Weather/season expressions, existential commitment, and the genitive of negation
Keywords:intransitive syntax, existential unaccusativity, motion verbs, weather terms
This paper presents data from Russian exhibiting seemingly variable unaccusative and unergative behavior. Russian motion verb weather/season expressions (WSE) pass several accepted diagnostics for unaccusativity yet fail the genitive of negation (GenNeg)—the diagnostic most widely agreed to show unaccusativity in Russian. I build on previous work on unaccusative structures by Harves (2002, 2013) and Irwin (2012, 2018) and the observation of many Slavic linguists that only those nominal arguments which lack existential commitment (EC) participate in the GenNeg. I argue certain nominal arguments in intransitives—NPs in WSE and most unergative subjects—carry a default interpretation of [+EC]. However, this presupposition can be canceled when an overt locative phrase is present in the derivation, confining the scope of existence to a limited perspective. When this presupposition is canceled, entities which previously resisted GenNeg may now participate in the phenomenon. Crucial to this analysis is the assumption that Neg0 is always a secondary—not obligatory—licenser (see Kalin 2018 for obligatory versus secondary licensers) and arguments communicating existentiality exist within a small clause structure. I argue this analysis accounts not only for the apparent variability in WSE but also for seemingly exceptional unergative clauses highlighted in previous literature (Babby 1980; Pesetsky 1982; Harves 2002, 2013). This analysis has implications for what participation in GenNeg truly reveals about a predicate structure.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Christiana McGrady
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