Double Object Verbs

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Chapter 2
THE SYNTAX AND SEMANTICS OF DETRANSITIVE VERBS
THE PREPOSITIONAL DATIVE CONSTRUCTION AND THE DOUBLE OBJECT CONSTRUCTION

0.1. Introduction

The de-transitive verbs we are concerned with in this chapter are verbs of the type give, send, promise, bring, etc., which take two internal objects realized either as a DP ^ PP sequence or as a DP ^ DP sequence:

(1)a. Sue gave a book to Bill
b. Sue gave Bill a book

The construction illustrated in (1a) is called the to-dative construction or the prepositional dative construction of de-transitive verbs, and the one in (1b) is called the double object construction (DOC). Thus, verbs of the type give and its like can occur in two subcategorization frames:

(2) a. DP (Su) ^ V ^ DP (DO) ^ PP (IO)
b. DP (Su) ^ V ^ DP1 (IO) ^ DP2 (DO)

The pair illustrated in (2) embodies what linguists call the ‘dative alternation’ or the ‘dative shift’. These terms specifically refer to the alternation in the IO structural position and to its categorial status: whether it is a PP (to Bill as in 1a-2a) or a DP (Bill as in 1b-2b). In (1a), the argument that is adjacent to the verb is assigned the theta-role Theme and it bears accusative Case; the argument introduced by the preposition to is assigned the theta-role Goal (Larson, 1988) and it bears oblique Case.

(3)Sue gave [a book] [to Bill]

Theme Goal

In (1b), the verb give takes the same number of internal arguments but his time both are DPs, and both have accusative Case. In term of theta-roles, a book still bears the Theme role while Bill bears what Pesetsky (1995) calls the Goal-Possessor theta-role:

(4)Sue gave [Bill] [a book]
Goal-Poss Theme

For the full range of verbs that enter the to-dative construction and the double object construction, with notable exceptions and restrictions, see section (2.0) below. Other de-transitive verbs, such as cook, play, buy, find, etc., take a for ^ DP as IO; these verbs bestow a Benefactive/Recipient interpretation to the IO, and participate in the dative alternation. These constructions are often referred to as the Benefactive alternation:

(5) a. Mary played a sonata for her friends
b. Mary played her friends a sonata

It follows that verbs of the type play and its like, just like verbs of the type give and its like, can occur in the same two subcategorization frames:

(6) a. DP (Su) ^ V ^ DP (DO) ^ PP (IO)
b. DP (Su) ^ V ^ DP1 (IO) ^ DP2 (DO)

The theta-roles of the two internal arguments of benefactive de-transitive verbs are similar to those of the to-dative/DOC verbs with the minor variation of the Goal-Recipient (Pesetsky, 1995) or Benefactive theta-role assigned to the IO:

(7)a. Mary played [a sonata] [for her friends]
Theme Ben

b. Mary played [her friends] [a sonata]
Goal-Recip Theme

The Benefactive alternation has been subsumed under the Dative alternation since, syntactically, both classes of verbs behave in the same way. For the full range of verbs that enter the for-dative construction and the double object construction, with notable exceptions and restrictions, see section (3.0) below. However, some de-transitive verbs do not necessarily project both of their internal arguments: one of them or even both can be missing. Consider the examples below taken from Pesetsky (1995):

(8)a. The teacher assigned the students the homework
b.The teacher assigned the homework to the students
c.The teacher assigned the homework
d.*The teacher assigned the students
(9)a. Bill taught the students French
b.Bill taught French to the students
c.Bill taught the students
d.Bill taught French
e.Bill taught (at Harvard)
(10)a. Sue wrote Mary a letter
b.Sue wrote Mary a letter
c.Sue wrote a letter
d.Sue...
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