Agent-defocusing constructions from nominalized VPs
A cross-linguistic type?
Nominalized verb phrases have been identified as a possible source of passive and impersonal constructions by Langacker & Munro (1975), Langacker (1976), and Givón (1981), with exemplification drawn almost exclusively from Uto-Aztecan languages, but have received relatively less attention than other sources (reflexive markers, generalized subject constructions, 3rd person plural constructions, inactive auxiliaries + resultative participles, etc.). The aim of this article is to review the available evidence concerning passive and impersonal constructions derived from nominalized VPs, with a view to establishing whether they are cross-linguistically recurrent and robust as a type. Such a review reveals that there are overall a few instances of passive/impersonal constructions that are likely to derive from nominalized VPs. In many of the other cases in which a nominalized VP has been hypothesized to be the source of a given passive or impersonal construction there is no conclusive evidence for reconstructing such a source, and in some cases even an alternative source can be posited. Even in this unfavourable situation, however, a tentative scenario of how nominalized VPs might evolve into passive and impersonal constructions may be sketched, in order to account for the few cases in which such a development is likely to have taken place. The onset stage of this development, in particular, capitalizes on the possibility offered by nominalized VPs to manipulate the argument structure of the verb by keeping the initiator of the event off the stage.
Keywords: nominalization, agent defocusing, inverse constructions, impersonal constructions, passive constructions
Published online: 02 February 2017
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