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