Absentees and occasional visitors in the English caused-motion pattern

The caused-motion pattern seen as an argument structure construction

There are some very persuasive arguments for the existence of a caused-motion construction (henceforth CMC) in English. Goldberg (1995), referring to an observation made earlier by Aske (1989), notes that several verbs which can be used in the CMC do not evoke change of location outside of the construction, which makes it implausible to posit a distinct motion sense for such verbs:

(1) a. Frank squeezed the ball. (no implication of change of location)

b. Frank squeezed the ball through the crack. (implication of change of location)

It is apparently due to an independently existing CMC that the Path prepositional phrase is added, along with the interpretation of change of location. Besides, my own research on verb-particle constructions in English (e.g. Cappelle 2005) has not failed to convince me of the possibility of, indeed, squeezing words into a transitive verb-particle construction, thereby imparting it with a caused- motion sense that it doesn’t have by itself. Here is an authentic example, in which the quality of a household cleaning product is promoted:

(2) CifActifizz. Fizzes Stains Away Fast.

The verb fizz is not even a motion verb, so the force-dynamic scenario evoked in

(2) must be attributed to the CMC that the transitive phrasal verb construction can be an instantiation of.

Goldberg and Jackendoff (2004) describe the CMC as a member of the resul- tative “family” of constructions:

(3) a. Causative property resultative

e.g. Bill watered the tulips flat.

b. Noncausative property resultative e.g. The pond froze solid.

c. Causative path resultative (caused-motion construction) e.g. Bill rolled the ball down the hill.

d. Noncausative path resultative (intransitive motion construction)[1]

e.g. The ball rolled down the hill.

By using the term “family”, Goldberg and Jackendoff (2004) aim to point out that there is no such thing as “the resultative”, conceived of as a unified, undiversified category. Instead, they treat the patterns in (3) as individual subconstructions of a general “resultative” pattern, “sharing important properties but differing in certain specifics, including their degree of productivity” (Goldberg and Jackendoff 2004: 535).

  • [1] This construction is also sometimes referred to as the “self-motion construction” or the “self-agentive motion construction”.
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