Lexical content and context: The causative alternation in English revisited

Malka Rappaport Hovav*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


This paper supports an analysis of the causative alternation in English in which all alternating verbs are lexically associated only with the internal argument(s). Lexical and contextual constraints on the distribution of the variants are distinguished. Semantic constraints on what kinds of causes appear with which verbs in various uses are argued not to be lexically specified. The account distinguishes clearly between the principled availability of the two variants of a causative alternation verb and the principles governing the (non)expression of the external cause. Many of the nonlexical constraints on the causative alternation are best understood as resulting from principles which determine which variant of the alternation is most appropriate in a given discourse context.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)8-29
Number of pages22
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013 Elsevier B.V.


  • Causative alternation
  • Change of state verbs
  • Direct causation
  • Internal and external causation
  • Lexical adicity


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