Stability and Change in Intransitive Argument Structure

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1 Scopus citations


The argument structure of verbs is pretty uniform across languages. Thus, verbs of 'falling' involve a Theme and an optional Causer and verbs of 'working' an Agent. Aspect is relevant to that uniformity as well since the former verbs will be telic and the latter durative. Stative verbs form a third main class. I first show that, when (spoken/written) languages change, the basic argument structure and aspect don't change for most unaccusatives and unergatives. There are, however, systematic reports (e.g. Rosen 1984; Keller & Sorace 2003; Randall et al 2004) that certain verbs are unergative in one language and unaccusative in another and that verbs alternate between different aspects (e.g. Levin & Rappaport Hovav 2014). I examine a few verbs diachronically that are ambiguous in the Keller & Sorace work, i.e. verbs of continuation and of controlled motional process, and conclude that a more fine-grained system is helpful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-232
Number of pages16
JournalOpen Linguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Argument structure
  • Aspect
  • Diachrony
  • Sorace Hierarchy
  • Unaccusative
  • Unergative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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