Volitional patients

Michael B. Smith smith at OAKLAND.EDU
Fri Mar 24 17:25:16 UTC 2006

The recent postings on this interesting topic reminded me of a paper of 
mine from 2001 that deals with similar issues in Icelandic and (to some 
extent) German:

Smith, Michael B. 2001. Why quirky case really isn't quirky, or how to 
treat dative sickness in Icelandic. Polysemy in Cognitive Linguistics, ed. 
by Hubert Cuyckens and Britta Zawada, John Benjamins, 115-159.

Among other things, the paper argues that the non-nominative 
(i.e. dative or accusative) case marking that appears on the apparent 
subjects of some Icelandic verbs, as well as the dative case marking that 
appears on the apparent direct objects of many verbs, is semantically 
motivated and not arbitrary.

Dative case on a given nominal, for example, can be seen to indicate that the 
nominal that is so marked has a subset of semantic properties reminiscent 
of and/or associated with the prototypical experiencer role, even though 
the array of experiencer-like properties will vary somewhat depending on 
the particular meaning of the verb that selects the dative case.

Michael B. Smith
Department of Linguistics
Oakland University
Rochester, MI 48309

smith at oakland.edu

(248) 370-2173 (office & messages)
(248) 370-3144 (fax)

On Wed, 22 Mar 2006, Ashild Nass wrote:

> 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 victim.
> 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

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