, since there will be
a 9-role, namely 'agent,' which will be assigned to more than one
argument, namely to both John and Peter. This is what rules out (34b).14
We conclude, then, that the interaction of the theory of Abstract
Case and the theory of 9-roles explains why two independent processes,
i.e., 1) the presence of passive morphology, and 2) "obligatory" NPPreposing, must co -occur in certain structures.
To conclude this section I would like to return briefly to the
Romance examples given in (31). In these sentences, NP- Preposing has
not applied. If Case assignment in Spanish and Italian were identical
to Case assignment in English, we would be at a loss to explain why these
sentences are grammatical while (34a) is ungrammatical. That is, why
doesn't the Case filter also rule out (31)? The answer involves no
mystery. It is well -known that Spanish and Italian differ from English
in that they can assign nominative Case to a post - verbal NP in certain
structures, i.e., in tensed sentences. See Chomsky (1981), Burzio (1981)
and Jaeggli (1981) for relevant discussion. This is what allows the
sentences in (31) to escape the implacable effects of the Case filter.
It should be noted that this is a very positive feature of modular
It is necessary to determine, independently of
analyses of passive.
passive constructions, that post - verbal NPs in tensed sentences can
get nominative Case in Spanish and Italian. Within a modular theory
of passive, this is all that needs to be said. The results for this
construction follow immediately, with no additional statements.
This completes our presentation of a modular analysis of passive.
Needless to say, much has been left rather vague. We do not claim that
this section constitutes a complete presentation of this topic. Rather,
our intention is simply to provide an introduction to the principles which
allow us to give an account of agentive causatives, and to exemplify the
operation of these principles if only in a very sketchy manner. In the
next section, we return to the problem of the analysis of agentive causatives.
One of the central properties of agentive causatives, mentioned towards
the end of the first section, is that the passive auxiliary and passive
morphology are not allowed to occur. Consider the following ungrammatical
*Marie fera être bu cette eau par son chien.
(36) a.
Marie will -make to -be drunk that water by her dog
*Maria hará ser tomada esa agua por su perro.
Marie will -make to -be drunk that water by her dog
(Identical facts hold in Italian).
It is not hard to show that these facts follow directly from the theory
of Case.
Consider the structure associated with the sentences in (36):
(37) NP
Vc [BE PassP NP2 BY NP3]
(Vc stands for the causative verb faire /hacer; BE = Fr. être, Sp. ser; BY =
Fr- par /Sp. por; and the symbol PassP means 'passive participle'.) All NPs
in (37) are phonologically filled.
Thus, by the theory of Case, they. all
require Case. But NP2 does not get assigned Case, since passive participles
do not assign structural Case. The Case filter then rules the sentences in
(36) ungrammatical. In other words, these sentences are ungrammatical for
the same reason that (34a) is ungrammatical in English. This provides a
simple explanation for why passive morphology is not allowed in these contexts.
Notice that NP- Preposing cannot be invoked to save these structures,
as it is in tensed passives.
Consider the result of applying NP- Preposing
in these cases:
(38) NP
Vc [NP2 BE PassP t2 BY NP3]
In this structure, NP2 still has no way of getting Case. The principles
given in (25) do not assign Case to the subject of an infinitive from
within the infinitival clause. And Vc does not assign Case across a
clause boundary. This last observatión is supported by the ungrammatical
status of the following sentences:
(39) a.
*Jean a fait Marie manger la pomme.
Jean had made Marie to -eat the apple
*Juan hizo Maria comer la manzana.
Juan has -made Maria to -eat the apple
(This is a well -known fact about the causative verbs discussed here.) Our
theory predicts, then, that sentences with the structure given in (38) should
also be ill- formed.
And this prediction is borne out by the data. Cf.:
(40) a.
*Marie fera cette eau être bu par son chien.
Marie will -make that water to -be drunk by her dog
*Maria hard esta agua ser tomada por su perro.
Maria will -make that water to -be drunk by her dog
Thus, the theory of Abstract Case provides a uniform account of the ungrammaticalities in (38) -(40). The reader can verify for himself that such a
uniform account is not readily available within non - modular theories.
This analysis makes another interesting prediction. It predicts that
if there were some way for an NP to be assigned Case in the following
(41) ...Vc [NP Vinf...] ...
then passive morphology + NP- Preposing should give a grammatical output.
