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Abstract

Against ditransitivity 1

MARÍA CRISTINA CUERVO

The notion of ditransitivity is explored at the lexical, syntactic and surface levels. By focusing on several types of ditransitive sentences in Spanish it is revealed that there is a triple dissociation between these levels. First, it is shown that the availability of a ditransitive structure (syntactic level) for a certain verb does not depend on the verb being ditransitive (lexical level). Sec- ond, causative structures with dative arguments are shown to be ditransitive at the surface level, but not to have an underlying ditransitive structure. Fi- nally, cases of unaccusative sentences with dative arguments are analysed as instances of ditransitive structures without lexical or surface ditransitivity. The paper argues that ditransitivity is at best a pre-theoretical, descriptive notion, and that ditransitive verbs in fact belong to Levin’s (1999) non-core transitives:

ditransitives are just transitives compatible with taking a relation between two individuals as complement. This analysis accounts for the intralinguistic and crosslinguistic variation in the expression of the relation, both in terms of type (two DPs related by a transitive preposition or an applicative head) and num- ber of objects realized or omitted. Although the idea that there is no syntactic ditransitivity – that is, that no single verbal head can take two complements – has been implicit in most generative work of the last two decades, it has not been directly explored. This investigation leads to the conclusion that a syntac- tic property, binary branching, is at the basis of the impossibility of syntactic and lexical ditransitivity. Thus, this result suggests that syntax restricts not only possible structures but possible lexical meanings as well.

1. I would like to thank Violeta Demonte, María Luisa Zubizarreta and two anonymous Probus reviewers for invaluable comments and suggestions. Funding for this research was provided in part by a Connaught Grant from the University of Toronto.

Probus 22 (2010), 151–180

0921–4771/10/022-0151

DOI 10.1515/prbs.2010.006

©Walter de Gruyter

  • 152 María Cristina Cuervo

1. Introduction

Ce pluriel est bien singulier. J. L. Borges, Las alarmas del doctor Américo Castro.

Ditransitives have been at the centre of research on argument structure and syn- tactic theory. The very idea of a verb taking two internal arguments has given rise to a series of challenges to linguists. Ditransitives have been a challenge for theories of argument structure, theories which focus on the relation be- tween lexical semantics and syntactic structure, and attempt to account for the observed regularities in the relation between semantic role and syntactic posi- tion. Minimally, ditransitives pose a challenge because intralinguistically they participate in argument structure alternations (such as the dative and locative alternations), and crosslinguistically, they exhibit interesting variation in terms of the morphosyntactic expression of the arguments (such as case and word or- der). Ditransitives have also been a problematic case for syntactic theory itself. The initial idea that two selected semantic arguments of a verb are expressed as two sisters to the verb has been challenged by data concerning asymmet- ric hierarchical relations. These data have served as empirical evidence against ternary branching, leaving binary branching as the only option. For theories that only allow for binary branching – be it a constraint on representations or a consequence of the nature of syntactic operations – however, the task of ac- counting for the semantic selection of two arguments and the correct syntactic relations between the arguments and the verb has not been straightforward. The notion of ditransitivity itself seems fuzzy sometimes. There exists a ten- sion between the notion of ditransitivity as a lexical property of verbs, as a type of syntactic structure or a type of sentence with two argument DPs other than the subject. Depending on which notion one is dealing with, the cases that fall under the name of ‘ditransitive’ change dramatically. As a lexical se- mantic notion delimiting a class of verbs (which I will call ‘lexical ditransi- tivity’), ditransitives are opposed to intransitives as well as to monotransitives, covering verbs like give, send, tell but excluding dance, arrive, eat, cook and break. Within this notion, there is no definite consensus on whether verbs like put, extract and load, which usually take a DP and a PP, are equally ditransi- tive. If, on the other hand, being ditransitive is a property of syntactic structure (‘deep ditransitivity’), the notion can cover any kind of structure where there are two internal arguments of the verb, irrespective of whether there is an exter- nal argument and, under Burzio’s generalization, accusative case. This type of ditransitivity without transitivity is assumed by many for unaccusative dative experiencer constructions in Italian and Spanish (as argued for by Belletti &

Against ditransitivity 153

Rizzi 1988). Finally, if ditransitive is defined as a type of sentence, the notion crucially takes into account the morphosyntactic shape of the arguments (their coding properties, in the sense of Levin 1999) and, in languages with a three case system such as Italian, Spanish, German, and Japanese, the notion involves two DPs, one in accusative and one in dative case (‘surface ditransitivity’). In this work, I present a detailed study of the notion(s) of ditransitivity through the analysis of ditransitives in Spanish. Spanish is a language in which a dative argument can be ‘added’ to practically any type of verb, therefore exhibiting an immense array of cases which can be considered ditransitive un- der at least one of the interpretations mentioned above. Although data comes mainly from Spanish and English, I believe the conclusions generalize across languages. The analysis leads to the conclusion that there is no real notion of ditransitivity, that there are no verbs which license two internal arguments. In other words, ditransitivity is not a theoretically meaningful notion either in its lexico-semantic or in its syntactic versions. Although the idea that there is no syntactic ditransitivity has been implied one way or another by most work on ditransitives within generative approaches at least since Baker’s (1988) in- corporation and Larson’s (1988) Single Complement Hypothesis, most work continue to treat ditransitives as a well defined syntactic or semantic class. This paper is organized as follows. In Section 2, I present two main types of analyses – a derivational approach and a constructionist approach – that have been applied to the study of ditransitives in their three dimensions: lexi- cal, syntactic (deep ditransitivity) and morphosyntactic (surface ditransitivity). Through the analysis of double-object constructions in Spanish I show that surface ditransitivity and deep ditransitivity equally apply to verbs that nobody would consider lexically ditransitive. Section 3 deals with the structure of di- transitive sentences with causative verbs. These data constitute a case of surface ditransitivity which does not correspond either to lexical or to deep ditransitiv- ity. Section 4 deals with one type of two-argument unaccusative structures, analysed as double-objects, that is, cases of deep ditransitivity without lexi- cal or surface (di)transitivity. In Section 5 I reconsider all the data and show that there is a triple dissociation between the different notions of ditransitivity. I argue that, in fact, the only notion of ditransitive we can keep is a surface, pre-theoretical notion, which informally distinguishes a group of predicates, within the general class of (non-causative) transitives, which tend to appear with two arguments. Section 6 presents the general implications of this study for a syntactic theory that determines argument structure and radically restricts the relation between the lexicon and syntactic structure.

  • 154 María Cristina Cuervo

    • 2. Ditransitives and double-objects

The traditional definition of a ditransitive verb is a verb that takes or selects three arguments, or two internal (i.e., non-subject) arguments. This selection can be emphasized as a semantic or a syntactic selection. Within a view of argument structure as the consequence of the lexical semantics of a verb (the projectionist view), the verb selects two specific θ -roles which are then asso- ciated with two types of phrases (typically, DP-DP or DP-PP); these, in turn, are mapped into certain syntactic positions. Only a verb that requires two inter- nal arguments is considered ditransitive, thus opposing monotransitives such as eat, cook and admire to ditransitive tell, show, send. The syntactic expression of a verb selecting two internal θ -roles turned problematic as soon as it was observed that the relation of the two DPs with the verb wasn’t the same, and that there were hierarchical asymmetries between the objects (Chomsky 1981; Barss & Lasnik 1986; Pesetsky 1995).

(1)

a.

