A Functional Explanation of French Nonlexical Datives
The unity of French lexical and nonlexical uses of the dative clitic is made apparent by a functional analysis according to which the dative clitic always represents a 'theme' of the sentence, where thematicity is defined as greater relative saliency based on certain purely semantic (not pragmatic) properties and relations of arguments. The operation of certain semantic constraints on the nonlexical datives, which may be very approximately summarized as requiring that the dative complement be animate and that it be somehow affected by the act denoted by the rest of the VP, follows naturally, in accord with Dik's Markedness Hypothesis (Dik (1978)), from the view that the nonlexical datives represent a 'thematization' of an element which is otherwise (in alternative nondative constructions) represented as peripheral to the described event. The more limited occurrence of á-NP in nonlexical dative environments is explained by reference to general syntactic constraints on the language, together with the fact that à-NP, unlike the dative clitic, tends to be interpreted as an argument of V.
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