That is, in such cases, sentences like the ones in (40) should be grammatical. Furthermore, a sentence like those in (39) should also be
grammatical. This is so because this analysis establishes an explicit
correlation between the ungrammaticalities of these sentences. This
prediction finds startling confirmation when we consider the situation
which obtains in Portuguese. Consider the following Portuguese sentence:
(42) Una rajada de vento fiz o vaso cair da prateleira.
A gust of wind made the vase to -fall from +the shelf
'A gust of wind made the vase fall from the shelf.'
This sentence shows that Portuguese allows structures as in (41) above,
i.e., the NP in (41) can get Case in Portuguese.15 With no further
stipulations, we predict that passive morphology should be possible
under causatives in Portuguese. And indeed it is. Cf.:
(43) Fiz o livro ser lido por Carlos.16
I -made the book to -be read by Carlos
'I had the book read by Carlos.'
This is very strong confirmation for our analysis which claims that the
theory of Abstract Case plays a crucial role in determining in which
contexts passive morphology will be allowed. Without the unifying
generalization provided by such a theory, the data examined above would
remain at best puzzling, if not totally mysterious.
Our account extends naturally to cover a different set of facts
also noticed in Kayne (1975:254 -255).
Kayne observes that embedding
restrictions under faire are not limited to passive constructions. Another
type of infinitival is also not allowed in such contexts. Consider the
following sentences (the French examples are from Kayne (1975:254), the
Spanish ones are my own):
(44) a.
*Son expression peinée fait sembler Jean souffrir.
His expression pained makes to -seem Jean to- suffer
*Son expression peinée fait paraître Jean être en colare.
His expression pained makes to -seem Jean to -be in anger
(45) a.
*Su expresión triste hace parecer Juan sufrir.
His expression sad makes to -seem Juan to- suffer
*La falta de compania hace soler Juan tomar.
The lack of company makes to -be -wont Juan to -drink
Here what cannot be embedded under the causative verb are sentences which
contain Raising verbs.
Sembler, paraître, parecer, and soler are all
subject -to- subject raising verbs. I will assume that the D- structure of a
sentence containing subject to subject raising verbs is approximately
as in (46) :
(46) [NPe]
[ VR [ NP2 Vinf..']]' where VR is the raising verb
NP- Preposing will apply to (46) to yield approximately the following
(47) NP2
[ VR [ t2 Vinf'..]]
This is how sentences such as Jean semble souffrir /Juan parece sufrir
'John seems to suffer' are generated. Note that the NP2 position in (46)
is not a Case position. Cf.:
(48) a.
*I1 semble Jean souffrir.
it seems Jean to- suffer
*Parece Juan sufrir.
it -seems Juan sufrir
Unless NP- Preposing applies to a structure as in (46), the Case filter will
rule it out, accounting for the ungrammaticality of (48).
Consider next the structure of the sentences in (44) and (45).
(49) NP1 Vc E VR [NP2
Once again, NP2 is not
within its own clause,
Case from the VR which
as was shown in (48).
in a Case position.
It cannot receive Case from
since the clause is non -finite.
It cannot receive
governs it, since raising verbs do not assign Case,
Thus, the Case filter rules such structures ungram-
matical. -7
Notice once again that NP- Preposing does not save these structures
from the effects of the Case filter.
The result of applying NP- Preposing
to (46) is roughly as in (50):
(50) NP1 Vc [ NP2
t2 Vínf " ']]
But here, once gain, NP2 is not in a Case assigning position. That is,
the Case filter also rules out (50), just as it rules out (38) and (49).
In fact, sentences corresponding to the structure in (50) are all ungrammatical. Cf.:
(51) a.
*Son expression peinée fait Jean sembler souffrir.
His expression pained makes Jean to -seem to- suffer
*Su expresión triste hace Juan parecer sufrir.
His expression sad makes Juan to -seem to- suffer
This is precisely what our theory predicts.17
To conclude we would like to summarize the central results achieved
Our main claim is that the theory of Abstract Case accounts for
the impossibility of embedding infinitivals with passive morphology under
faire /hacer.18 The same principles explain why NP- Preposing is not a saving
device within these structures. In Portuguese, infinitivals with passive
morphology can be embedded under fazer, contrasting with the situation
which occurs in Spanish, French, and Italian. This correlates with a
significant difference between Portuguese on the one hand, and Spanish,
French, and Italian on the other, as concerns the possibilities of Case
assignment within infinitivals. Roughly speaking we can say that Portuguese
has an extra Case -assignment mechanism, not shared by the other languages.
Given this mechanism, we predict the difference in behavior under causatives
with no further stipulations. Finally, a partial account can be given for
the impossibility of embedding raising constructions in the contexts under
These results are made possible by our modular approach to passive
constructions. A single -rule approach to passives would not achieve the
same degree of explanatory adequacy.