Sara sent a bracelet to Maria.

  • b. Sara sent Maria a bracelet.

Larson (1988) proposed that the English double-object construction, as in (1b), was derived from the prepositional counterpart (1a) by a passive-like move- ment. Leaving details aside, the crucial aspect of his approach is that there are two layers of VP, two parts of the verb, and each of the internal arguments is related to the V head of a different layer. The preposition to is absorbed and merges with the verb. This operation is similar to Baker’s (1988) incorporation as the source of applicative (double-object) constructions.

(2) a. Prepositional VP

Spec V
Spec
V
154 María Cristina Cuervo 2. Ditransitives and double-objects The traditional definition of a ditransitive verb is
V VP send i DP V a letter V PP t i to Mary
V
VP
send i
DP
V
a letter
V
PP
t i
to Mary

Against ditransitivity

  • b. Double object (Larson 1988) VP

Spec V
Spec
V
  • V VP

send i DP V Mary j V DP a letter V DP t i t j
send i
DP
V
Mary j
V
DP
a letter
V
DP
t i
t j

155

These derivational approaches, although inspiring and productive, raise several problems. Among the most serious, they cannot capture the differences in the interpretation of the arguments in the variants or the related restrictions on the alternation (see Cuervo 2003; Demonte 1995; Krifka 2004; Oehrle 1976; etc. for discussion). Moreover, it is difficult to understand what the trigger of the syntactic operation is, as well as accounting for the optionality, obligatoriness or impossibility of its application in the different cases. There have also been non-derivational analyses of double-objects, which can more naturally account for the observed interpretative contrasts between vari- ants while maintaining the account of structural properties (denDikken 1995; Harley 2002; Marantz 1993; Pesetsky 1995; Pylkkänen 2008, among many others). With the exception of Marantz’s 1993 verbal applicative analysis, in all these approaches the verb takes one complement – either a PP, an Applica- tive phrase, or a small clause – within which the two internal arguments are licensed.

  • 2.1. Ditransitives as double-objects

In Spanish ditransitive sentences, the two internal arguments typically appear postverbally in the order accusative > dative. 2 The dative argument is preceded by a, which I take to be a case marker rather than a full preposition projecting a

2. The order dative-accusative is in most cases also possible, but it is a marked order, usually accompanied by special intonation. Of course, either argument can appear sentence-initially as topic or focus.

  • 156 María Cristina Cuervo

PP (Demonte 1995; Kempchinsky 1992; Strozer 1976; among others). A dative clitic, hosted by the verb, matches the person and number features of the dative DP, irrespective of whether the dative argument is overt or null. 3

(3)

a.

Pablo

le

mandó

una

postal

a Vicky.

 

Pablo

cl.dat

sent

a

postcard

Vicky.dat

‘Pablo sent Vicky a postcard.’

 
 

b.

Pablo

nos

dijo

la

verdad

(a nosotros).

 

Pablo

cl.dat.1P

told

the

truth

us.dat

‘Pablo told us the truth.’

Although it had been previously assumed that there was no dative alternation in Spanish (or other Romance languages, Kayne 1975), several authors in the generative framework have argued that Spanish clitic-doubled ditransitive con- structions have the crucial syntactic and semantic properties of the double- object construction (Bleam 2003; Cuervo 2003; Demonte 1995; Zhang 1998). In fact, this idea was more or less explicit 20 years before in Strozer 1976, who argues for a correlation between clitic doubling and type of indirect ob- ject. She claims that there are two kinds of indirect objects (dative arguments), which she labels IND 1 and IND 2 . IND 1 are “ordinary goals” and can only appear with verbs of transfer, e.g., give, sell, lend. IND 2 would be “involved goals”, which can have different meanings in different verbal contexts. Demonte (1995) builds on Larson’s (1988) proposal to claim there are double- objects in Spanish which, beyond some morphosyntactic differences with En- glish, exhibit many of the central properties of English double-objects. There have also been non-derivational approaches to Spanish double-objects. De- monte (1994) argues for a lexical approach to the dative alternation, each vari- ant the consequence of a different lexico-conceptual structure associated with the verb. Bleam (2003) takes Harley’s have-clause approach, while Cuervo (2003) builds on Pylkkänen’s (2000, 2008) applicative analysis.

(4)

Andrea

Andrea

le

Cl.DAT

envió

sent

un

a

diccionario

dictionary.ACC

‘Andrea sent Gabi a dictionary.’

a Gabi.

Gabi.DAT

3. In the laísta dialect of Madrid, dative clitics also mark gender, specifically, a third person dative associated with an animate feminine dative appears as la (accusative feminine in most other dialects).

Against ditransitivity

157

(5) TP
(5)
TP
Against ditransitivity 157 (5) TP T Andrea v Root ApplP envió DP Dat a Gabi Appl

T

Against ditransitivity 157 (5) TP T Andrea v Root ApplP envió DP Dat a Gabi Appl

Andrea

Against ditransitivity 157 (5) TP T Andrea v Root ApplP envió DP Dat a Gabi Appl

v

Root ApplP
Root
ApplP

envió

DP Dat a Gabi Appl DP Acc le un diccionario
DP Dat
a Gabi
Appl
DP Acc
le
un diccionario

(Cuervo 2003)

In the structure above, the dative argument is licensed as the specifier of an ap- plicative head, the accusative object is licensed as the complement. In turn, the applicative phrase combines as the complement of the verb. This posi- tion below the verb (the verbal root) determines that ditransitives are a case of Pylkkänen’s low-applicative (as opposed to high applicatives which merge above the verb). The low applicative expresses a dynamic possessive relation between two individuals, the two internal arguments of ditransitive verbs. Ac- cording to Pylkkänen, the interpretation of so-called ‘goals’ and ‘benefactives’ in double-object constructions can be generalized in the notion of recipient; this interpretation arises as the meaning of one sub-type of low applicative head, Appl-to.

(6)

Pylkkänen’s Low-APPL-TO (Recipient applicative): 4 λ x.λ y.λ f e s,t .λ e. f(e,x) & theme (e,x) & to-the-possession(x,y)

In the case of verbs such as mandar, decir and enviar in (3)–(4), all the levels of ditransitivity coincide: the two non-agentive arguments of the verb, theme and recipient (lexico-semantic ditransitivity) are expressed as two internal DPs (deep, syntactic ditransitivity), which appear postverbally, one in accusative, one in dative case (cf. Table 1).

4. The denotation of a low applicative head represented in (6) states that first the head takes the DP theme as an argument, then it relates that DP to the applied argument and finally relates those arguments to the event (by taking the verb as its third argument).

  • 158 María Cristina Cuervo

Table 1. Levels of ditransitivity for lexical ditransitives

 

Level

Lexical

Deep

Surface

Ditransitive verbs

  • 2.2. Double-objects for monotransitives

Double-objects in Spanish ‘alternate’ not only with prepositional variants with goal meanings, but also with benefactive para, and locative en.

(7)

a.

Pablo

compró

un

libro

para

Tesi.

 

Pablo

bought

a

book

for

Tesi

‘Pablo bought a book for Tesi.’

 

b.

Pablo

le

compró

un

libro

a Tesi.

 

Pablo

cl.dat

bought

a

book

Tesi.dat

‘Pablo bought Tesi a book.’

 

(8)

a.

Pablo

puso

limón

en

el

té.

 

Pablo

put

lemon

in

the

tea

‘Pablo put lemon in the tea.’

 

b.

