LINGUIST List 4.291

Wed 21 Apr 1993

Sum: Instrumentals (Resent)

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  1. Bhuvaneswari Narasimhan, summary - Instrumentals

Message 1: summary - Instrumentals

Date: Wed, 21 Apr 93 14:43:09 -0summary - Instrumentals
From: Bhuvaneswari Narasimhan <>
Subject: summary - Instrumentals

[The summary on this topic which was previously posted to
the list was apparently distributed in a truncated form by
the Listserv. The summary is thus being reposted.

The Moderators]

Here's a summary of the responses I got to my posting
a few weeks ago regarding instrumental NPs'. I had
commented on the alternations of instrumental NPs'
between the subject, object & adjunct positions as in
the following:

John cut the bread with the knife.
The knife cut the bread.
John shot the bullet at the bird.

Thanks to those who responded.


Assuming that instrumentals are marked in English with 'with', you
might find the following alternations of interest:

 Susan planted the garden with tulips.
 Susan planted tulips in the garden.

 Joanie smeared the wall with paint.
 Joanie smeared paint on the wall.

Note that in the first sentence of each pair there is a 'holistic'
reading -- that the whole garden/whole wall has been affected, whereas
this is not the case in the second sentence of either pair.
 This is very old data; I believe first pointed out by Anderson in
the 60s, but it's still cute. I have more examples, and probably some
more references at home.

Rich Hilliard


Have a look at Jan van Voorst, *Event structure* (Amsterdam: John Benjamins).
It contains some interesting observations and a contrastive study between
English and Dutch.

Dr Bert Peeters

Hi - you asked for observations rather than references, but I
thought these might be useful anyway:
1) Richard H Wojcik "Where do Instrumental NPs come from" in M
Shibatani (ed) 1976 The grammar of causative constructions (Syntax
and Semantics vol 6) Academic Press
2) Howard Lasnik 1988 "Subjects and the theta-criterion" in Natural
Language and Linguistic Theory 6, 1-17
3) I M Schlesinger 1989 "Instruments as agents: on the nature of
semantic relations" in Journal of Linguistics 25, 189-210
4) George Lakoff 1968 "Instrumental adverbs and the concept of deep
structure" in Foundations of Language 4, 4-29

and references cited in these papers - Regards, Kate Kearns


You should read a thesis by Barbara Brunson, at the University of
Toronto. Her email address is:


I have something to say about all this, with most particular, but not
exclusive, reference to Sanskrit, in my thesis "Case Linking - A Theory
Case & Verb Diathesis" which is available in the MIT Woking Papers In L
series. It first came out in 1979.
Nicholas Ostler


What is interesting, I think, is that you can say (in addition to
your examples)

John shot the bird with a bullet. (redundant, perhaps, but not
 ungrammatical, because maybe
 (for example) he was shooting
 other creatures with water)

On the other hand, you can't say

John cut the knife at/to/in/on the bread. (ungrammatical)

Also, I don't particularly care for

The bullet shot the bird.

But, that is one you might want to check with other people.
Best, E. Laurencot

 You will want to read my paper in:

 Shibatani, M., ed., 1976 Syntax and Semantics. v. 6 The Grammar of
 Causative Constructions. Academic Press.
 "Where Do Instrumental NPs Come From?"

 -Rick Wojcik

In a traditional approach, Russian has six distinct morphological
cases which are used to mark NPs in a sentence. One of these is
the Instrumental.

Ivan rezal xleb nozhom.
Ivan-NOM cut-PAST bread-ACC knife-INST
'Ivan cut the bread with a knife'

Xleb byl narezan nozhom.
bread-NOM be-PAST cut-PastPart. knife-INST
'The bread was cut by a knife'


*Nozh rezal xleb.
knife-NOM cut-PAST bread-ACC
'A knife cut the bread'

>From their comments, my informants do not accept (c) because
'knife' has been "upgraded", so to speak, from an instrument to an
agent. Russian also uses the Instrumental case to encode agents,
but this is almost always limited to passive constructions. No
doubt you've run into the fine distinction between agents and
instruments (cf. 'The bread was cut with a knife/by a knife' but
'John cut the bread with a knife/*by a knife'). BTW, one often
finds in the literature that Russian does not allow both an
agent and an instrument in the same sentence if each are in the
Instrumental case (e.g. 'The barge was loaded _by the workers_ _with
a crane_.' should be ungrammatical if both 'workers' and 'crane' are in
the Instrumental), but I've got a number of examples of this type of
construction in my Russian corpus.