In particular, it would fail to account for the impossibility of embedding certain types of infinitivals
under faire /hacer, a task elegantly accomplished by the modular approach
with no ad hoc stipulations. These Romance facts, then, support the view
of grammar outlined in Farmer (1980). Although our investigations have
proceeded from completely different data bases, e.g. Japanese on the one
hand, and Romance languages on the other, we have arrived at very similar
conclusions concerning the general organizing principles of rules of grammar.
Indeed, one might say more. A careful comparison of several of the
specific mechanisms proposed in Farmer (1980) to account for Japanese
passives and the account of Romance passives given above reveals striking similarities. This is hardly surprising given modularity, since the
principles of grammar utilized are not 'construction- specific,' as mentioned above. Unfortunately it would greatly exceed the scope of this
paper to present a detailed analysis of these similarities. Nevertheless, we would like to point out that it is a tribute to modularity
that such similar conclusions can be arrived at by examining such
typologically distinct languages as Japanese and the Romance languages.
We do not claim that the partial analysis of agentive causatives
presented above constitutes the whole story concerning these constructions.
Our goal was simply to show that these constructions support- and, indeed, require --a modular approach to passive. This much has
been accomplished. We leave the many gaps which remain in this analysis
open for future research.
*This paper originated as a short note written in March of 1980. I
want to thank Noam Chomsky for encouraging me to pursue this topic in more
I also want to thank the organizers of the Arizona Conference on
Japanese Linguistics for allowing me to present at that occasion this
material, which bears only very indirectly on the main topic of the
conference. The questions and comments I received during the conference
were very useful in helping me to clarify and deepen my ideas on this
1The data in this paper will be drawn primarily from French, Spanish,
Italian, and Portuguese. Since these languages are hardly exotic, we
refrain from giving word -by -word glosses for grammatical sentences.
Ungrammatical strings, on the other hand, will often be given only word by -word glosses, with no attempt made to translate them accurately.
2More precisely, we will generally use the term agentive causative to
refer to the string of elements following the causative verb in sentences
such as (2). This is slightly confusing, we admit, because in this sense
an 'agentive causative' does not formally contain a causative verb. However, it is the string of elements following the causative verb that we
are interested in. We need a term to refer to that part of the construction, and we have adopted this one since it is the standard one associated
with these constructions in the literature.
3Most of the example sentences cited in this section will be taken
from Kayne (1975) or Strozer (1976).
I have added some additional
Spanish sentences.
4The term idiomatic expression is used here in an extended sense to
cover bcth a) clear cases of non -compositional idioms such as English kick
the bucket, French casser la croûte, Spanish meter la pata, and b) cases
like English take advantage of, French prêter assistance á 'to help,' and
Spanish prestar asistencia a 'to help.'
5Sentences (lib), (12b), and (13a,b) are grammatical in an alienable
interpretation, where the hand is understood as not being part of the
subject. This is irrelevant for the point under discussion.
6Strozer (1976:411) gives the following Spanish examples which make
the same point.
Maria es odiada de todo el mundo.
'Marie is hated by everybody.'
Maria ha llegado a hacerse odiar de todo el mundo.
'Maria managed to get herself hated by everybody.'
I find these sentences extremely literary in style. My dialect of Spanish
does not easily accept de passives.
For those dialects in which these
sentences are common, they illustrate the same phenomenon as the French
examples given in the text.
7Strozer (1976:395 -406) presents further differences (not mentioned by
Kayne) between the a- construction and the por- construction.
These concern
the behavior of clitic pronouns --both reflexive and non- reflexive --in these
constructions. Since we will have little to say about clitics in this paper,
we leave these further differences aside.
8Kayne's rule of passive is identical in all relevant respects to rule
Cf. Kayne (1975:248).
9The relation of government is defined in Chomsky (1980a:24) as follows:
is governed by ß if a is c- commanded by ß and no major category or major
category or major category boundary appears between a and ß. S is an
absolute barrier to government.
This much is sufficient for our purposes.
For a more detailed discussion, see Chomsky (1981, chapter 3, section 3.2.1).
it not for certain marked constructions in English, namely those
in which the subject of an infinitival is preceded by the prepositional
complementizer for or certain verbs such as believe, etc., we could strengthen that statement to "infinitival structures never have lexically filled
NP subjects." We will ignore these cases in English, since they fall outside the range of data we are considering.
more extensive discussion of 9 -roles and the theory of 9- roles,
see Gruber (1965), Katz (1972), Jackendoff (1972), Borer (1979, 1980) and
Chomsky (1981).
by- phrases are generated independently by the base, the reader
may wonder what rules out ill- formed sentences such as
*John saw Bill by Mary.
where the by- phrase is interpreted as an agentive phrase.