Pablo

le

puso

limón

al

té.

 

Pablo

cl.dat

put

lemon

the

tea.dat

‘Pablo put lemon in the tea.’

These cases, already analyzed in Masullo (1992), Demonte (1995) and Cuervo (2003), can nevertheless be captured by the same applicative structure assumed for lexical ditransitives. The interpretation of the dative DP variants of the benefactive and locative PPs a Tesi (7) and al té (8) can be subsumed under the notion of recipient or Strozer’s ‘involved goals’. In order for the involved goal dative to be available for an inanimate dative DP, the entity to which the direct object refers must become an integral part of the entity mentioned by the dative, (9). In other words, the possessive relation must be inalienable. 5 This restriction does not apply to animate datives.

(9)

Pablo

le

puso

limón

al

/

*a la

heladera.

Pablo

cl.dat

put

lemon

the

tea.dat

/

the

fridge.dat

‘Pablo put lemon in the tea / in the fridge.’

5. In many languages, DOCs are restricted to animate recipients; Spanish seems to be special in this respect. The extent and motivations of this phenomenon, however, go beyond the scope of this paper.

Against ditransitivity 159

There are many cases of the double-object construction in which the dative DP is interpreted as the source rather than the recipient of the direct object. Pylkkänen accounts for this reversed direction in the transfer of possession relation in terms of a different sub-type of low applicative, Appl-from.

(10)

Low-APPL-FROM (Source applicative):

λ x.λ y.λ f e s,t .λ e. f(e,x) & theme (e,x) & from-the-possession(x,y)

As Cuervo (2003) notes, this type of low applicative also exists in Spanish, with all the same morphological and syntactic properties of recipient constructions. The restrictions on inalienable possession also apply to source double-objects.

(11)

Pablo

le

sacó

los

botones

a la

camisa

/

*al

Pablo

cl.dat

took-out

the

buttons

the

shirt.dat

/

the

cajón.

drawer.dat ‘Pablo took the buttons out of the shirt/drawer.’

Another important group of dative arguments in ditransitive sentences are the DPs interpreted as the possessors of the entity expressed as the direct object DP.

(12)

Le

cl.dat

extirparon

they-took-out

el

the

diente

tooth

a Juan.

Juan.dat

‘They took out Juan’s tooth.’ (Demonte 1995: Ex. (43b))

Many authors have considered these structures as ‘derived’ ditransitives, the result of the raising of a possessive DP from within the direct object DP. This is the analysis of possessor datives in Hebrew or Spanish of Borer & Grodzinsky 1986, Demonte 1995, Landau 1999, and Masullo 1992 (see Jeong 2007 for a generalized approach to low applicatives based on movement). The basis of this idea is the assumption that the dative DP is not an argument of the verb (i.e., it is not licensed by a ditransitive verb) but is licensed by the noun head of the direct object. In contrast to these derivational approaches, Kempchinsky (1992) and Cuervo (2003) propose that the dative possessor is generated in the same position as datives with prototypical ditransitive verbs (see Cuervo 2003 for explicit arguments in favour of a non-derivational analysis of possessor datives). In her analysis of Hebrew possessor datives, Pylkkänen (2008) also argues against a raising analysis of possessors and claims these are cases of source applicatives. In examples like (12) the dative DP can be understood as the possessive source, given that extirpar ‘take-out’ is a transfer predicate. There exist, how- ever, many other cases in which there is no dynamic relation between the two

  • 160 María Cristina Cuervo

arguments, making the source analysis less convincing. 6 This is the case with verbs which, although dynamic, do not express transfer (besar ‘kiss’, lavar ‘wash’) and with stative verbs (admirar ‘admire’, envidiar ‘envy’). Dative pos- sessors are interpreted somewhat differently from genitive possessors within DPs. I think Strozer’s concept of ‘involvement’ best describes the difference:

dative possessors are involved possessors, possessors which act as participants in the event described by the verb. They are not necessarily affected ((13b) does not express or imply that Tesi is affected, as is also the case in the mono- transitive Pablo admira a Tesi, ‘Pablo admires Tesi’) nor is the structure some type of resultative with different aspectual properties in comparison with the genitive variant or a recipient dative. If in some case the dative is interpreted as affected, it is because it is the possessor of an affected direct object, as might be the interpretation of (14).

(13)

a.

Pablo

le

besó

la

mano

a la

reina.

 

Pablo

cl.dat

kissed

the

hand

the

queen.dat

‘Pablo kissed the queen’s hand.’

 

b.

Pablo

le

admira

los

guantes

a Tesi.

 

Pablo

cl.dat

admires

the

gloves

Tesi.dat

‘Pablo admires Tesi’s gloves.’

 

(14)

Pablo

le

 

aplastó

la

mano

a la

reina.

Pablo

cl.dat

crushed

the

hand

the

queen.dat

‘Pablo crushed the queen’s hand.’

In order to cover these cases under the low applicative analysis, the idea that low applicatives only express dynamic relations of possessive transfer must be dropped. Cuervo (2003) proposes that there is a third type of low applicative, which expresses a static possessive relation between two individuals: Appl-at.

(15)

Low-APPL-AT (Possessor applicative):

λ x.λ y.λ f e s,t .λ e. f(e,x) & theme (e,x) & at-the-possession(x,y)

Sentences in which the two arguments are animate highlight the important con- trast in meaning between the genitive and the dative, low applicative variants.

(16)

Pablo

le

envidia

la

hija

 

a Valeria.

Pablo

cl.dat

envies

the

daughter.acc

Valeria.dat

‘Pablo envies Valeria the daughter.’

 

(17)

Pablo

envidia

a la

hija

de

Valeria.

Pablo

envies

[the

daughter

of

Valeria].acc

‘Pablo envies Valeria’s daughter.’

6. This is the case not only in Spanish but also in Hebrew and in just a few cases in English.

Against ditransitivity 161

The alternation represented by the sentences in (16)–(17) is similar to that of the sentences in (13) and their respective genitive variants. Sentences (16) and (17), however, are clearly not paraphrases. 7 In (17), Pablo envies a woman, who is identified as Valeria’s daughter. In (16), Pablo does not so much envy a person as a situation or relationship (having a daughter, or having a daughter as Valeria’s). In both configurations Valeria is related to the theme object. The crucial difference is in the relation between Valeria and the event expressed by the verb. In the genitive construction, Valeria is licensed as part of the theme object and it is not related with the verb at all. In the dative construction, in contrast, Valeria is licensed by Appl as an event argument and, after combining with the theme object, relates to the verb as its complement. The semantics of the double-object variant highlights, again, that there is a direct relationship between the two objects, and that the whole constituent combines with the verb (the two DPs have referential properties and are still interpreted as separate participants in the event). 8 The structure of low applicatives allows us to express exactly that: the Ap- plicative Phrase expresses a relation between two individuals that is embedded under the verb. In the semantic interpretation of the Low-Applicative-at, there are two variables for individuals that relate to the event: the theme and the pos- sessor; in the interpretation of the genitive construction there would be only one for the theme DP. The relevant structures of sentences (16) and (17) are represented in (18) and (19), respectively.

7. The same contrast arises between the sentences below in British English and others who accept (ib).

(i)

  • a. Stephanie envies Daniel’s father.

  • b. Stephanie envies Daniel his father.

