Date of Thesis

Spring 2019


This thesis discusses the concept of unaccusativity within a constructionist, or syntax-driven, approach to argument structure. I present a working definition of unaccusativity which states that unaccusative verbs lack an external argument introduced in active Voice, and contain only an internal argument, which is not assigned accusative case. This definition provides a foundation for analyzing how various verbal constructions, both in English and cross-linguistically, may be classified as unaccusative, not unaccusative, or near unaccusative, and how the differences between them may be accounted for in terms of the functional domain of phrase structure that immediately dominates the Verb Phrase. Near unaccusative verbs display some, but not all, of the properties of unaccusative verbs. Specifically, they appear to lack an external argument in active Voice while at the same time assigning accusative case to their internal argument. I discuss various approaches to the unexpected appearance of accusative in these near unaccusatives, and the costs and consequences of these approaches. One particular consequence is that the previously posited definition of unaccusativity must be revised by rejecting the absence of accusative case as a criterial property. This revised definition teases apart the independent properties of argument structure and surface case, suggesting that these concepts need to be separated in the mainstream discussion about unaccusativity, in which they are so often conflated.


linguistics, syntax, argument structure, Case, unaccusative, verb alternations

Access Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts


Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

First Advisor

James Lavine

Second Advisor

Ksenia Zanon