Volitional patients

Willem Hollmann w.hollmann at LANCASTER.AC.UK
Wed Mar 22 18:23:17 UTC 2006

Hi Åshild

Peter Cole wrote an interesting article in 1983 about the marking of 
causees. In case you're not familiar with it, he shows that if a language 
displays coding differences in terms of causee case marking, they can be 
accounted in terms of agentivity. Agentivity isn't exactly the same as 
volitionality, but they are related. One of Cole's examples is from 

(i)  Taroo ga Ziroo  o ik-ase-ta
 Taro NOM Jiro ACC  caused to go
 ‘Taro caused Jiro to go’ (Cole 1983:125)
(ii) Taroo ga Ziroo  ni ik-ase-ta
 Taro NOM Jiro DAT caused to go
 ‘Taro caused Jiro to go’ (ibid.)

According to Cole in (i) the “the subject of the matrix clause is 
indifferent to whether the complement subject consents to go” (Cole 
1983:125), while (ii) “may be used when the complement willingly carries 
out the action in question” (ibid.). He goes on to present similar data 
from Kannada, Modern Hebrew and Hungarian, and suggests that Bolivian 
Quechua is especially interesting as it features a three-way formal 
distinction in terms of causee agency (although the intermediate degree 
seems to be very restricted in terms of the verbs that may display it). He 
also argues that while in e.g. Italian there's also a (two-way) 
distinction, there it represents the *grammaticalisation* of agency. 

(iii) Maria fa scrivere Gianni (DO)
 Maria makes to write Johnny
 ‘Maria makes Johnny write’ (Cole 1983:126)
(iv) Maria fa scrivere la lettera (DO) a Gianni (IO)
 Maria makes to write the letter  to Johnny
 ‘Maria makes Johnny write the letter’ (ibid.)
The IO marking on the causee in (iv) is due to the fact that subjects of 
transitive verbs are typically agents.

Related to the notion of volitionality and agency is the concept of causee 
resistance. This notion seems to be implicit in Wolfgang Schulze's 
message, and is more or less explicitly discussed in quite a lot of 
literature on causatives, e.g. Terasawa (1985), Dixon (2000), 
Stefanowitsch (2001). I also talk about it a bit in my thesis (Hollmann 
2003, cf. also in press). Of course resistance isn't the same as 
volitionality (or more precisely the lack thereof). Still, in practical 
terms (i.e. the analysis of examples, especially real, attested examples), 
I often find it quite hard to tease them apart.




Cole, Peter. 1983. The grammatical role of the causee in universal 
grammar. International Journal of American Linguistics 49:115-33.

Dixon, R.M.W. 2000. A typology of causatives: form, syntax and meaning. In 
R.M.W. Dixon & Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald, eds., Changing valency. Case 
studies in transitivity, 30-83. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hollmann, Willem. 2003. Synchrony and diachrony of English periphrastic 
causatives: a cognitive perspective. Ph.D. diss., University of Manchester.

Hollmann, Willem. In press. Passivasibility of English periphrastic 
causatives. In Stefan Th. Gries & Anatol Stefanowitsch, eds., Corpora in 
cognitive linguistics: corpus-based approached to lexis and syntax. 
Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Stefanowitsch, Anatol. 2001. Constructing causation: a construction 
grammar approach to analytic causatives. Ph.D. diss., Rice University.

Talmy, Leonard. 2000. Toward a cognitive semantics. Vol. I: concept 
structuring systems. Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press.

Terasawa, Jun. 1985. The historical development of the causative use of 
the verb make with an infinitive. Studia Neophilologica 57:133-43.

>Dear colleagues,
>I'm wondering if anyone has information on languages where a patient
>arugment which is somehow volitionally involved in the event which
>affects it (e.g. 'letting' something happen to it) is marked differently
>from a regular nonvolitional patient. There are examples of this from
>Icelandic (examples from Barddal 2001):
>1. Hann klóraDi mig        2. Hann klóraDi mér
>    he.NOM scratched me.ACC       he.NOM scratched me.DAT
>(D here used for the voiced dental approximant)
>Both of these translate into English as 'he scratched me'; the
>difference is that in 1) the scratching is an act of violence, where as
>in 2) it refers to scratching in order to relieve an itch; in other
>words, the dative-marked participant in 2) voluntarily submits to the
>scratching, whereas the accusative-marked participant in 1) is a hapless
>Does anyone know of other languages that show similar patterns? The
>distinction wouldn't necessarily have to be in the case-marking of the
>object, any formal distinction on this basis is of interest.
>Thanks in advance,
>Åshild Næss
>Åshild Næss
>Postdoctoral researcher
>Dept. of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies
>University of Oslo
>P.O. Box 1102 Blindern
>0317 Oslo, Norway
>Phone: (+47) 22 84 40 06
>Office: HW327

Willem Hollmann 
Dept of Linguistics and English Language 
Lancaster University 
Lancaster LA1 4YT 
Tel: +44 (0)1524 594644 
Fax: +44 (0)1524 843085 

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