8. Pylkkänen’s proposal for the semantic composition of low Appl depends, at least in part, on her assumption of a fully neo-Davidsonian approach to object arguments (which are licensed by a separate predicate Theme, as in Parsons 1990). If one abandons this position in favour of a partial neo-Davidsonian approach (as proposed in Kratzer 1996), it is possible to view the composition of the root with ApplP in the same terms a root combines with a transitive PP, as in hide the books in the drawer. The formalization of this idea however, is outside the scope of this paper.

  • 162 María Cristina Cuervo

(18)

Possessor dative construction

vP

(18) Possessor dative construction vP v Root ApplP envid- DP a Valeria Appl DP le la
 

v

(18) Possessor dative construction vP v Root ApplP envid- DP a Valeria Appl DP le la
 

Root

ApplP

envid-

envid-
 

DP

a Valeria

a Valeria
 

Appl

DP

le

la hija

(19)

Genitive construction 9 vP

(18) Possessor dative construction vP v Root ApplP envid- DP a Valeria Appl DP le la
 

v

Root DP envid-
Root
DP
envid-
D NP la
D
NP
la

hija

162 María Cristina Cuervo (18) Possessor dative construction vP v Root ApplP envid- DP a Valeria

de Valeria

Notice that in order to spell out the difference in meaning between the dative construction and the genitive construction, it was not necessary to make ref- erence to the notion of affectedness, inalienability or transfer of possession. In fact, none of these notions are relevant here. There is no sense in (16) that Valeria is affected at all. Finally, we have seen that there is no sense in which Valeria gets or loses anything.

9. That the de-PP is embedded under the DP, and not related to it as a PP relates to the DP theme in prepositional ditransitives, is supported by the following contrast concerning pronominal- ization.

(i)

a.

Pablo

envidia

[a la

hija

de

Valeria].

Pablo

envies

the

daughter

of

Valeria

* Pablo

la

envidia

de

Valeria.

Pablo

envies

her

of

Valeria

b.

Pablo

sacó

[la

pastilla]

[de

la

caja].

Pablo

took

the

pill

of

the

box

Pablo

la

sacó

de

la

caja.

Pablo

took

it

from

the

box

Against ditransitivity

163

Table 2. Levels of ditransitivity for non-lexical ditransitives

 

Level

 

Lexical

Deep

Surface

Benefactives

NO

Sources

NO

Possessors

NO

Again, the morphosyntactic properties of the sentences in (13) are identi- cal to the properties of prototypical double-objects in terms of case, word or- der, clitic doubling, and the structural properties which depend on asymmet- ric c-command (e.g., anaphor and possessive binding, weak cross-over, scope, [Bleam 2003; Cuervo 2003; Demonte 1995]). When we consider the properties of the three sub-types of Spanish low applicatives, what emerges is a general- ization at the syntactic (deep) and morphosyntactic (surface) levels of ditransi- tivity which does not correspond to the lexico-semantic level, as is illustrated in Table 2. Irrespective of the particular analysis adopted (incorporation, passive-like movement, possessor raising, low applicatives, base-generated Larsonian VP shells), once we have a double-object construction, there is no way to distin- guish structurally between ditransitive and non-ditransitive verbs. In ditransi- tive sentences with ditransitive enviar ‘send’ and poner ‘put’ and monotran- sitive comprar ‘buy’, admirar ‘admire’ or besar ‘kiss’, the syntactic relation between the two individuals and their relation with the verb is the same be the dative DP ‘selected’ by the verb or not. 10 In other words, there is no struc- tural or morphosyntactic notion of adjunct (non-argumental or extra argument) dative indirect object as opposed to an argumental dative object. 11 In sum, neither the interpretation of the arguments, nor the syntactic or mor- phosyntactic properties of double-objects depend on whether the verb is lexi- cally ditransitive or not. 12 Spanish double-objects show that there exists a dis- sociation between lexico-semantic ditransitivity, and structural and surface di- transitivity.

  • 10. But see Demonte 1994 for a discussion of a contrast between possibility of passivization along the lines of Strozer’s distinction between IND 1 and IND 2 .

  • 11. One could make a distinction in terms of the possibility of omitting the dative: always possible to omit the dative with monotransitives, not possible to omit it if the verb is ditransitive. For discussion of omission, see Section 5.

  • 12. Several of Demonte’s 1994, 1995 and Cuervo’s 2003 examples of Spanish double objects that illustrate asymmetric c-command, scope and interpretative contrasts do not correspond to lexical ditransitives, such as the equivalents of steal, buy, cook, wash, etc.

  • 164 María Cristina Cuervo

    • 3. Ditransitive sentences without ditransitive structure

The previous section presented the case of prototypical ditransitives in which the three levels of ditransitivity can coincide. It also showed that in most other cases of double-objects, deep and surface ditransitivity does not correlate with lexical ditransitivity. In this section I present an analysis of another class of ditransitive sentences, those with a causative verb. It will be shown that they exhibit another kind of dissociation: Causatives with dative arguments are sur- face ditransitives without lexical or deep ditransitivity. 13 In Spanish, causative verbs (i.e., synthetic causatives which participate in the causative alternation) such as burn, break, melt, open, can appear with an ‘added’ dative argument (20). The morphosyntactic shape of these sentences is that of double-objects, as seen in the previous section: The normal, wide focus interpretation word order is postverbal Acc > Dat; the dative DP is preceded by a and must be clitic-doubled; in terms of hierarchical relations, the dative DP is higher than the accusative DP (see Demonte 1995 and Cuervo 2003).

(20)

a.

Madariaga

le

rompió

la

impresora

a Ana.

 

Madariaga

cl.dat

broke

the

printer

Ana.dat

‘Madariaga broke the printer on Ana.’

 
 

b.

Madariaga

me

cambió

todas

las

reglas.

 

Madariaga

cl.dat.1s

changed

all

the

rules

‘Madariaga changed all the rules on me.’

In spite of morphosyntactic appearances, two issues compel me to suspect that the structure of datives with causatives is not a double-object construction, i.e., not a low applicative. One reason is semantic, the other structural. First, the interpretation of the dative DP does not correspond to any of the three subtypes of low applicatives. Although examples similar to (20a) have been presented as cases of possessor raising (Landau 1999), source applicatives (Pylkkänen 2000) or possessor applicatives (Cuervo 2003), the interpretation is not necessarily that of a possessor of the direct object but of an individual affected by the change of state of the object. In (20b), for instance, it cannot be said that the speaker (corresponding to dative me) is the recipient (Appl- to), or possessor of the rules (Appl-at), nor that she ‘looses’ the rules (Appl- from). The interpretation is, rather, that the speaker now has different rules:

the dative argument is presented as related to the new state of the object. Under the assumption that this difference in interpretation with respect to double-

13. As an anonymous reviewer points out, analytical causatives with hacer ‘make’ are another (potential) case of surface ditransitivity without lexical or syntactic ditransitivity. I will nev- ertheless concentrate here only on so-called “lexical causatives” without hacer.

Against ditransitivity 165

objects arises from compositional semantics, we are forced to conclude that the underlying structure of ‘ditransitive’ causatives must be different. The second problem for a low-applicative analysis of causatives is struc- tural. Low applicatives are defined semantically and syntactically as a relation between two individuals, two DPs. The applied argument is licensed as a spec- ifier of the Appl head and relates to the DP the head takes as its complement. On the other hand, many authors have proposed that the object of causatives is licensed as a specifier of the verb, which lexicalizes the resulting state (Hale & Keyser 1993, 2002; Levin 1999; Levin & Rappaport 1995; Nash 2002; Harley 2006; Zubizarreta & Oh 2007; among others).