(These structures
are also ill- formed in Romance).
We return to this question below.
is an irrelevant grammatical reading of (34c) in which the
a phrase is a locative, not agentive, PP. We return to this reading
is an alternative, slightly more subtle, way of ruling out
(34b) in its relevant (ungrammatical) sense.
This alternative employs
the same devices used in the account given in the text. Crucially, the
9- Criterion is also involved. However, this alternative account requires
a more thorough presentation of the mechanism of "9 -role absorption."
Since the issue is not immediately relevant, we prefer to omit presentation at this point --but see further ahead for relevant comments.
see Jaeggli (forthcoming) where the matter is discussed in much greater
will not discuss the question of what makes these structures
possible in Portuguese.
For disSeveral alternatives come to mind.
cussion, see Rouveret (1979), and Zubizarreta (1980). Nothing crucial
to our discussion hinges on the exact formulation of the Case assignment
mechanism in these sentences.
(42) and (43) are taken from Radford (1978), where this
phenomenon is noticed.
hasten to add that this may not be the complete story concerning
the impossibility of embedding raising verbs under faire /hacer.
(1975:255) notes further that raising verbs cannot be embedded under faire
even when followed by a tensed clause.
Cf.: (Kayne's judgments)
(i) *Ce rapport fait sembler que la situation est très mauvaise.
This report makes it seem that the situation is very bad.'
*Le journal fait paraître qu'on va augmenter le prix du métro.
'The newspaper makes it appear that they are going to raise the
price of the metro.'
*L'aveu de Jean a fait s'avérer que Paul était innocent.
'Jean's confession made it turn out that Paul was innocent.'
The Case filter cannot be invoked to rule these sentences ungrammatical.
The reader can check that they do not contain NPs which lack Case. These
facts remain unaccounted for within our analysis.
It seems worthwhile pointing out, however, that the sentences in (i)
above are not nearly as bad as the ungrammatical sentences in (51a), (48a)
and (44).
Indeed, sentences similar to those in (i) are sometimes considered quite acceptable by native speakers of French, I have found. And
their Spanish translations do not sound particularly ungrammatical to
(ii) ?Este informe hace parecer que la situación está muy mal.
?El diario hizo parecer que iban a aumentar el precio del subte.
If they are ill -formed at all, they are without any doubt much less ungrammatical that their infinitival counterparts. The analysis presented
here establishes such a distinction, insofar as it postulates some
principles which are violated only by one of the constructions.
there turn out to be other principles which both constructions violate
(perhaps weaker principles), we would still get a distinction in grammaticality, since one construction, e.g. the infinitival one, would
violate two principles, while the other one would only violate one.
18This result is of some consequence for the question of the proper
categorial specification of infinitival complements under causative faire/
I assume that all infinitival complements are clausal. The
analysis presented here then explains on totally independent grounds why
certain types of S's, e.g., those which contain the passive auxiliary
and passive morphology, are not allowed in these structures. Thus,
these facts do not force us to assume that the infinitival complements
of faire /hacer are VP's (or VP's), as suggested for example in Zagona
(ms.), Strozer (1976) and other studies.
It has often been claimed that
the lack of passive auxiliaries under causatives can be accounted for
only if we adopt the position that the infinitival complements in these
cases are non -sentential.
Such a theory presumably provides an account
of these facts because the passive auxiliary is supposed to be outside
(We find this latter claim rather questionable in itself. See
Akmajian and Wasow (1975) for interesting discussion of this issue.)
But even if such an account were to be correct, it can now be seen to
be totally stipulative. There is no need to stipulate that causative
verbs can only take VP's as infinitival complements. Within our theory,
we can assume the unmarked situation; namely that these verbs, like many
other verbs, subcategorize sentential complements. Note that faire /hacer
must be subcategorized for sentential complements, anyhow, since tensed
S's can appear in their complement structures. Cf.:
Cela a fait que Jean se dépêche.
That has made that John hurry -up
Yo hice que la máquina parara.
I made that the machine stop
The simplest hypothesis is that this is all that faire /hacer has to be
subcategorized for. In some cases the sentential complement is non -finite,
i.e., infinitival.
These structures then have the properties they have
because of completely independent considerations.
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