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The English Ditransitive Construction

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  1. The English Ditransitive Construction Goldberg, Adele E. (1995): Constructions. Ch. 6. Lucas Champollion (thanks to Ryan Gabbard for some slides) Nov 15th, 2004

  2. CAUSE-RECEIVE < agent recipient patient > Instance or means PREDICATE < *** Insert Verb Here *** > Verb Subject Object Object2 The Ditransitive Construction Pat mailed Bill a letter. John will bake Mary a cake.

  3. Outline • Evidence for the construction • Evidence that it means “X successfully causes Y to receive Z, where X is a volitional and Y is either willing or has no choice” • Semantic constraints on X and Y • Some systematic metaphors that license extensions from the basic sense

  4. The Ditransitive Construction: Why It Exists • okMary baked her sister a cake. (meaning: Mary baked a cake with the intention of giving it to her sister.) • *Mary baked her sister a cake. (meaning: Sally baked the cake so that her sister wouldn’t have to bake it) • *Mary baked her sister a cake. (meaning: Mary baked a cake for herself because her sister told her so) •  Transfer meaning either in construction or in bake • More evidence lies in the semantic constraints

  5. Semantic Constraints on the Subject • *Joe threw the right fielder the ball he intended the first baseman to catch • okJoe painted Sally a picture.  Subject must be volitional (i.e. an agent) • Problem: okOedipus gave his mother a kiss, okMary accidentally loaned Bob a lot of money  Constraints are the same as for murder

  6. Semantic Constraints on Object1 • okShe brought a package to the border. • *She brought the border a package. • okShe brought a package to the boarder. • okShe brought the boarder a package.  Object1 must be animate (i.e. a recipient)

  7. Semantic Constraints on Object1 (contd.) • Must either be willing: *Bill threw the coma victim a blanket • or have no choice: okBill gave Chris a headache / a kick / a speeding ticket. • Willingness ≠ benefit: okJack poured Jane an arsenic–laced martini.

  8. Apparent Counterexamples • okThe medicine brought him relief. • okThe rain bought us some time. • okShe gave me the flu.  Subject is not volitional! • Do these examples have anything in common? • cf. The document supplied us with some entertainment.

  9. Reminder: Polysemy give, throw, take, feed X successfully causes Y to receive Z but also: X causes Y not to receive Z X intends to cause Y to receive Z X enables Y to receive Z refuse, deny make, build, get, win, bake Subject Verb Object Object2 permit, allow

  10. CAUSE-”RECEIVE” < cause affectee effect > Instance or means PREDICATE < *** Insert Verb Here *** > Verb Subject Object Object2 A Systematic Metaphor: Causal Events as Transfers She gave me the flu. (unintentionally)

  11. More Systematic Metaphors • Communication as Reception: She told Jo a fairy tale, She wired Jo a message (cf. Jo received the information from Bill) • Perceptions as Received Entities: He gave Bob a glimpse (cf. I caught a glimpse from him) • Directed Action as Transferred Entity: She blew him a kiss, She threw him a parting glance (cf. All he got from her was a goodbye wave) • Facts/Assumptions/Beliefs as Objects: I’ll grant you that much of your argument (cf. I don’t want to give up that assumption)

  12. A More Complicated Case • Actions for Someone’s Benefit as Transferred Objects: Cry me a river, They’re going to kill Reagan a commie (cf. She graciously offered a ride to the airport, He owes you many favors) • recipient does not receive Object2 here  ?! • Source domain not ‘X causes Y to receive Z’ but ‘X causes Y to receive some object’ • Target domain ‘X performs an action for the benefit of Y’ • Therefore more constrained, dialectal variation: ?Cry Joe a river, ?Sally cried me a river

  13. Thanks.