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'When can you passivize causatives? A phase-based analysis'

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  • UserMichelle Sheehan (Newcastle University)
  • ClockThursday 10 March 2022, 16:30-18:00
  • HouseOnline.

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In this talk, which draws on recent and ongoing joint work with Sonia Cyrino and Jan Casalicchio, I consider cross-linguistic variation in the availability of long passives of causative/perception verbs of the kind in (1-2), focusing mainly on English and Romance languages:

(1) Gianni รจ stato fatto/visto uscire. [Italian] (2) John was made/seen (*to) leave.

This is an area of rich variation across Romance languages, with French being highly restrictive and Italian highly permissive and European Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Catalan and Spanish somewhere in between. In all these languages there are differences depending on the specific matrix verb involved and sensitivity to the argument structure of the complement. I develop an analysis of this complex variation along the following lines: long passivization is blocked wherever the complement of a causative/perception verb is a phase. This attributes restrictions on long passivization to the Phase Impenetrability Condition, as I will show. In simple terms, cases like (1) and (2) are licit because the complement of the causative/perception verb here is a TP, with an EPP feature feeding successive cyclic A-movement. I show that this approach goes a long way towards explaining the attested patterns of variation across a number of Romance languages whilst also offering strong indirect support for the existence of phases (domains of syntactic relations) and for specific versions of phase theory.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Linguistic Society (LingSoc) series.

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