From psych adjectives to psych verbs.


Dorota Klimek and Bożena Rozwadowska (Wrocław)


This paper is a contribution to the on-going debate concerning the argument structure of psychological predicates (i.e. Experiencer predicates). Both psych-adjectives and psych-verbs have been subjected to close scrutiny recently. Inspired by Bennis (2002), we are going to modify and extend further his “complex/simplex ergativity” approach to psych-predicates. In particular, we will concentrate on Polish Object Experiencer verbs illustrated in (1):


(1)   a. Janek zdumiał Marysię dziwnym zachowaniem.

    ‘John amazed Mary with strange behaviour’.

b. Dziwne zachowanie Janka zdumiało Marysię.

    ‘John’s strange behaviour amazed Mary.’

c. Marysia była/*została zdumiona dziwnym zachowaniem Janka.

    ‘Mary was/*got amazed with John’s strange behaviour.’

d. *Marysia była/została zdumiona dziwnym zachowaniem przez Janka.

    ‘*Mary was/got amazed with strange behaviour by John.’


Starting from the analysis of various types of adjectives, Bennis distinguishes unergative adjectives (Jan is aardig ‘John is nice’), simplex ergative adjectives (Dat is duidelijk ‘That is clear’), and complex ergative adjectives (Dat is aardig (van Henk) ‘That is nice of Henk’), assigning to them respective representations relying on the presence/absence of light shell-structures (light aP over AP). Then he extends the approach to Dutch psych-verbs and suggests that psychological verbs are ergative (as opposed to various current unergative views on OE verbs, including Pesetsky 1995, Grimshaw 1990, Arad 1988, Reinhart 2001 a.o.), though not unaccusative (contra Belletti&Rizzi 1988). The Dutch equivalent of (1b) is viewed by him as complex ergative, with two internal arguments: the Experiencer generated in [Spec,V], and the Theme in complement position. At the same time (1a) would be a regular transitive construction with an external argument generated/merged in [Spec, v]. With Bennis we will assume and provide support for the “complex ergativity” approach for Polish psych adjectives and verbs. However (contra Bennis), we would like to claim that (1a) is also a derived structure, a result of what we call Possessor-Raising from the complement of V to [Spec, v]. Such view of OE predicates of the type illustrated in (1) seems to account for the contrast w.r.t. passivization between OE verbs (see 1d) and normal transitive predicates taking also an Instrument, such as those in (2):


(2)   a. Janek otworzył drzwi kluczem.

    ‘John opened the door with a key.’

b. Drzwi zostały otwarte kluczem przez Janka.

    ‘The door got opened with a key by John.’


We suggest that (1c) is an adjectival passive, that no verbal passivization is possible with OE verbs (which is consistent with the ergativity claim). Moreover, in our view OE verbs are dyadic, which calls into question the assumption familiar from current literature that psych verbs from the OE class allow three thematic roles subject to the so called T/SM (Target/Subject Matter) restriction, illustrated for Polish in (3):


(3)   a. *Artykuł (z)denerwował Marka na rząd.

    ‘*The article annoyed Mark at the government.’

b. *Film (za)fascynował Basię muzyką.

     ‘*The film fascinated Barbara with music.’

c. *Wykład (za)interesował studentów językoznawstwem.

    ‘*The lecture interested the students with linguistics.’


We will also argue that the T/SM restriction is no longer necessary if we assume the ergativity approach to psych verbs.


Selected References:


Arad, M. 1998. VP structure and the syntax-lexicon interface. Doctoral Dissertation, University College London.


Belletti, A. and L. Rizzi. 1988. Psych-verbs and θ-theory. NLLT 6:291-352.


Bennis, H. 2002. Unergative adjectives and psych-verbs. To appear in A. Alexiadou, E. Anagnostopoulou & M. Everaert (eds.) Unaccusativity. Oxford University Press.


Grimshaw, J. 1990. Argument Structure. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.


Pesetsky, D. 1995. Zero Syntax: Experiencers and Cascades. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.


Reinhart, T. 2001. Experiencing derivations. OTS Working Papers.