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Query Details

Query Subject:   Passives, Implicit Agents
Author:   Andrew McIntyre
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Pragmatics

Query:   Dear linguists,
A common claim is that verbal passives disfavor interpretations in which
implicit Agents are interpreted as co-referent with passive subjects.
Thus, (1) does not suggest that Mary is dressing herself (the “disjoint
reference” effect). By contrast, coreferent interpretations are allowed
with adjectival participles like those in (2) and certain get-constructions
like (3).

(1) Mary is being dressed at the moment.
(2) Mary seems well-dressed. Mary is a well-dressed person.
(3) Mary is getting dressed.

I would be grateful if people could help me with the following questions:

A. Does anyone know of discussions in the literature of cases of
adjectival participles which disfavor coreferent interpretations? It
appears that such cases are possible once we move beyond verbs like
“dress” which express commonly self-directed acts. For instance, my
judgment of (4) is that “underrated” cannot have a coreferent reading
however much the context favors it.

(4) #If I had the choice between people who think they are geniuses
and people who underrate themselves, I would choose the underrated

B. Can anyone provide me with defenses (or criticisms) of PRAGMATIC
accounts of the lack of coreferent interpretations in cases like (1). An
example of such an account might be one which treats disjoint
reference effects as an implicature (say a scalar implicature based on
the fact that the speaker could have signaled the reflexive
interpretation unambiguously by using an active construction with a
reflexive interpretation such as ''Mary is dressing.''). Examples of non-
pragmatic accounts would be ones which make no appeal to
implicatures and rely on absolute syntactic/semantic statements
(“coreference is out with verbal passives since it would incur a
crossover violation”; cf. Baker/Johnson/Roberts, Passive Arguments
Raised, Linguistic Inquiry, 1989).

Many thanks in advance for any help in these matters.

LL Issue: 22.3026
Date posted: 26-Jul-2011


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