He died old dying to be dead right: Transitivity and semantic shifts of 'die' in Ewe in crosslinguistic perspective
Ameka, F. K.
He died old dying to be dead right: Transitivity and semantic shifts of 'die' in Ewe in crosslinguistic perspective. In M. Bowerman, & P. Brown (Eds.
), Crosslinguistic perspectives on argument structure: Implications for learnability
(pp. 231-254). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
This paper examines some of the claims of the Unaccusativity hypothesis.It shows that the supposedly unaccusative ‘die’ verb in Ewe (Kwa), kú can appear as both a one-place and a two-place predicate and has three senses
which do not correlate with the number of surface arguments of the verb.
For instance, the same sense is involved in both a one-place construction (e.g. she died) and a two-place cognate object construction (she died a wicked death). By contrast, different senses are expressed by formally identical two-place constructions, e.g. ‘the garment die dirt’ (= the garment is dead dirty; intensity) vs., ‘he died ear (to the matter)’ (=he does not want to hear; negative desiderative). The paper explores the learnability problems posed by the non-predictability of the different
senses of Ewe ‘die’ from its syntactic frame and suggests that since the meanings are indirectly related to the properties of the event participants, such as animacy, a learner must pay close attention to the properties of the verb’s participants. The paper concludes by
demonstrating that the meaning shifts observed in Ewe are also attested in other typologically and genetically unrelated languages such as Japanese, Arrernte (Australian), Oluta (Mixean), Dutch and English.
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