To 'be', and not to 'have': auxiliary selection in unaccusative verbs in Italian
Laws, J. V. (2010) To 'be', and not to 'have': auxiliary selection in unaccusative verbs in Italian. Language Studies Working Papers, 2. pp. 3-16. ISSN 2040-3461
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This paper investigates the characteristics of unaccusative verbs in Italian with respect to the consistency with which these verbs select the auxiliaries ‘be’ (essere) and ‘have’ (avere) in compound tense forms. The study builds on the gradient approach to split intransitivity (Sorace 2000) by exploring the behaviour of 29 intransitive Italian verbs with respect to their core-peripheral features: auxiliary selection acceptability ratings and associated variance measures. Although there is clear support for the gradient approach in relation to the general order of semantic categories along the unaccusativity gradient, the results reveal that the ordering of subclasses within the Change group conflict with that currently proposed in the literature. In addition, the findings demonstrate the aspectual and lexical semantic characteristics of internally-caused change-of-state verbs in Italian require further investigation before their auxiliary selection behaviour can be properly understood. Furthermore, contrary to the gradient account, Existence verbs, the most stative and therefore the most peripheral subclass in the unaccusativity hierarchy, exhibit behaviour more characteristic of core unaccusative verbs. This study examines a wider range of semantic subclasses of unaccusative verbs than has hitherto been reported and identifies the core-peripheral boundary for Italian.1