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From:    Tristan McLeay <[log in to unmask]>
On Wed, 18 Feb 2004, Thomas R. Wier wrote:
> > Actually, you have it precisely backwards.  'Unaccusatives' are
> > intransitives which, in most derivational theories of grammar,
> > have underlying objects, but no subjects, like 'appear'.  In
> > GB/PP/Minimalism that argument gets raised to get its case checked,
> > and surfaces as the subject in spite of itself.  They also have a
> > number of properties of objects of transitive verbs.  Unergative
> > verbs, in contrast, have underlying subjects but no object, and tend
> > to behave like subjects of transitive clauses, like 'dance'.
>
> (Not the OP, but:) So if I have it right, accusative languages treat all
> intransitive verbs as unergative and ergative languages treat all
> intransitive verbs as unaccusative (grammatically, not semantically,
> speaking)?

No, the claim is that all/most languages have two classes of
intransitive verbs, and that these classes may have a variety
of realizations both syntactic and morphological.  The terms
'unaccusative' and 'unergative' are really very misleading, and
should be dropped, if it were possible to do so. (It's not.)

> > Cf:
> >
> >    'There appeared several men in the room'
> >    *'There danced several men in the room'
>
> This formation is a peculiarity of English (and a few other langs,
> perhaps), yes? What's the 'there' doing?

Yes, this is a test for unaccusativity in English.  There are variety
of other tests.  (The most famous work on unaccusatives seems to
come from Italian and other Romance languages.)

> > In Split-S languages, these two classes of intransitives are given
> > overt realization.
>
> So A Hypothetical Language Split-S English would say:
>  Appeared me. (or indeed 'There appeared me.')
> and
>   I danced.
> as the usual forms?

That may well be.  But this is not quite the same as unaccusativity.
For more information, see Levin and Hovav 'Unaccusativity: At
the Syntax-Lexical Semantics Interface' for more detailed discussion.

 =========================================================================
Thomas Wier	       "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally,
Dept. of Linguistics    because our secret police don't get it right
University of Chicago   half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of
1010 E. 59th Street     Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter.
Chicago, IL 60637