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A Generative Perspective to Causative Typology

He Yuanjian, Faculty of Translation. The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong  
While it is well known that causativity contains two separate sememes: "to cause" and "to execute an action or a process". how exactly the sememes are realized in morphology and syntax across languages has been an ongoing topic of intense research for decades. The current study looks into the issue from a generative grammar perspective with data from fifteen languages. It argues that. firstly, the grammatical case alternation on the Causee NP goes hand in hand with the speaker's intent "to cause" something to happen. Secondly. both lexical and morphological causatives command a sim- ple accusative structure, for the straightforward reason that they mirror each other by containing both sememes in a lexical item, i. e. a lexical causative represents causativity by arbitrary sounds, and a morphological causative by morphemes. Thirdly. when the "to cause" sememe is represented by an in- dependent word, i. e. the so-called causative light verb, we have a periphrastic structure, which may display varied surface word orders, when the light verb is in a null form. or it is an affix attached to an auxiliary. The existence of the latter form suggests that a causative affix cannot enter in syntax on its own. thus providing strong evidence against Baker's (1988) analysis of syntactic incorporation of morphological causatives, taken by some as a standard assumption. Lastly, ergative verbs universally have two argument structures, one taking an Agent and the other not, and this is the key to ambigui- ties caused by the so-called agentive and non-agentive causatives. The study draws heavily from Chi- nese data in hopes that the findings will shed light on researches of Chinese causatives themselves.
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