Transitivization, causative constructions, and the thematic-licensing of external arguments

Hazel Mitchley


I argue that the head responsible for thematically licensing the external argument is neither Voice nor v, but instead a distinct θ-licensing head, L, which intervenes between Voice and v. Evidence comes from Kinande, where I show that the 'lexical causative' is not v, Voice, or a Cause head which introduces an event -- it is purely a θ-licensor. I then turn to Kinande's productive causative constructions, and show that in causatives of transitive verbs the Cause head embeds a complement which includes agentive semantics (i.e. it embeds the head which θ-licenses the external argument of the caused event), but the complement nonetheless  does not include the VoiceP phase.  I ultimately argue for a bifurcation of what is traditionally understood as VoiceP into two distinct phrases: a θ-Licensing Phrase (LP), where the θ-role for the external argument is introduced, and VoiceP, which is the locus of the phase boundary, and is where the external argument merges.


argument structure; external argument introduction; transitivization; causativization

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