Lexical Semantics and Argument Realization

DGfS/GLOW Summer School
August 2006
Universitat Stuttgart

General Information:

Course Description:

Attempts to characterize the event structure-to-syntax mapping often include argument realization generalizations which treat each argument of a verb individually (e.g., an agent is a subject). The course will show that such generalizations are inadequate, for the syntactic expression of one argument may depend on its coarguments (e.g., an instrument cannot be a subject in the presence of an agent), and it will investigate the implications of such interrelations among coarguments for the design of theories of lexical semantic representation and argument realization. The phenomena suggest the need for semantic prominence relations among arguments, which then have implications for the architecture of event structure and the nature of the event structure-to-syntax mapping. The viability of various theories of the semantic determinants of argument realization will be reassessed in this context. The course will also explore instances of systematic crosslinguistic variation in argument realization, and show that they arise from interactions between the event structure-to-syntax mapping and language-specific argument realization options. Case studies will include the (in)transitivity of two-argument verbs and dative verbs and the dative alternation. The course assumes some familiarity with lexical semantics and syntax.

Course Requirements for Credit:

Completion of TWO questions chosen from a set handed out in class (pdf). Answers must be received by the instructor no later than September 21, 2006; only pdf files will be accepted.


Levin, B. and M. Rappaport Hovav (2005) Argument Realization, Cambridge University Press. (Publication information from publisher)

Course Readings:

Will be made available. (See syllabus for contents)


Handouts from Lectures

Lecture Notes I:

Empirical and conceptual challenges of argument realization

Lecture Notes II:

Structuring event structure

Lecture Notes III:

Constraints on the complexity of verb meanings

Lecture Notes IV:

Revisiting aspect as a determinant of argument realization

Lecture Notes V:

Thematic hierarchies and semantic prominence

Lecture Notes VI:

More on semantic determinants of argument realization: Evidence from transitivity

Lecture Notes VII:

Determining semantic prominence and argument realization: Themes, recipients, spatial goals, and dative verbs

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