The third sentence in your posting -- John shot the bird with a
bullet -- cannot be phrased in Russian with the Instrumental case,
according to my informants (the Russian word for 'shoot' already
incorporates a projectile), but similar constructions exist.

Malchiki brosili kamni v sobaku.
Boys-NOM throw-PAST stones-ACC in dog-ACC
'The boys threw stones at the dog'

Malchiki brosili kamnjami v sobaku.
Boys-NOM throw-PAST stones-INST in dog-ACC

Lest one think that the PP in (d) and (e) is simply a locative
phrase, compare (f) and (g)

Malchiki brosili kamni v ozero.
Boys-NOM throw-PAST stones-ACC in lake-ACC
'The boys threw stones into the lake'

*Malchiki brosili kamnjami v ozero.
Boys-NOM throw-PAST stones-INST in lake-ACC

Note that when there is a DO, the verb often requires a prefix, as in
(h), which often gives the verb a slightly different lexical shade:

Ljudi zabrosali geroja cvetami.
people-NOM throw-PAST hero-ACC flowers-INST
'People showered the hero with flowers'

*Ljudi brosili/zabrosali cvety na geroja.
people-NOM throw-PAST flowers-ACC at hero-ACC

Ljudi brosili pomidory v xuligana
people-NOM throw-PAST tomatoes-ACC in hoodlum-ACC
'People threw tomatoes at the hoodlum'

>I am interested in seeing whether a better worked out account of
>argument structure along the lines of work done by Grimshaw,
>Jackendoff, etc.might help us provide an explanation for why the
>instrument projects on to these different syntactic positions in
>the sentence

I could provide other examples, but I think that we're focusing
on two related, but distinct issues. I am interested in the
semantics of one 'surface' grammatical category (the Instrumental
case), while you seem more interested in the encoding of a single
'deep' category (call it Instrumentality or whatever you will).

If you're interested in citable Russian data, you might want to
check out Anna Wierzbicka's monograph on the Russian Instrumental
(_The Case for Surface Case_. Ann Arbor: Karoma, 1980). I mention
this work specifically, as she deals with a lot of instrumental
phrases and their syntax, as well as problems -- she points out,
for example (p. xv), that as of yet, no one has explained why (k) is
ungrammatical, but (l) is fully acceptable:

*David ubil Goliafa prashchej.
David-NOM kill-PAST Goliath-ACC sling-INST
'David killed Goliath with a sling'

Ivan ubil Petra toporom.
Ivan-NOM kill-PAST Petr-ACC axe-INST
'Ivan killed Petr with an axe'

I don't have an answer for you as to the ungrammaticality. I'm
still collecting data for my dissertation -- perhaps I'll be
able to give you an explanation in two years ;-).

Other English-language sources for Russian data/analysis:

Channon, Robert. 1987. "A Function of the Instrumental Case in Russian,"
 _In Honor of Ilse Lehiste/Ilse Lehiste Puhendusteos_, 339P355
 ed. by Robert Channon and Linda Shockey. Dordrecht: Foris.
Kilby, David A. 1977. _Deep and Superficial Cases in Russian_.
 Frankfurt and Munich: Kubon and Sagner.
Neidle, Carol. 1988. The Role of Case in Russian Syntax. ???:
 Kluwer Academic.
Neidle, Carol. 1982. "Case Agreement in Russian." _The Mental
 Representation of Grammatical Relations_, ed. by Joan Bresnan
 et al., 391P426. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Sullivan, William J. 1986. "Russian Prepositional Phrase of Locus:
 Instrumental." _Language Sciences_ 8 (1): 17P35.

jake Moscow
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