A corpus-based analysis of the peculiar behaviour of the Polish verb "podobać się"

Katarzyna Miechowicz-Mathiasen, Paweł Scheffler (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań)

Our presentation sums up a corpus-based microstudy of the Polish verb podobać się and its peculiar syntactic behaviour. Podobać się (please/like) is a psych-verb whose syntactic behaviour resembles that of the piacere class psych-verbs (as proposed by Belletti & Rizzi in their seminal 1988 article). We begin our analysis by addressing the well-known division of psych-predicates into Subject Experiencer Verbs (hence SubExpV) and Object Experiencer Verbs (hence ObExpV), which is based on the surface ordering of the arguments involved, i.e. the Experiencer argument and the Theme argument. The following two patterns are commonly presented to show the difference between the two types:

(1) a. John fears mice . SubExpV

Experiencer Theme

b. Mice frighten John . ObExpV

Theme Experiencer

It is generally accepted in generative frameworks that syntactic configurations and semantic (thematic) information are interrelated, i.e. the syntactic representations (at least in their initial stages) reflect the thematic representations (the Projection Principle (Chomsky 1981)). If we, furthermore, add Baker's Uniformity of Theta Assignment Hypothesis stating that "identical thematic relationships between items are represented by identical structural relationships between those items" (Baker 1988: 46), we can see straightforwardly that the examples in (1) pose problems for any analysis that assumes both the Projection Principle and the UTAH, i.e. we are facing the so-called 'linking problem'. Nevertheless, some more recent analyses, such as Pesetsky's (1995) proposal that the theta roles involved in (1a) and (1b) are not the same, or Arad's (1996, 1998) analysis based on the difference in the event/aspectual structure of the two verb classes, show that the phenomenon may be accommodated and the linking problem resolved. It seems, however, that the piacere group of psych-verbs, to which our verb podobać się (please/like) seems to belong, strongly resists such reanalyses and makes the problems very much alive.

Podobać się , just like the Italian verb piacere allows the following two patterns:

(2) a. Janowi podoba się mój dom.

John. dat likes refl my house. nom

'John likes my house'

Mój dom podoba się Janowi .

my house. nom pleases refl John. dat

'John likes my house'

(3) a. A Gianni piace questa casa .

John. dat likes this house. nom

'John likes this house'

Questa casa piace a Gianni .

this house. nom pleases John. dat

'John likes this house'

As the constructions in (1) could somehow be accommodated as to satisfy the Projection Principle/UTAH requirements, the constructions under (2) and (3) cannot be said to involve different thematic roles or event/aspectual structure. Moreover, both versions are natural, i.e. unmarked, and to cap it all, whichever nominal surfaces in the sentence-initial position, constitutes the sentential subject; consider the raising constructions:

(4) a. Janowi zdaje się podobać mój dom.

John. dat seems refl to like my house. nom

'John seems to like my house'

b . Mój dom zdaje się podobać Janowi.

my house. nom seems refl to please John. dat

'John seems to like my house'

(5) a. A Gianni sembra piacere questa casa .

John. dat seems to like this house. nom

'John seems to like this house'

b. Questa casa sembra piacere a Gianni.

this house. nom seems to please John. dat

'John seems to like this house'

In view of the facts presented above, we decided that the following questions need answering: (1) what kind of verb is podobać się - SubExpV or ObExpV, (2) what is the positioning of the two arguments - Experiencer and Theme - within the verbal projection and what this projection looks like, and finally (3) how is it possible that the system allows for two different unmarked surface word orders. In our presentation we will try to answer the posed questions and propose an analysis of the aforementioned problematic issues, as well as support our proposal with corpus data.


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