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The Syntax of AspectDeriving Thematic and Aspectual Interpretation$
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Nomi Erteschik-Shir and Tova Rapoport

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199280445

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199280445.001.0001

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The Aspect of Agency

The Aspect of Agency

(p.154) 7 The Aspect of Agency
The Syntax of Aspect


Oxford University Press

Verbs impose an internal structure, either temporal or thematic, on the eventualities they describe. Whereas the temporal aspectual classification of verbs is based on the concepts of change and culmination, the thematic aspectual classification is based on the concepts of action and causality. This chapter argues that the Semitic templatic morphology of verbs encodes thematic rather than temporal aspect, and presents a formal system which compositionally constructs the meaning of verbs from the meanings of their root and template. The root encodes the thematic contribution of the verb's internal arguments, whereas the template encodes the thematic role, here called agency, of the verb's external argument. Two different types of agency are expressed by Semitic templates: actor vs. cause, marked by the so-called intensive vs. causative templates, respectively. The intensive template is a modifier of the root. The argument of the root that it modifies is not a participant in the event, but the event itself, which it classifies as an action. The causative template is not a modifier, but introduces an additional argument. A systematic account is provided for the different expression of the verb's original arguments when it is combined with the causative template, based on a linguistically significant distinction that is motivated between two classes of verbs: locative/experiencer subject verbs and consumption verbs.

Keywords:   root, template, agency, cause, action

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