object-like adverbials

Krifka krifka at MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU
Thu Dec 17 10:29:05 UTC 1998

1. What is remarkable about the cases of object-like adverbials mentioned in
the discussion so far is that they are all adverbials that specify the
length of an event (sometimes called "durative" adverbials). One can add to
these cases German (the example given by Sasse does not show case markering,
but the following examples do):

(i)  Ich arbeitete den ganzen Tag
      I      worked    the.ACC whole.ACC day

(ii) Ich schob den ganzen Tag einen Wagen.
     I     pushed the.ACC whole.ACC day a.ACC cart

Accusative-marked adverbials in Korean, with the same interpretation, were
the subject of a recent paper by Wechsler and Lee, in Natural Language and
Linguistic Theory 1997.

2. It is tempting to speculate that durative adverbials and object NPs have
a common property that motivates why they are marked in the same way.
Durative adverbials always delimit an event predicate (i.e. form a telic
predicate out of an atelic predicate), and object NPs very often do that (if
the object NP itself expresses a delimited quantity). Taking time-frame
adverbials ("in"-adverbials) as a test for delimitation, we have:

(iii)   eat an apple in ten minutes (vs. *eat in ten minutes)
        write a letter in ten minutes
        read a letter in ten minutes
        (but, e.g., *push a cart in ten minutes)

Verkuyl, Tenny, Krifka and others have analyzed the role of the object NP in
these cases (e.g., Tenny says that the object "measures out" the event).
Dowty (in Language 1991) has a property called "incremental theme" that is a
factor for the realization of an event participant as an object NP. It
appears that the motivation for the object-like marking of delimiting
adverbials is motivated by the fact that they, too, "measure out" an event
predicate. This can be made precise in the framework I proposed (e.g., in
Lexical Matters, ed. Sag/Szabolcsi, Stanford 1992): In a case like "den
ganzen Tag arbeiten", 'work the whole day', there is a correspondence (a
homomorphism) between the parts of the working event and the parts of the day.

3. This said, I should point out that colloquial German also has
accusative-marked adverbials that just locate the event in a time interval,
without measuring it out.

(iv)    Diesen Monat haben sie geheiratet.
         this.ACC month have they married
        "they married this month"

Manfred Krifka
Dept. of Linguistics, University of Texas at Austin

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