(21)

V 1

V 1[CAUSE] V 2
V 1[CAUSE]
V 2
Against ditransitivity 165 objects arises from compositional semantics, we are forced to conclude that the underlying
DP V 2 the pot V 2 Root
DP
V 2
the pot
V 2
Root

break

(H&K 2002: 3)

Going over the justification of this structure is beyond the scope of this work; here I assume it is correct in that objects of causatives are licensed as inter- nal specifiers. 14 As a result, the causative structure, in which the object DP is merged above the verb, is incompatible with low applicatives, defined as a relation of two DPs below the verb.

(22)

v 1

v 1 vP 2
v 1
vP 2
Appl *
Appl
*
DP v 2 v 2 Root
DP
v 2
v 2
Root

The semantics of the sentence and the syntax of causatives both indicate that the dative DP is applied not to the direct object but to the state of which the direct object is the subject. This structure is represented in (23).

14. See Cuervo 2008 for evidence of the internal specifier position of the objects of causatives in terms of restrictions on bare nouns.

  • 166 María Cristina Cuervo

(23) VoiceP DP Subj vP do
(23)
VoiceP
DP Subj
vP do
Voice ApplP
Voice
ApplP
v Appl DO 0/ DP Dat Appl vP BE
v
Appl
DO
0/
DP Dat
Appl
vP BE
DP Acc Root v BE
DP Acc
Root
v BE

The structure of causatives is complex, consisting of two subevents, each ex- pressed by a verbal layer (vP). This contrasts with the simple, mono-eventive structure of mono-transitives and the ditransitives seen in Section 2. The ap- plicative is merged between the two subevents: it is the object of the higher, dynamic event, and it takes the lower, stative vP as its complement. The ap- plied dative DP participates in both subevents: this is the structural position which defines affectedness as a configurational meaning (Alsina 1992, Marantz 1993). Affectedness is the common interpretation for datives with causatives as those in (20). The possessive interpretation mentioned in previous analyses may be part of the interpretation of these affected datives, but only as an in- ference. 15 We might infer the dative DP is the possessor of the object DP as the reason why the individual is presented as affected by the new state of the object. Cases as (20b) show that possession of the object is not entailed. These affected applicatives must be distinguished from low applicatives, then, both semantically and syntactically. The two kinds of applicatives have a common possessive nature, but the object of the possession is different: an entity in low applicatives, a state in affected applicatives. The semantic difference might not arise as a difference in the meaning of the applicative head per se, but as a consequence of the different type of complement the applicative takes. In turn, the fact that the applicative in (23) is embedded under another vP distinguishes

15. In Section 2.2, the opposite was shown to apply to double-objects: a possessive relation was entailed while affectedness could be an inference or not.

Against ditransitivity

167

affected applicatives from Pylkkänen’s high applicatives (defined as selecting a VP under Voice). 16 To sum up, we have seen that there exists a type of sentence in Spanish with all the surface morphosyntactic properties of ditransitives. These sentences, however, do not correspond to the projection of verbs selecting two theta roles or two arguments; rather, they are the expression of causative verbs with a complex event structure, expressed as two vP layers in the syntax. Again, we have morphosyntactic (surface) ditransitivity without lexical ditransitivity. In the case of these affected applicatives, the dissociation is even deeper: these ditransitive sentences do not even have a ditransitive structure in which there are two DP arguments internal to the same vP, that is, they are not ditransitives in the syntactic, ‘deep’ sense.

  • 4. Ditransitive unaccusatives

We have seen two cases of dissociation in the notion of ditransitivity: deep and surface ditransitives without lexical ditransitivity, and surface ditransitives without lexical or deep ditransitivity. We haven’t seen any case of ditransitiv- ity at some level without surface ditransitivity. Is it possible to have such a case? What would a ditransitive structure look like without the morphosyn- tax of ditransitives? If deep ditransitivity involves two internal arguments, we must look for this structure merged under a configuration without accusative case (under the generalized view that dative case in Spanish is inherent case). There are indeed many sentences in Sp anish in which we find two arguments, one in nominative – which triggers verb agreement – and another dative DP, and no possibility of an accusative DP.

(24)

a.

Pablo

le

habló

a la

reina.

 

Pablo

cl.dat

talked

the

queen.dat

 

‘Pablo talked to the queen.’

 
 
  • b. A Pablo

le

gustan

los

guantes

de

Tesi.

 

Pablo

cl.dat

like.3p

[the

gloves

of

Tesi].nom

‘Pablo likes Tesi’s gloves.’

 
 
  • c. A Pablo

le

llegaron

los

libros.

 

Pablo

cl.dat

arrived.3p

the

books.nom

 

‘The books arrived to Pablo.’ ‘Pablo got the books.’

16. As an anonymous reviewer points out, Pylkkänen’s definition of high applicatives is based on their complement being a VP. Although Pylkkänen does not state that they merge immediately under Voice, all her examples are of this nature. The fact that the (affected) interpretation of the applied argument requires the consideration not only of the complement of Appl, but also of the structure immediately above it seems to point towards a distinction.

  • 168 María Cristina Cuervo

  • d. se

A Pablo

le

quemaron

los

guantes

de

Pablo

se

cl.dat

burnt.3p

[the

gloves

of

Tesi.

Tesi].nom ‘Tesi’s gloves got burnt on Pablo.’

The first sentence is arguably not a case of deep ditransitivity but a unergative activity verb hablar with an external argument and an indirect object. There are a few verbs in Spanish which can appear in this configuration, such as sonreir ‘smile’, golpear ‘hit’, agradecer ‘thank, gritar ‘shout’. In most cases the root seems to lexicalize a direct object (sonreir as hacer una sonrisa ‘make a smile’, golpear as dar un golpe ‘give a blow’). The other three sentences are formed with different types of unaccusative predicates: (24b) contains a psych predicate; (24c) contains a simple unac- cusative, a process unaccusative in Ma sullo’s (1992) terminology; (24d) incor- porates a dative DP to an inchoative – the se intransitive variant of causative verbs. Since these three sentences are arguably unaccusative, they are poten- tial examples of deep ditransitivity without surface transitivity. This would be the case if the two arguments are generated as internal arguments and one be- comes a surface subject, as generally assumed. This double-object analysis has been proposed by Belletti & Rizzi for Italian, and was followed by Masullo (1992) and Bruhn de Garavito (2002) for Spanish psych predicates. Fernández Soriano (1999) and Cuervo (to appear), however, have questioned this analysis and argued that the dative DP is not an internal argument and, therefore, psych predicates do not have a double-object structure. The double-object structure of inchoatives has also been called into question given facts of restrictions on bare nouns for the postverbal nominative, and the apparent predicational rela- tion between verb and nominative DP (Cuervo 2008). In order to avoid confusion and controversy, then, I will focus on the struc- tures of the poster case of Spanish unaccusatives: simple (se-less) verbs of change or existentials, such as llegar ‘arrive’, salir ‘go out’, crecer ‘grow’, faltar ‘lack’, sobrar ‘be extra’, quedar ‘remain’. Is this a case of deep ditran- sitivity? Are datives in these constructions low applicatives in terms of their semantics and their syntax? Let’s start with their semantics. It seems that in- deed, we find cases in which the dative DP is interpreted as each one of the three attested sub-types of low applicatives in ditransitive constructions.

(25) a.

