Negation, bi-eventivity and causation

Elitzur Bar-Asher Siegal & Nora Boneh, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The paper examines the semantics of constructions in different languages with the property of adding to a basic proposition an adjunct-like constituent, as either the causing eventuality (=C) causative connectives (e.g. because of) (1), or as a participant in the effected one (=E), Affected Dative [=AD] in Hebrew (2):

(1)  She can’t forget how she lost this case because of the witness’ death.

(2)  ‘od Eli Zohar       lo       yaxol liško’ax

Att. E. Z.            NEG    can    forget

‘ex     met           lo       pa’am  ‘ed                    be-’emca xakira negdit

how   died          to.him once   witness             in-middle investigation cross

‘Attorney Eli Zohar cannot forget how a witness once died on him during a cross investigation.’

The paper’s aim is to advance our understanding of how causation is encoded in natural languages, while demonstrating a parallelism between constructions in which the adjunct adds the C (either clausal or a (event) nominal which is interpreted via coercion) and those in which it adds the E (where the added participant is understood to be the affected participant in E). More specifically, its goals are (i) to provide evidence in support of a bi-eventive analysis for the semantics of certain causal expressions; (ii) to demonstrate that it is insufficient to analyze causation as a semantic primitive function; and in so doing, justify a decomposition for the causal relation in line of Lewis’ counterfactual theory of causation, according to which for an eventuality C to be the cause of an eventuality E, C must be causa sine qua non for E, i.e. the eventuality without which E could not have occurred.

In order to establish these claims we will dwell on the temporal properties of the relation between C and E in these constructions and on the semantic interpretations emanating from the negated counterparts of clauses such as in (1) and (2).