Stuck in the Middle: Dative Arguments and Middle-Passive Constructions in Spanish
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation presents novel data from Spanish middle-passive constructions and their interaction with non-selected dative arguments. Middle-passive constructions are characterized by the presence of the reflexive clitic se, imperfective tenses, and agreement between the verb and the definite DP Theme in preverbal position; moreover, any transitive verb can occur in these structures and the possibility of introducing an agent by means of a por-phrase is banned. While traditional classifications of middle constructions (Mendikoetxea 1999) catalogue middle-passive structures as a single homogeneous category, this dissertation shows that these constructions in Spanish, unlike in other Romance languages, show different behaviors with respect to the possibility of inserting an unselected dative argument depending on the type of predicate contained in them. Thus, (i) predicates expressing a change of state or location in middle-passive configurations freely allow the insertion of a dative clitic, optionally reduplicated by a dative DP, which is interpreted as the accidental causer or affected by the event; (ii) predicates of perception can subcategorize for a dative DP interpreted as the inalienable possessor of the DP Theme; and (iii) agentive activity predicates in middle-passive contexts automatically block the insertion of a dative argument of any sort. Therefore, attending to these contrasts, a more detailed classification of middle-passive constructions is provided. Assuming dative objects in Spanish are instances of applied arguments, in line with the current theory of Applicatives (Marantz 1984; Baker 1988; Pylkkänen 2002, 2008; Cuervo 2003; Harley et al. 2009), I show that unselected dative arguments in (i) are Affected Applicatives relating the dative entity to a change-of-state/location event; the possibility of introducing this phrase in these contexts is due to the fact that, being generic unaccusatives, these predicates do not project an implicit argument in VoiceP that could come into conflict with the dative entity. Additionally, the dative arguments in (ii) are Low Applicatives of possession, which relate a possessor (the dative DP) with a possessee (the DP Theme). Moreover, I show that the relationship of inalienable possession does not arise by means of the applicative; instead, it originates inside the DP Theme itself. Finally, dative arguments in middle-passive contexts with fully agentive activity verbs are banned due to the fact that these constructions do project an expletive VoiceP whose implicit argument clashes with the applicative head.
Degree ProgramGraduate College