A Gabi

le

llegaron

buenas

noticias.

(Recipient)

Gabi.dat

cl.dat

arrived.pl

good

news

‘Gabi got good news.’

 
  • b. A Gabi

le

salieron

tres

canas.

(Source)

 

Gabi.dat

cl.dat

came-out.pl

three

white hairs

‘Gabi got three white hairs.’

c.

Against ditransitivity

169

Al

the

ensayo

essay.dat

le

cl.dat

sobran

are-extra.pl

hojas.

pages

‘The essay has too many pages.’

(Possessor)

The possessive reading (either dynamic or static) is found in all the unac- cusative sentences as those in (25). As in the case of double-objects with tran- sitive predicates, the construction is available both for animate and inanimate dative DPs, with inanimates being restricted to inalienable possession (part- whole) relations.

(26)

Al

árbol

/

*Al

patio

le

faltan

hojas.

the

tree.dat

/

the

patio.dat

cl.dat

lack.pl

leaves

‘The tree/the patio is missing some leaves.’

In order to obtain this interpretation, the simple unaccusative structure is ‘aug- mented’ by the addition of an applied argument. Structure (27b) expresses the right hierarchical relations and accounts for the semantics of the construction in terms of a possessive relation between two individuals under a predicate of change or existential (Cf. Fernández Soriano 1999). As in other unaccusative constructions in Spanish, the dative DP moves to preverbal position (the sen- tence is ‘about’ the dative DP) while the lower object receives structural case in situ and triggers verbal agreement.

(27) a.

Simple unaccusatives vP

c. Against ditransitivity 169 Al the ensayo essay. dat le cl . dat sobran are-extra. pl

v

0/

0/

Root

DP

lleg-

buenas noticias

  • b. Double-object unaccusatives (=(25a)) vP

 
v 0/ Root DP lleg - buenas noticias b. Double-object unaccusatives (=(25a)) v P v

v

0/

Root ApplP
Root
ApplP

lleg-

DP a Gabi Appl DP le buenas noticias
DP
a Gabi
Appl
DP
le
buenas noticias
  • 170 María Cristina Cuervo

Simple unaccusatives as those above present another kind of dissociation among levels of ditransitivity. In this case, there is no lexical ditransitivity (these predicates are never included in lists of ditransitives) nor morphosyn- tactic, surface ditransitivity (there is no accusative, the normal word order is Dat > Nom). The underlying structure is, however, that of a double-object, the only difference being that the verb and its complement applicative phrase are not embedded under a transitive v or Voice but under an unaccusative v which does not license an external argument. 17 Although there is no lexical ditransitivity, there is semantic ditransitivity in some sense. Unaccusative double-objects have the semantics of low applica- tives, which arise from the meaning of the applicative head and compositional semantics. If we define at least some sense of ditransitivity as a (possessive or locative) relation between two individuals below the verb (a possible rephras- ing of ‘two internal theta roles’), these cases are ditransitive also semantically. I address this issue in the next sections, when the dissociations are discussed and an explanation is searched for.

  • 5. Ditransitivity deconstructed

We started this work distinguishing three levels of ditransitivity, three levels at which we should look for ditransitive properties: lexical, syntactic and mor- phosyntactic. The lexical level corresponds to the semantic definition of di- transitive verbs as verbs that select two theta roles and license two internal arguments. The syntactic or deep level corresponds to the structure of a verb with two VP-internal arguments (that is, two arguments internal to the same vP, VP or RootP). Finally, the morphosyntactic properties of ditransitivity are more language specific and correspond to the coding properties of the language (case, word order, etc.), which determine the surface shape of sentences. As ex- pected, in sentences with verbs considered ditransitive, the three levels coincide and provide the prototypical case of ditransitivity. Spanish has shown, how- ever, that prototypical cases are few and that ditransitivity can be distributed unevenly across the three levels as illustrated in Table 3.

17. I assume here that what takes the ApplP as complement is a root, which becomes a verb of a certain kind by combining with a verbalizing head v. This approach is not crucial for the argument, however, and the argument stands within a theory without unaccusative v and without v at all.

Against ditransitivity

171

Table 3. Levels of ditransitivity for several dative constructions

Level

Lexical

Deep

Surface

Ditransitives

Monotransitives

Causatives

Unaccusatives

NO

NO

NO

NO

NO

  • 5.1. Lexical ditransitivity

Section 2 presented cases in which syntactic and morphosyntactic ditransitivity is dissociated from lexical ditransitivity, specifically, that being a “ditransitive verb” is not a necessary condition for appearing in a ditransitive structure or sentence. The idea is that there are no “adjunct indirect objects”: once there is a second internal dative argument, we cannot tell syntactically or morphosyn- tactically from that ‘extra argument’ and a selected dative. This dissociation is problematic for most theories of argument structure and for a central view within linguistic theory: the projectionist view under which the meaning of a verb determines the arguments that must appear in a sentence and their inter- pretation. If it is the verb that semantically and syntactically licenses the two arguments in the case of double-objects with send, give, tell and put, what is responsible for their licensing in the case of double-objects with monotransi- tives like buy, bake, envy, and robar ‘steal’ and besar ‘kiss’? Once we have a theory of how the licensing proceeds in the latter cases, should not the theory cover lexical ditransitives as well? This dissociation is also problematic for Baker’s 1988 Uniformity of Theta Assignment Hypothesis (UTAH) and related generalizations on the relation between interpretation and position of arguments. UTAH states that identical thematic relations are represented by identical structural relations. Thematic relations are usually understood as determined by lexical meaning, and alter- nations in the realization of arguments are considered the product of syntac- tic rules, such as incorporation. As such, the hypothesis at most works only in one direction: identical thematic relations may be represented by identical base syntax (assuming transformational analyses of argument structure alter- nations), but it is not the case that identical syntax corresponds to identical thematic relations in the lexicon, since most ditransitive syntax does not corre-

  • 172 María Cristina Cuervo

spond to lexical ditransitivity. As a result, UTAH suffers the same fate as the projectionist theory. 18, 19 Even if one does not assume UTAH or the projectionist hypothesis, the dis- sociations should be taken seriously because they pose further challenges to the notions of verb classes, and even to the notion of transitivity and ditransitivity as types of structures. So far, in our discussion of lexical ditransitivity, we focused on the status of the internal DPs of verbs which are not ditransitive. The reverse of this case corresponds to ditransitive verbs which appear with less than two internal arguments. The fact is that every ditransitive verb can appear in sentences with one object omitted (or even both, in the right contexts), which seems to go against the very idea of ditransitives selecting two arguments, in the sense of requiring two arguments.

(28)

a.

A:

¿Vas

a

donar

este

año?

 

go.2s

to

donate

this

year

‘Will you make a donation this year?’

 

B:

No,

yo

ya

di.

 

no

I

already

gave

‘No, I have already given (to charity).’

 

b.

¿Le

retiro,

señora?

 
 

cl.dat

remove.1s

madam

‘Shall I take your plate, madam?’

It can be argued that those omitted objects are implicit or null objects (either syntactically active or not; see, e.g., Rizzi 1986; Campos 1986) and therefore the verb “remains” ditransitive. The recourse to implicit arguments, however, requires extreme caution. First, because, as Bosque (1990: 61) warns us, “the

  • 18. As an anonymous reviewer points out, the fact that under the low applicative analysis the syn- tactic relation of the direct object with the verb is different depending on whether there is an indirect object or not seems to imply that identical thematic relations need not be represented by identical base syntax either. In turn, this suggests that UTAH cannot be maintained even as a simple conditional. Note, however, that under Baker’s 1996 analysis, Themes are always projected as the specifier of a lower VP irrespective of the projection of an indirect object or PP complement of V and, therefore, this problem does not arise.

