Publication details [#9459]

Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez, Francisco José and Olga Isabel Díez Velasco. 2003. High-level action metonymies in English and Spanish. Jezikoslovlje 4 (1) : 121–138. 18 pp. URL


In this paper we postulate the existence of two high-level metonymies, ACTION FOR PROCESS and ACTION FOR (ASSESSED) RESULT, that we believe correlate respectively with cases of the causative/inchoative alternation and the middle construction. In our view, for a full analysis of the semantics of these two kinds of construction, it is necessary to take into account the existence of an underlying action frame with an implicit agent; however, the action is linguistically presented as a non-controlled event. We observe that these two high-level metonymies are also exploited productively in Spanish, although with different realization patterns. The closest Spanish parallel to the English inchoative and middle constructions is the so-called reflex passive, whose grammatical status remains controversial. We agree with Alarcos (1994) and Maldonado (1999) in their claim that the reflex passive does not display the inherent passive features, so that cases of this construction may be equated to other reflexive constructions. In them se is not a clitic but a reflexive pronoun, the subject being coreferential with it. This insight is further substantiated by the fact that the addition of an agentive complement with por ('by') often yields fairly infelicitous examples. While in English both kinds of metonymy are instantiated by the reduction of an argument position of the predicate, in Spanish - where the reduction of an argument position is impossible - the goal is expressed separately through the reflexive pronoun se, the true agent is omitted, and the grammatical subject takes over this role. (Francisco Ruiz de Mendoza and Olga Isabel Díez Velasco)