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Cross-Germanic Promotion to Subject in Ditransitive Passives – a Feature-Driven Account

Platzack, Christer LU (2005) In Grammar and Beyond. Essays in honour of Lars Hellan
Abstract
Languages differ with respect to which element they select as the subject in passive of ditransitive verbs: either the active indirect object (the goal argument) or the active direct object (the theme argument). In standard American English, e.g., only the goal argument may be promoted, as shown by the difference between (1b) and (1c).



(1) a. John gave Mary a red bike yesterday.

b. Mary was given a red bike yesterday.

c. *The red bike was given Mary yesterday



German, on the other hand, only allows the theme arguement to be promoted:



(2) a. Eine größere Wohnung wurde ihm versprochen.

a larger flat was him promised

He was... (More)
Languages differ with respect to which element they select as the subject in passive of ditransitive verbs: either the active indirect object (the goal argument) or the active direct object (the theme argument). In standard American English, e.g., only the goal argument may be promoted, as shown by the difference between (1b) and (1c).



(1) a. John gave Mary a red bike yesterday.

b. Mary was given a red bike yesterday.

c. *The red bike was given Mary yesterday



German, on the other hand, only allows the theme arguement to be promoted:



(2) a. Eine größere Wohnung wurde ihm versprochen.

a larger flat was him promised

He was promised a larger flat.

b. *Er wurde eine grössere Wohnung versprochen.



Swedish, like Danish and Norwegian, differs from both German and standard American English in being a true or symmetric double object language (Baker 1988, 174-180): as shown in (3), either the goal argument or the theme argument may be promoted to subject in passive.



(3) a. Han erbjöds ett nytt jobb.

he offered.PASS a new job

He was offered a new job.

b. Ett nytt jobb erbjöds honom.

a new job offered.PASS him



There are also British English dialects that are symmetric double object languages:



(4) A medal was given the professor that I told you about last week. (Bissell (2004, 95).



In the literature, the cross-linguistic variation concerning which element is promoted to subject is either said to have something to do with Case (cf. e.g. Baker 1988, 1996, Holmberg 2002), or it is understood in terms of locality conditions on movement (Falk 1990, Holmberg & Platzack 1995, McGinnis 1998, Anagnostopoulou 2002 and Bissell 2004). None of these accounts are without drawbacks, however. I will therefore suggest a partly new account, couched within the Minimalist program, mainly implementing the feature driven account presented in recent work by Pesetsky and Torrego (2001, 2004), according to which T and v are probes, and the relevant features are τ (tense) and φ (person, number, gender).

In the account presented here, properties of the indirect object are claimed to be solely responsible for the variation at hand. In particular, I suggest that the presence of dative morphology on the indirect object makes the features of this object opaque for the probes T and v, forcing the direct object to be promoted in the passive of ditransitive verbs. When dative case is lost in English and Swedish at the end of the mediaeval period, the features of the indirect object stay opaque for a couple of centuries, only allowing promotion of the direct object. In the beginning of the 19th century we observe a slow increase in the promotion of the indirect object, indicating that its features begin to be accessible for the derivation. It is first during the 20th century that this use has been more generally accepted, and in standard American English the alternative option is no longer available. (Less)
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Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Feature driven syntax, Ditransitive verb, Passive, Icelandic, Swedish, English, Danish, Probe-goal, Old Scandinavian
in
Grammar and Beyond. Essays in honour of Lars Hellan
editor
Vulchanova, Mila and Åfarli, Tor A.
publisher
Novus Forlag
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
6f9b7b02-e49d-447f-adac-6a9203c7b279 (old id 534540)
date added to LUP
2007-09-26 12:20:55
date last changed
2016-04-16 08:27:08
@misc{6f9b7b02-e49d-447f-adac-6a9203c7b279,
  abstract     = {Languages differ with respect to which element they select as the subject in passive of ditransitive verbs: either the active indirect object (the goal argument) or the active direct object (the theme argument). In standard American English, e.g., only the goal argument may be promoted, as shown by the difference between (1b) and (1c). <br/><br>
<br/><br>
(1)		a.	John gave Mary a red bike yesterday.<br/><br>
		b.	Mary was given a red bike yesterday.<br/><br>
		c.	*The red bike was given Mary yesterday<br/><br>
<br/><br>
German, on the other hand, only allows the theme arguement to be promoted:<br/><br>
<br/><br>
(2)		a.	Eine 	größere	Wohnung wurde ihm 	versprochen.	<br/><br>
			a		larger		flat		 was		him	promised<br/><br>
			He was promised a larger flat.<br/><br>
		b.	*Er wurde eine grössere Wohnung versprochen.<br/><br>
<br/><br>
Swedish, like Danish and Norwegian, differs from both German and standard American English in being a true or symmetric double object language (Baker 1988, 174-180): as shown in (3), either the goal argument or the theme argument may be promoted to subject in passive. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
(3)		a.	Han 	erbjöds 			ett nytt 	jobb.				<br/><br>
			he 	offered.PASS	a 	 new	job<br/><br>
			He was offered a new job.<br/><br>
		b.	Ett nytt	 jobb 	erbjöds 			honom.<br/><br>
			a	 new	job	offered.PASS	him<br/><br>
<br/><br>
There are also British English dialects that are symmetric double object languages: <br/><br>
<br/><br>
(4)		A medal was given the professor that I told you about last week. (Bissell (2004, 95).<br/><br>
<br/><br>
In the literature, the cross-linguistic variation concerning which element is promoted to subject is either said to have something to do with Case (cf. e.g. Baker 1988, 1996, Holmberg 2002), or it is understood in terms of locality conditions on movement (Falk 1990, Holmberg &amp; Platzack 1995, McGinnis 1998, Anagnostopoulou 2002 and Bissell 2004). None of these accounts are without drawbacks, however. I will therefore suggest a partly new account, couched within the Minimalist program, mainly implementing the feature driven account presented in recent work by Pesetsky and Torrego (2001, 2004), according to which T and v are probes, and the relevant features are τ (tense) and φ (person, number, gender).<br/><br>
In the account presented here, properties of the indirect object are claimed to be solely responsible for the variation at hand. In particular, I suggest that the presence of dative morphology on the indirect object makes the features of this object opaque for the probes T and v, forcing the direct object to be promoted in the passive of ditransitive verbs. When dative case is lost in English and Swedish at the end of the mediaeval period, the features of the indirect object stay opaque for a couple of centuries, only allowing promotion of the direct object. In the beginning of the 19th century we observe a slow increase in the promotion of the indirect object, indicating that its features begin to be accessible for the derivation. It is first during the 20th century that this use has been more generally accepted, and in standard American English the alternative option is no longer available.},
  author       = {Platzack, Christer},
  editor       = {Vulchanova, Mila and Åfarli, Tor A.},
  keyword      = {Feature driven syntax,Ditransitive verb,Passive,Icelandic,Swedish,English,Danish,Probe-goal,Old Scandinavian},
  language     = {eng},
  publisher    = {ARRAY(0xa086aa0)},
  series       = {Grammar and Beyond. Essays in honour of Lars Hellan},
  title        = {Cross-Germanic Promotion to Subject in Ditransitive Passives – a Feature-Driven Account},
  year         = {2005},
}