  • 19. We can try to save UTAH by saying that the correlation is indeed biconditional but it is not strictly about theta roles determined by the verb alone; rather, theta roles are determined within a structure. The price of this move, however, is ever higher, since then UTAH would not be a hypothesis about lexical meaning and syntactic structure but about compositional semantics and syntactic structure. Given that compositional rules are normally understood as performed on syntactic structures, then it is to be expected that the same thematic relations would correspond to identical syntactic structures. This, however, is the equivalent of giving up on the projectionist view that posits syntactic structure as determined and restricted by semantics, not the other way around.

Against ditransitivity 173

various mechanisms of recovering absent information should not be confused with structural properties of the heads”. Second, this recourse just pushes the question to why the arguments can be left implicit rather than having to be overtly realized. Levin (1999) discusses some similar issues with respect to the internal argument of transitive verbs. She notes that transitive verbs can be di- vided in two groups according to, among other characteristics, the possibility of omission of the complement. On the one hand, we have the core transitive verbs, which are transitive across languages, whose objects are always required and are always DPs rather than varying between DP and PP: causative pred- icates such as burn, break, melt. On the other hand, the transitivity of verbs expressing activities is typically more irregular: it varies intralinguistically and crosslinguistically (request vs. ask for ; look at vs. transitive mirar in Spanish), the complement can be a DP or a PP (eat the cake, eat at the cake), and it can behave as a direct argument in one language but as an oblique in another. These are the non-core transitive verbs. Levin derives the different behaviour of core and non-core transitive verbs (causatives and non-causatives) from the way the internal argument is licensed. The obligatory object of causatives is licensed as an argument of a semantic predicate in the event structure repre- sentation associated with the verb constant (29a). This object projects onto the argument structure, which in turn determines the syntactic structure of the sen- tence. Levin calls this semantic and syntactic licensing.

(29)

a.

Core transitive: break [ [x act < MANNER >

<broken>]]]

] cause [ become [ y

  • b. Non-core transitive: sweep [x act < SWEEP > y ] (Levin 1999)

For Levin, the licensing of the object of non-causative verbs, in contrast, is only semantic licensing, which she represents by adding an underlined vari- able to the event structure associated with non-core transitives such as sweep (29b). Semantic licensing depends exclusively on the idiosyncratic meaning of the constant (root). In other words, semantic licensing by a constant is a question of compatibility, not a syntactic requirement, and the interpretation of the object does not derive from a systematic position as an argument in the lexico-semantic representation. Within my syntactic approach, this means that the internal argument of non-core transitives is licensed as complement of the root. Coming back to ditransitives, there are indications that they behave like non- core transitives with respect to the licensing of internal arguments. First, unlike the object of causatives, the objects of ditransitives can be omitted under certain conditions, as illustrated in (28): ditransitives can appear with one, two or no arguments (besides the subject). Second, there is variability not only in the presence of the internal arguments of ditransitives, but also in their syntactic expression as DP-DP or DP-PP. This variability is seen language-internally in

  • 174 María Cristina Cuervo

the dative and locative alternations, and crosslinguistically in the numerous cases in which a DP-PP structure in one language is expressed as a double- object, applicative construction in another (see Peterson 2007 for a relevant survey on cross-linguistic variation in applicative constructions). Another distinctive behaviour of non-core transitives (and unergatives) noted by Levin (1999) is that they can appear with out-prefixation and an animate object DP, with the meaning ‘verb more than DP’, as in (30a); core-transitives are excluded from this pattern. Ditransitives can exhibit this pattern just like non-core transitives, as in (30b) and (30c).

(30) a.

I am no slouch in the food department, but she consistently out- ordered and outate me.

These data suggest that ditransitive verbs are all “non-core ditransitives”. This means that the internal arguments of prototypical ditransitive verbs are, in terms of Levin, only semantically licensed by compatibility with the idiosyn- cratic meaning of the root, not by the event structure. In syntactic terms, the internal argument(s) of ditransitives are complements of the root. The unsteady nature of the expression of “lexical ditransitives” can be nat- urally captured if we analyse lexical ditransitives as a sub-class of non-core transitives: verbs which typically license a relation. 20 This captures the fact that the two internal arguments in ditransitive constructions relate to each other and then, as a unit, they relate with the verb. The difference is apparent in cases of double-objects and their PP variant (31a-b), as opposed to sentences with a benefactive or locative adjunct (31c-d), in which the direct object has a privileged, closer relation to the verb, not to the other argument.

(31)

a.

Peter bought [Stephanie an apple].

  • b. Peter bought [an apple for Stephanie].

  • c. Peter [jumped the fence] for Stephanie. 21

20. I refer here to semantic licensing by the meaning of the root and to syntactic composition (licensing of a complement), leaving aside the exact mechanisms by which these structures are interpreted by rules of semantic composition. 21. Several languages have non-prepositional variants of these benefactives (Baker 1988; Marantz 1993, Peterson 2007, among many others), which Pylkkänen analyses as high-applicatives:

an (extra) argument related to an event (which take a VP or vP complement).

Against ditransitivity 175

  • d. Peter [bought an apple] in that store.

The idea that lexical ditransitivity does not involve a verb taking two inter- nal arguments but one makes sense, given that the verbs prototypically ditran- sitive express a directional movement (either possessive, metaphorical or lit- eral), their complement specifying the object and, in most cases, the goal of the ‘movement’. From a wide enough perspective, since they typically select a relation, verbs like put and load are as ditransitive as give, which highlights the similarity between the proposal that the complement of put is a PP (with a DP in its specifier and a DP as its complement) and that the complement of give in a double-object construction is an applicative phrase. The view that ditransitives are a sub-class of transitives, together with the observation that the complement of ditransitives can be a PP or ApplP – a relation – or just a DP – an individual – also captures the idea (already at least in Levin 1999 and Marantz 1993) that there is no crucial difference – in terms of licensing – between a complement DP and a complement PP. 22 Verbs taking a specifier-less PP as complement (look, think, reside, etc.) are, in this sense, as transitive as a verb taking a DP complement. In fact, ditransitives belong to the even more general structural class which includes, as argued for by Levin 1999, transitive and unergative activity and semelfactive verbs. To sum up, ditransitives are a subgroup of monotransitives, the group which is compatible with semantically licensing a relation. In turn, semantic licensing by a verbal root is always licensing of one complement. 23 Simply put, this amounts to saying that there is no lexical ditransitivity. 24

  • 5.2. Syntactic ditransitivity

The analysis of causative and unaccusative ditransitives in Sections 3 and 4 revealed a different pattern of dissociation with respect to deep and surface ditransitivity.

  • 22. As an anonymous reviewer points out, of course there are verbs which would take one or the other type of complement, but that seems to depend on idiosyncratic rather than structural properties of verbs.

  • 23. This means both that a lexical item (a root) can license at most one complement, and not two, and that it can only select a complement, but not a specifier. Grimshaw’s (1990) observations on the fact that subjects of nouns are never obligatory point to the idea that subjects are not licensed by the (lexical) verb either (Marantz 1984, Kratzer 1996), thus reducing the licensing possibilities of verbs to internal arguments. In a similar fashion, now the licensing possibilities of verbs, not being relational elements in themselves, are further reduced to one internal argument.

