Resultatives and causation

Beth Levin, Stanford University

Direct causation has been argued to be necessary for the well-formedness of resultative constructions, just as it has been for lexical causatives.  Isolating the best formulation of this condition with respect to lexical causatives is the subject of ongoing investigation; Neeleman & van de Koot (2012), for instance, reformulate it in terms of a “contributing causal factor”.  In this talk, I revisit the direct causation condition in the context of the resultative construction.  My aim is to better understand not only the nature of the condition itself, but also its contribution to the well-formedness of a resultative construction.  To do this, I will carefully scrutinize the complex interplay between the subject, the verb, the adjective, and the postverbal NP in an annotated corpus of over 1500 naturally occurring resultatives with adjective-headed result XPs.  I will pay particular attention (1) to the nature of the subject (e.g., human, natural force, instrument, body part) and (2) to the possible relations that the postverbal NP and the understood “object” of the verb hold to each other in non-selected NP resultatives (e.g., “The guests drank the teapot dry”, but not *”The guests drank the teapot”).

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