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Title:On the Gradience of the Dative Alternation
Authors:Joan Bresnan, Tatiana Nikitina
Abstract:In this study we address the gradience of the dative alternation
by presenting new corpus data and an OT model embodying an
informational theory of the alternation. We show that some of the
central evidential paradigms that have been used to support semantic
explanations for the choice of dative syntax are not well founded
empirically. Some widely repeated reports of intuitive contrasts in
grammaticality appear to rest instead on judgments of pragmatic
probabilities. We also show that at least one type of informational
structure (specifically the hierarchy of person or speech act
participants) exerts an effect on the dative alternation independently
of effects of length or weight, semantic role, and pronominality. We
propose a unifying model of the person alignment phenomenon within the
framework of Optimality Theory with stochastic evaluation (Boersma
1998, Boersma and Hayes 2001), and show how lexical variation can be
incorporated into the model. Within the framework of this model, the
constraint ranking for English implies that the most frequently
ditransitive alternating verbs should be the most driven by
informational harmony. Finally, we show that the same pattern of
person/argument alignment that appears gradiently in the English
dative alternation appears (near-)categorically in other languages, as
our model leads us to expect, with data from the Nilo-Saharan language
Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1