Causees are not agents

Léa Nash, University of Paris 8/CNRS

Since Kayne’s pioneering work (1975), a number of differences between faire-à (FI) and faire-par (FP) causativisation strategies in Romance languages have been identified among which are the sensitivity to idiomatic and stative properties of the embedded predicate or to referential dependency or non-affectedness of the embedded direct object. Moreover, while FIs require the presence of the causee, FPs do not.  These asymmetries have been accounted for by positing two different structures of the complement of the causative verb faire: FI involve a more articulated embedded vP, while FP embed passive-like verb projections without an agent.

Most analyses of these constructions fail to address the following questions:

i) if FP and FI embed different projections of the transitive verb, why is it not morphologically reflected by the predicate? (Harley (2017) on Hiaki where two affixes exist for each type)

ii) why is FP limited to configurations which contain the embedded core transitive accomplishments with two maximally independent event participants (Haspelmath 1993, Levin & Rappaport Hovav 1995 on externally caused accomplishments). Why do less “agentive” or less “external” agents impose the projection of fully articulated verb phrases in causatives of transitives ?

Morphological causative constructions in Georgian provide interesting evidence involving the syntactic behaviour of the causee and the morphological makeup of the causative predicate  that can help us gain deeper understanding of the asymmetries between FI and FP type causatives and, more generally, the syntax of causativisation cross-linguistically.

i) There is evidence that embedded core transitives in cuasatives of transitives are de-agentivised, i.e. represent non-active clauses in the Middle Voice (Doron 2013). As a consequence, the dative causee in causatives of transitives is not an embedded agent, syntactically. When it surfaces in the causative construction, it is introduced via an applicative head that selects a deagentivized vP, and is interpreted as an event participant controlled by the causer akin to the instrument or associate argument (cf. Shibatani & Pardeshi 2002 on sociative causatives). But when no discourse, binding or lexical constraints in the clause impose its presence, the applicative head is not projected in the structure.

ii) There is evidence that causatives of unaccusatives, unergatives and a class of ingestive transitive verbs do not involve the deagentivisation of the embedded predicate because the embedded predicate is structured as a smaller projection, VP. VP corresponds to the lower subevent in complex eventualities, standardly referred to as a result subevent. In Georgian, VP can contain a theme in change-of-state predicates, and a subject in other types of (in)transitives.