Argument and event structure in Yukatek verb classes

In Yukatek Maya, event types are lexicalized in verb roots and stems that fall into a number of different form classes on the basis of (a) patterns of aspect-mood marking and (b) priviledges of undergoing valence-changing operations. Of particular interest are the intransitive classes in the light of Perlmutter’s (1978) Unaccusativity hypothesis. In the spirit of Levin & Rappaport Hovav (1995) [L&RH], Van Valin (1990), Zaenen (1993), and others, this paper investigates whether (and to what extent) the association between formal predicate classes and event types is determined by argument structure features such as ‘agentivity’ and ‘control’ or features of lexical aspect such as ‘telicity’ and ‘durativity’. It is shown that mismatches between agentivity/control and telicity/durativity are even more extensive in Yukatek than they are in English (Abusch 1985; L&RH, Van Valin & LaPolla 1997), providing new evidence against Dowty’s (1979) reconstruction of Vendler’s (1967) ‘time schemata of verbs’ in terms of argument structure configurations. Moreover, contrary to what has been claimed in earlier studies of Yukatek (Krämer & Wunderlich 1999, Lucy 1994), neither agentivity/control nor telicity/durativity turn out to be good predictors of verb class membership. Instead, the patterns of aspect-mood marking prove to be sensitive only to the presence or absense of state change, in a way that supports the unified analysis of all verbs of gradual change proposed by Kennedy & Levin (2001). The presence or absence of ‘internal causation’ (L&RH) may motivate the semantic interpretation of transitivization operations. An explicit semantics for the valence-changing operations is proposed, based on Parsons’s (1990) Neo-Davidsonian approach.
Publication type
Proceedings paper
Publication date
2004

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