Viktor El=?ISO-8859-2?B?ue0=?=k viktor_elsik at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 24 20:31:14 UTC 2008

Czech, yet another European language, goes with German in that the verbs
PRASKNOUT / PRASKAT "to crack" (and also PUKNOUT / PUKAT, perhaps more like
"to burst"), or their aktionsart derivations, do not allow transitive uses:

Váza byla prasklá / puklá.
"The vase was cracked."

Váza měla prasklinu / puklinu.
"The vase had a crack."

Váza praskla / pukla.
"The vase cracked."

*Otec prasknul / puknul vázu.
"Father cracked the vase."

Like in German, there is no more or less direct way of expressing the
causation here. 

There is, however, the transitive verb LOUSKAT that translates English
"crack" in "crack a nut", and the (etymologically) related transitive verb
LUŠTIT that translates English "crack" in "crack a code".

Viktor Elšík (Elsik)

On 6/24/08 1:15 PM, "Frans Plank" <Frans.Plank at UNI-KONSTANZ.DE> wrote:

> Crackers
> Consider the following relationship between a state, a change of state, and
> the causation of a change of state.
> X was in a state of not being whole, being partially fractured though without
> the parts completely separate or without the whole completely destroyed
> (where X is something, preferably an artefact, of brittle consistency, hard
> but breakable, such as vases or window panes made of glass, plates made of
> porcelain, earthenware, urns or tablets made of clay, walls made from dried
> cow-dung, etc.)
> X spontaneously, or at any rate without an animate agent acknowledged as
> causally involved, changed from a state of being whole to a state of not being
> whole, being partially fractured though without the parts completely separate
> or without the whole completely destroyed
> An animate agent caused a change of state of A from being whole to not being
> whole, being partially fractured though without the parts completely separate
> or without the whole completely destroyed
> To exemplify this trias from English.
> The vase had a crack.         (transitive verb of possession,
>                              with [deverbal???] noun as object)
> The vase was cracked.         (existential copula,
>                             stative-resultative participle of [intransitive,
> denominal???] verb)
> The vase cracked.                    (same verb as for causation, used
> intransitively)
> Father cracked the vase.              (same verb as for change of state, used
> transitively)
> And here's closely related German.
> Die Vase hatte einen Sprung.          (transitive verb of possession,
>                              with deverbal noun as object)
> Die Vase war gesprungen.              (existential copula,
>                             stative-resultative participle of [intransitive]
> verb)
> Die Vase sprang.                     (intransitive verb, a verb of movement,
>                             literally designating a sudden spring from the
> ground)
> Die Vase bekam einen Sprung.    (inchoative verb, lit. 'to get',
>                              with deverbal noun as object)
> ---           
> Remarkably, though a native speaker, I find no way of expressing this
> straightforward state of affairs in German, other than in extremely roundabout
> ways ('Father was careless and did something to the vase that resulted in its
> having a crack', or such).  Neither the denominal noun Sprung nor some
> morphological or syntactic way of causativising the verb springen works (there
> is an old causative, sprengen, but that now means 'cause to burst with a loud
> nose, explode'):
> *Vater brachte der Vase einen Sprung bei.
> *Vater sprang die Vase. *Vater ließ die Vase springen.
> The prefixal derivative zer-springen (with zer- a completive-destructive
> prefix) again is only intransitive and means 'to go to pieces';  and
> transitive zer-sprengen likewise means 'break up completely'.
> At long last my question:
> Is this gap in German unique?  Preliminary enquiries -- though of very limited
> crosslinguistic range -- suggest it is not.  Is it easy or difficult or
> impossible to express the concept 'to cause something to be cracked' in the
> language(s) that you speak or know well?
> I find this gap somewhat worrying, from a practical as well as a theoretical
> point of view. I'd assume that brittle things frequently end up being cracked,
> in German-speaking lands no less than in English-speaking ones, and that
> spontaneous crackings (ice comes to mind here, as temperature rises) worldwide
> are overall far less frequent than cracks caused by the carelessness of human
> agents.  (If there is a difficulty with 'to cause something to be cracked', it
> might therefore be to do with the semantics of transitivity rather than with
> frequency, a notion often invoked to account for the differential ease of
> expressibility of anything thinkable and sayable and in particular for the
> directionality of derivations of causatives or decausatives.)
> I'd appreciate any feedback.
> (And I'd like to gratefully acknowledge the unwitting input from Alex Tantos,
> discussing English crack at his thesis defence yesterday, if from the angle of
> Discourse Representation Theory and how it accounts for causation -- a really
> hard nut to crack.)
> frans.plank at

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