September 28, 2018 at 9:00 am

Ganeshan Authors Article on Lexical Semantics of Spanish Psychological Verbs

Dr. Ashwini Ganeshan, portrait

Dr. Ashwini Ganeshan

Dr. Ashwini Ganeshan, Assistant Professor of Spanish in the Modern Languages Department, published an article titled “Examining agentivity in Spanish reverse-psych verbs” on the lexical semantics of Spanish psychological verbs in the journal Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics (2018).

Abstract: In Spanish reverse-psychological verbs, the experiencer argument can have accusative or dative case marking. Transitivity-based approaches identify different factors that influence this accusative-dative alternation (Miglio, Viola G., Stefan T Gries, Michael J Harris, Eva M Wheeler & Santana-Paixão Raquel). A strong predictor for accusative case marking in Spanish r-psych verbs is the animacy of the stimulus. However, there are also instances where the stimulus is inanimate and the experiencer is case marked accusative. In this paper, I provide an analysis of such instances, drawing on corpus data and native speaker judgments. I argue that agentivity, measured on a scale, is a factor that better accounts for the accusative-dative alternation exhibited by Spanish reverse-psychological verbs. I first propose a definition of agentivity and diagnostics for it; then I present evidence that there is a correlation between higher degrees of agentivity and accusative case marking and lower degrees of agentivity and dative case marking. The agentivity scale presented is not unconditional as there are several factors that contribute to case marking. Nevertheless, the agentivity scale accounts for accusative case marking with inanimates and also serves to highlight some parallels between causative verbs and reverse-psychological verbs.

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