Project FFI2009-07114 (subprogrammme Filo): Eventive structure and lexical syntactic ‘construction’ of sentences. Theory and experimentation. [EventSynt]

January 2010-December 2012

Principal Investigator: Violeta Demonte Barreto
Researchers: Isabel Pérez Jiménez (UAH, CCHS-CSIC), Elena Castroviejo, Isabel Oltra-Massuet, Dongsik Lim, Carmen Gallar, Juan Romeu, Melania Sánchez Masià, Norberto Moreno Quibén (CCHS-CSIC)  and Héctor Fernández Alcalde (not a member of the current project team)
External collaborators: Olga Fernández Soriano (UAM) and Roberto Mayoral Hernández (U. Alabama at Birmingham)

(Members of the initial project team appear in blue)



Our research takes up a syntactic model where lexical units and features are the elements from which syntactic representations, argument structure and aspectual interpretation are derived. Features activate merge processes and hierarchical organization into structures headed by functional categories (e.g. vCAUS, vAGENT, vVOICE, PLOC). It also adopts a moderate constructionist hypothesis with respect to the lexicon-syntax relation. This theoretical frame is accepted by syntacticians and semanticists and its appropriate use justifies the Project by itself. However, EventSynt also tries to introduce new elements; for instance, it seeks to investigate exhaustively the content of the functional categories P, v, V, and A that structure syntactic representations. Likewise, it speculates that a fine-grained semantic analysis of lexical entries is necessary in order to explain the variable syntactic behavior of similar roots (florecer ‘bloom’ vs. deteriorar ‘worsen’). The combining of current theoretical analysis and corpus data checking, together with the recourse to a more fine-grained representation of functional categories roughly summarizes our contribution. Some of the general hypotheses that we are going to work with are as follows: 1) certain lexical semantic features operate in the syntactic derivation and can be used to annotate (or add features to) functional categories; 2) therefore, the inventory of features associated to roots, even if constrained, is larger than it has been assumed; 3) the conceptual domains of causation, change and movement, and their syntactic expression still need to be better elucidated; it is not possible to develop completely the constructionist hypothesis without this clarification; 4) part of the clarification of the syntactic expression of events is achieved through the study of those operations in which some subpart of the event structure is involved.

Specific goals

1. To analyze the boundaries and the relations between agentivity and causation as the source of different types of verbs. Those relations are expressed in: a) variations on transitivity (e.g. that the transitive verb gives rise or not to the anticausative alternation: romper ‘break’ vs. escribir ‘write’); b) the role of se as an element that blocks the causative subevent with verbs expressing an externally caused event (e.g. se secó ‘dried’ vs. *se ardió ‘burnt’); c) the possibility that, in ditransitive constructions, there be a possessive interpretation or not and the consequent appearance of the dative clitic (e.g. María le rompió el brazo a Juan ‘Maria him-broke the arm to John’ vs. *El viento le rompió la ventana a la casa ‘The wind him-broke the window to the house’); d) effects on infinitive causative constructions; etc.

2. To study the lexical syntactic-semantic properties of motion verbs in Spanish (in particular, those of verbs of manner of motion – agentives: correr ‘run’ and non-agentives: rodar ‘roll’ –), with respect to: a) their unergative or unaccusative status; b) how the generally co-appearing goal prepositional phrase has a bearing on this distinction (Juan corrió a la farmacia ‘Juan ran to the chemist’s’; La piedra rodó al río ‘The stone rolled to the river’). We will compare the properties of this class of verbs to those of similar verbs in Germanic languages.

3. To determine the macro-parameters that revolve around those prepositions appearing in constructions with verbs of manner of motion and verbs of inherently directed motion.

4. To carry out a lexical semantic classification of Spanish adjectival participles based on their event structure and/or the type of property they denote, which allows to determine, among other issues, the relation between those classes and the types of verbs they are associated with, as well as to find out whether they are built in the lexicon or in the syntax.

Seminario: Syntax and (lexical) semantics of event structure

Report submitted to the monitoring committee of scientific and technological research projects of the ministry of economy and competitiveness, May 20121.31 MB