  • 24. Lexical is to be understood here as opposed to functional; in this sense the only ditransitive elements (items that relate two individuals) are functional: Appl and P (see Hale and Keyser 1993, Borer 2005).

  • 176 María Cristina Cuervo

Table 4. Levels of ditransitivity for causatives and unaccusatives

Level

 

Lexical

Deep

Surface

Causatives

NO

NO

Unaccusatives

NO

NO

Abstracting away from the fact that these are not lexical ditransitives, the cases in Table 4 amount to a double dissociation between the structural and morphosyntactic correlates of ditransitivity: there are underlying ditransitive structures that are not expressed as ditransitive sentences, and there are ditran- sitive sentences that do not arise from ditransitive structures. Ditransitivity is, at best, an epiphenomenon. Given this double dissociation, the only meaningful notion of ditransitiv- ity would be a deep syntactic notion: a verb that takes two internal argu- ments. Transformational approaches to ditransitives (Baker 1988; Demonte 1995; Landau 1999; Larson 1988; Masullo 1992; among many others), how- ever, propose that one of the two internal arguments is not really licensed by the verb. 25 The proposal that the verb or a prepositional element moves and merges with a higher verb is the acknowledgment that a simple verb can only take one argument. This is explicitly proposed by Larson (1988) in the Single Complement Hypothesis. It was this point that Jackendoff (1990a) reacted so strongly about; interestingly, it is the aspect of Larson’s analysis that had the deepest consequences for theories of argument structure. We find similar ideas in non-transformational approaches: The lexical verb (the root) always licenses one argument: a relation phrase, whose head is re- sponsible for the licensing of the two arguments (as in Pylkkänen’s low ap- plicatives, in Pesetsky’s prepositional GP analysis, and in small clause analy- ses [Cummins at al. to appear; den Dikken 1995; Hale & Keyser 1993; Harley 2002; Krifka 2004, among others]). It seems, therefore, that every previous approach to ditransitives has already been arguing, showing or implying that no verb takes two arguments; that there is no syntactic ditransitivity. There are two important characteristics of the anal- ysis developed here, however, which, taken together, distinguish it from pre- vious approaches and are crucial to the understanding of ditransitivity. First, here the two internal arguments are licensed within the same verbal layer (the

25. Similarly, in the decompositional lexico-semantic structures of lexicalist approaches to argu- ment structure (Grimshaw 1990, Jackendoff 1990b, Levin & Rappaport 1995), it is always

more than one head or predicate responsible for the licensing of the internal arguments (as in

Jackendoff’s cause

go to Poss ).

Against ditransitivity 177

root phrase). Second, the analysis makes a crucial distinction between com- plements that are non-predicational relations (ApplP and transitive PPs) and predicational complements, such as embedded vPs in causatives, small clauses and resultatives. This distinction between simple and complex predicates, be- tween mono-eventive ditransitives and bi-eventive causatives, was necessary to uncover the dissociation between surface ditransitivity – which includes datives with causatives – and deep ditransitivy – which does not. Thus, this approach differs from others which do not make distinctions among (di)transtives, either presenting all ditransitive sentences as the result of several verbal layers (trans- formational, incorporation and raising approaches), as having a causative struc- ture (Hale & Keyser 2002; Harley 2002; Zubizarreta & Oh 2007), as the expres- sion of low applicatives (Pylkkänen 2008) or explicitly assuming no structural differences between predicational and non-predicational complements (Cum- mings et al. to appear).

6. Conclusions

Spanish shows that ditransitive sentences can be the morphosyntactic expres- sion of diverse base structures; in other words, ditransitivity is an epiphe- nomenon. This is a result consistent with recent work on transitivity which, from diverse perspectives, argues that transitive sentences are the expression of different lexical structures (Levin 1999) or can correspond to different under- lying syntactic structures (Cuervo 2008; Folli and Harley 2005; Hale & Keyser 1993, 2002; Nash 2002; Zubizarreta & Oh 2007; among others). In the case of ditransitivity, however, the problem is much deeper: ditransitivity is only a pre- theoretical surface phenomenon. In terms of licensing of arguments by verbs, we are left with no real ditransitivity at the lexical, semantic or syntactic levels. Why wouldn’t there be lexical or semantic ditransitivity? Why can’t a verb select or require two arguments to which it assigns a theta role, in contrast to verbs which do so with only one argument? I believe the answer to this question derives from the lack of (compositional) semantic ditransitivity which, in turn, derives from the impossibility of syntactic (deep) ditransitivity. At the beginning of this article we mentioned how it is impossible for a for- mal syntactic theory like the one built within the framework of the Minimalist Program (or Principles and Parameters, for that matter) to obtain a derivation in which a head takes two complements. Any formal theory which allows for two complements (or two XPs) to equally relate to a verb faces the problem of accounting for the observed structural asymmetries between the two XPs found in the prepositional and double-object constructions. Spanish shows that these asymmetries cannot be accounted for by adding linear order to binding theory (Demonte 1995; Cuervo 2003; contra Jackendoff 1990a). Transforma-

  • 178 María Cristina Cuervo

tional approaches have attempted to derive lexical ditransitivity as composi- tional semantic ditransitivity via syntactic movement, because there was no way of linking two theta roles to two internal argument positions in argument or syntactic structure directly. Ironically, all the work demonstrates that it is impossible to express syntactic or semantic ditransitivity. This study, and the view that emerges from it, has important implications for the theory of argument structure. The idea that there are no verbs that select and license two arguments is the natural and direct consequence of taking bi- nary branching seriously (no head can license two complements). 26 The fact that the impossibility of ditransitivity as a type of syntactic structure makes the existence of real semantic and lexical ditransitivity impossible directly defines the direction of determination between the lexicon and the syntax: there is no strong sense in which the lexicon determines syntactic structure, but the other way around. Possible syntactic structures, determined both by universal princi- ples (e.g., binary branching) and language-particular selection and restrictions (associated with functional heads) interact with the lexical meanings of roots. Ultimately, it is the possible syntactic structures which determine possible ver- bal meanings. The only semantics of verbs which does not directly depend on structure, that is, lexical semantics, is drastically reduced to idiosyncratic or encyclopaedic meaning and, with some limits, to the type of complement with which it is most compatible. 27 This research suggests that every formal aspect of verbal meaning which is relevant for syntactic structure is, in fact, semanti- cally compositional; in other words, that those systematic aspects of meaning are not lexical but derive from syntax.

University of Toronto

  • 26. It is, in principle, possible for a verb to take two arguments maintaining binary branching if, as proposed by Chomsky 1981, a ditransitive verb takes the direct object as its complement and the indirect object as its specifier, the subject being external to this relation. This position was abandoned, however, or evolved into the split-VP hypothesis by which each internal argument is licensed by a different layer of V. If internal arguments are arguments of the verbal root (as argued for by Levin 1999, Nash 2002, and also here) the impossibility of a root taking two arguments might derive from both binary branching and a restriction on verbalizing heads that prevents them from merging with a root (a root phrase) that has a specifier. Section 5 discussed semantic and syntactic motivations for proposing that the two internal arguments of ditransitives are licensed below the root. See also Note 23.

  • 27. This approach contrasts with a fully neo-Davidsonian approach such as Borer’s (2005), since here objects are licensed by roots directly, without recourse to an additional event predicate such as Theme or Quantity.

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