Internal causation in Slovene: Constructions with the morpheme se and experiencer datives

The paper is a reanalysis of sentences traditionally labelled “involuntary state constructions” as sentences expressing internally caused events which are beyond a person’s own control; in other words, as “internal causatives” (e.g. Petru se spi ‘Peter feels like sleeping / Peter is sleepy’). The analyses of Slovene internal causatives and equivalent structures in other languages fall into two major groups: causative and noncausative analyses. I show that Slovene data provide evidence in support of causative analysis, rather than modal (Rivero & Milojević Sheppard 2003) or the null FEEL-LIKE analysis (Marušič & Žaucer 2006).

Furthermore, the evidence I present supports the view that Slovene internal causatives are monoclausal structures, with se functioning as a role-reducing operator and the Experiencer dative as an indirect object (as argued by Moore & Perlmutter (2000) for Russian), rather than a syntactic subject (Marušič & Žaucer 2006) or an adjunct (Rivero & Milojević Sheppard 2003). This study, carried out within the Government and Binding Theory and current generative theories of argument structure, also puts forward a unified approach to Slovene internal causatives and anticausatives (e.g. Vaza se razbije ‘The vase breaks’) as a single class of derived causatives based on the role of se during their derivation. I discuss syntactic and semantic similarities between Slovene internal causatives and anticausatives to provide evidence that both types of causative sentences display the same “causative se”, which reduces the external argument of a verb in the lexicon. In addition, I point out that syntactic differences between Slovene internal causatives and anticausatives, regarding their external arguments and the transitivity properties, are not evidence against the unified treatment, since they are independent of se. Finally, this paper compares causative se with other types of se in Slovene and briefly outlines my unified analysis of se, which assumes that se in all its manifestations represents the same non-referential morpheme, and that the impact of se on a verb’s argument structure is determined by the properties of different classes of input verbs, rather than any inherent properties of se.

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