Technical Reports (CIS)

Document Type

Technical Report

Date of this Version

May 1988


University of Pennsylvania Department of Computer and Information Science Technical Report No. MS-CIS-88-33.


The investigation of causative constructions has been a topic of enduring interest among linguists, generative and non-generative alike. For one thing, the variability and sheer complexity of the relevant empirical domain, even within a group of closely related languages such as Romance, poses considerable and often daunting descriptive challenges. On the other hand, comparative work by linguists of various theoretical persuasions (Aissen 1974, Aissen 1979, Baker 1985, Comrie 1976, Marantz 1984, Zubizarreta 1982, Zubizarreta 1985, among many others) has shown that certain properties of causatives recur with striking regularity among unrelated and typologically otherwise diverse languages, in the absence of areal contact. This holds out the hope that the bewildering variety of data that we are faced with when we consider causative constructions can be understood with reference to a relatively small number of causative types. At first glance, the most salient distinction is that between syntactic and morphological causative formation. As is well known, in some languages the causative is expressed by means of syntactic complementation, as in the English example in (I), whereas in others it involves morphological affixation, as in the Japanese equivalent of (1) given in (2).



Date Posted: 20 September 2007