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On the middle and ergative constructions in English

by Samuel Jay Keyser, Thomas Roeper
Linguistic inquiry ()

Abstract

Traditional classifications of English have divided sentence types into transitive & intransitive. This distinction cannot account for the relationship between sentences like The sun melted the ice The ice melted. These V pairs are here referred to as ergative pairs & are argued to be different from so-called middle Vs such as Someone bribed the bureaucrats/Bureaucrats bribe easily. It is also claimed that both sentence types have an O in underlying structure, in contrast to true intransitives. It is shown that ergatives are derived in the lexicon while the middle Vs are syntactically derived. Middle Vs are shown to conform to syntactic Move a, & a lexical transformation labeled the ergative rule is described. Discussion also considers questions on which member of the ergative pair is input to the rule, & the justification of using a transformational rule rather than a thematic rule of redundancy for describing ergatives. 31 References. B. Annesser Murray

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