inchoative-causative pairs

Paolo Ramat paoram at UNIPV.IT
Wed Jun 25 08:54:38 UTC 2008

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Paolo Ramat
Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 9:35 PM
Subject: Re: Crackers

Hallo to everybody!
The Italian crackers look as follow:
To my surprise a verb meaning "being partially fractured though without the 
parts completely separate or without the whole completely destroyed" hardly 
exists. There is  the subst. fessura (<Lat. fissura)
but the verb fessurarsi (intrans., reflex.) is very rare. And a frattura (< 
Lat. fractura) means something different: you may have/cause (trans.) a 
frattura of a bone, but not of something, "preferably an artefact, of 
brittle consistency, hard but breakable, such as vases or window panes made 
of glass, plates made of porcelain".
Moreover, you can hardly say ?*Il vaso si fessura (usually a vase si rompe, 
Thus, Italian does not completely overlap the French usages: ?*Il calore ha 
fatto fessurare /fessurarsi il vaso
I would say that rompersi is used also for fessurarsi, (the main difference 
being that trans. rompere exists along with the  reflex. rompersi,  while 
*fessurare (trans.) does not exist  (any longer)). The default form would be 
a paraphrase: Il calore ha prodotto una fessura sul / nel vaso .



Prof. Paolo Ramat
Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori (IUSS)
Responsabile della classe di Scienze Umane
V.le Lungo Ticino Sforza 56, 27100 Pavia - Italia
Tel. +39 0382 375811 Fax +39 0382 375899

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Bernard Fradin
  Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 5:45 PM
  Subject: Re: Crackers

  Dear Frans and everybody,

  As expected, in French nothing corresponds exactly to the situation we 
observe in English.
  The verb that corresponds to crack is craqueler (and not craquer). We can 
have the following:

  (1)  Le vase a une craquelure  (< craqueler+ure, -ure nouns regularly 
denote the result cf. blessure 'wounding' < blesser 'to wound').

  (2) a. Le vase est craquelé.
  b. Le vase se craquèle. but

  c. *Le vase craquèle.

  However, we do have (3); other examples in TLF:

  (3) La chaleur a craquelé le vase.
        'Heat cracks the vase'

  For fissurer < lat. fissura 'small crack', the distribution is slightly 
different and more in keeping with what we have in German:

  (4)  Le vase a une fissure.
  (5) a.  Le vase est fissuré.
  b. Le vase se fissure.

  c. *Le vase fissure.

  (6) *La chaleur a fissuré le vase'

  but (7) is ok, obviously:

  (7)  La chaleur a fait se fissurer le vase.
  'Heat make the vase crack'


Prof. Paolo Ramat
Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori (IUSS)
Responsabile della classe di Scienze Umane
V.le Lungo Ticino Sforza 56, 27100 Pavia - Italia
Tel. +39 0382 375811 Fax +39 0382 375899

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Martin Haspelmath" <haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE>
Sent: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 9:40 AM
Subject: Re: inchoative-causative pairs

> Suzanne Kemmer wrote:
>> We still  have the problem of why words meaning 'crack' in English and 
>> other languages
>> should be different in the intransitive vs. transitive argument frames --
>> to the point where some languages resist using the verb in a transitive 
>> construction at all.
> This is of course an instance of the much more general issue of what are 
> favorable conditions for single-word causatives.  I think it has to do 
> with frequency of use: If the non-causative situation is more rarely 
> expressed and the causative situation is more frequently expressed, we're 
> quite likely to get a single-word causative (e.g. English break: the 
> transitive 'break' is much more frequent than the intransitive 'break').
> However, if the causative situation is very rarely expressed, and the 
> non-causative situation is very frequent, many languages lack single-word 
> causatives. For instance, causatives of agentive intransitives are 
> generally quite rare ('make someone talk', 'make someone play', 'make 
> someone dance'), so many languages lack simple causatives (cf. English *I 
> played the child 'I made the child play'). The same goes for "internally 
> caused verbs" like 'rust', 'decay', 'rot', and other verbal concepts that 
> seem to be relatively rare in causative use, e.g. 'melt', 'freeze', and 
> 'crack' (in the sense of 'have/give a fissure').
> (Of course, not all languages lack simple causatives -- the European 
> languages that have figured prominently in this discussion are generally 
> very poor in single-word causatives. Many languages can easily causativize 
> almost any verb.)
>> I think it has to do with the interaction of the semantics of 'cracking' 
>> (splitting along a created fissure) and the
>> semantics of prototypical  transitive vs. intransitive constructions.
>> The transitive frame, used protoypically with impact verbs, has a strong 
>> implication
>> of  total affectedness/extreme results, but the intransitive lacks this 
>> property.
> If this were the explanation, one would not expect 'crack' to pattern with 
> 'rust', 'rot' and 'decay', because when something rots or decays, the 
> affectedness is typically fairly extreme.
> So I think frequency of use is the better explanation. Semantics could 
> come in at the point when we ask why we rarely talk about causing a crack, 
> or causing something to rot. But I'm not sure if it is relevant at all: 
> Maybe causative cracking is rare because it's not so easy to just create a 
> crack in a vase, as opposed to smashing it. And maybe causative rotting is 
> rare because we don't generally find it desirable to see something rot. I 
> don't know the explanation, but fortunately it's irrelevant: The 
> explanation for the widespread absence of causative 'crack' and 'rot' does 
> not depend on it. If we know that they are used infrequently, that's 
> sufficient to explain that languages use more complex (multi-word) ways of 
> expressing causation. (In general, rarer meanings are expressed by longer, 
> less compact forms.)
> Martin
> -- 
> Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at
> Max-Planck-Institut fuer evolutionaere Anthropologie, Deutscher Platz 6 
> D-04103 Leipzig      Tel. (MPI) +49-341-3550 307, (priv.) +49-341-980 1616
> Glottopedia - the free encyclopedia of linguistics
> ( 

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