Lexicon Uniformity and the Causative Alternation

Malka Rappaport Hovav*, Beth Levin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

36 Scopus citations


This paper uses Reinhart's Lexicon Uniformity Principle as a context for exploring the nature of the causative alternation, focusing on alternating verbs that do not permit both variants for every choice of theme argument and verbs that have unexpected causative uses. We demonstrate that such data are problematic for an analysis such as Reinhart's and our own earlier analyses which take the causative variant as basic, deriving the anticausative variant from it by a lexical rule. We propose that the observed distributional properties follow if causative alternation verbs are taken to be lexically monadic, selecting the single argument expressed in their anticausative variant. We propose that a causative variant is available to a verb when the introduced cause argument meets a direct causation condition. We further argue that in some instances only the causative variant is available due to a proper containment condition.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Theta System
Subtitle of host publicationArgument Structure at the Interface
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191739200
ISBN (Print)9780199602513
StatePublished - 24 May 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© editorial matter and organization Martin Everaert, Marijana Marelj, and Tal Siloni 2012. All rights reserved.


  • Agentivity
  • Causative alternation
  • Change of state verbs
  • Decausativization
  • Direct causation
  • Internal vs external causation
  • Lexicon uniformity principle
  • Polysemy
  • Sound emission verbs


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