Professor Delia Bentley presenting at all new Langwidge Sandwidge

Posted on March 22, 2017 by

After a period of inactivity, the LEL Langwidge Sandwidge talks have been revived! The first speaker of the all new Sandwidge series is Delia Bentley, who will be talking about her ongoing research on result state adjectives (in Italo-Romance languages; see abstract below).

The event details are as follows:

Room Booked: Simon Building, room 4.38
Date(s): Tuesday 28 March, 2017
Time: 1pm – 2pm

In addition to the ‘food for thought’, there will be some lunch snacks and drinks for all attendees.


(Image credits:

Result state adjectives: valence and voice

Delia Bentley – University of Manchester

Result states are states that ensue from prior events of change of state with the same name (Dixon 1982: 50). In this seminar I discuss the formation of non-passive and passive result state adjectives, paying particular attention to valence and voice alternations. The bulk of my evidence is drawn from Italo-Romance, a family of Romance languages, which exhibit co- radical pairs of rhizotonic non-passive result state adjectives (like Italian asciutti ‘dry/dried’ in 1a) and arhizotonic passive ones (like Italian asciugati ‘dried’ in 1b).

(1) a.  Questi sono i panni asciutti [non-passive]

           ‘These are the dry/dried clothes.’

     b. Questi sono i panni asciugati al/dal sole [passive]

         ‘These are the clothes dried in/by the sun.’

In my analysis I adhere to two principles: (a) both arguments of a bivalent verb or adjective originate in a dedicated position in the lexical semantic structure of that verb or adjective; (b) there are no productive word formation processes that delete a component of meaning from lexical semantic structure, be it an operator or an argument position. (With respect to word formation processes that involve valence alternations, I refer to Koontz- Garboden’s 2007, 2012 Monotonicity Hypothesis.) The above principles are by no means uncontroversial. Some scholars assume (a), but not (b), deriving non-passive result states by decausativisation, which amounts to the deletion of a causer position from semantic structure (Dubinsky & Simango 1996, Meltzer-Asscher 2011). Others argue that the agent argument is introduced in syntactic functional structure, specifically in VoiceP or vP (Kratzer 1994, 1996, Embick 2004), a claim that is hardly compatible with principle (a).

The results of compatibility and contradiction tests with the rhizotonic ~ arhizotonic adjectival pairs exemplified in (1a-b) suggest that the rhizotonic adjectives have event entailments, but no cause entailments. Accordingly, there can be no decausativisation in their formation. In contrast, the arhizotonic adjectives turn out to have both an event of change of state and a causer position in their lexical semantic structure. Therefore, they fit squarely an analysis of the passive whereby the argument that is most prominent thematically, which is a causer in this case, is demoted but not deleted in semantics, and can surface in a by phrase (Van Valin & LaPolla 1997, Kiparsky 2013). The history and synchrony of the rhizotonic ~ arhizotonic adjectival participial pairs in Italo-Romance, and in other Romance languages, support a lexicalist approach, in that these pairs constitute a well-defined lexical class, which describes events that can be caused externally (Levin & Rappaport Hovav 1995).

I also discuss other classes of non-passive result state adjectives. One of these is particularly puzzling, in that the adjective seemingly modifies the thematically prominent argument of an activity or an active accomplishment (Bentley & Ledgeway 2014, 2015). (For active accomplishments see Van Valin & LaPolla 1997, Van Valin 2017).

(2)  Luca era completamente fumato [non-passive]
‘Luke was completely stoned (as a result of smoking hash).’

I argue that this class provides robust evidence for principles (a) and (b), in that the starting point in the derivation of these result state adjectives must be an activity root with an agent argument, which is enriched to yield a more complex semantic representation whereby the agent also figures in a theme position in lexical semantic structure.

I propose that non-passive result state adjectives derive monotonically from acategorical roots or categorical stems. The rhizotonic non-passive adjectives that alternate with arhizotonic passive adjectives (cf. 1a) derive from acategorical roots describing events of change of state which can be externally caused. The class that seemingly modifies an agent (cf. 2) is derived by means of a more complex word-formation process, which starts from an activity root with an agent argument. None of the classes of result state adjectives under scrutiny provides evidence for a non-monotonic process of word formation. In turn, passive result state adjectives normally derive from categorical stems (cf. 1b) by demotion (existential binding) of the agent and stativisation. In Italo-Romance, all these derivations involve the addition of a participial allomorph (-t-, -s-, -ø-) to a base, an operation that turns the base into an adjective.


Bentley, D. & A. Ledgeway (2014). Manciati siti? Les constructions moyennes avec les participes résultatifs statifs dans l’italien et les variétés italo-romanes méridionales. Langages 194: 63-80. – Bentley, D. & A. Ledgeway (2015). Autour de la question des participes résultatifs-statifs dans les variétés romanes. In I. Mirto (ed.), Le relazioni irresistibili. Pisa: Edizioni ETS, pp. 61-91. – Dixon, Robert M. W. (1982). Where Have All the Adjectives Gone?: and Other Essays in Semantics and Syntax. The Hague: Mouton. – Dubinsky, S. & S. R. Simango (1996). Passive and stative in Chichewa: Evidence for modular distinctions in grammar. Language 72: 749-781. – Embick, D. (2004). On the structure of resultative participles in English. Linguistic Inquiry 35/3: 355-392. – Kiparsky, P. (2013). Towards a null theory of the passive. Lingua 125: 7-33. – Koontz-Garboden, A. (2007). States, changes of state, and the Monotonicity Hypothesis. Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University. – Koontz-Garboden, A. (2012). The monotonicity hypothesis. In McNally, L. & Demonte, V. (eds), Telicity, change, and state. A cross-categorial view of event structure. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 139-161. – Kratzer, A. (1994). The event argument and the semantics of voice. Ms., University of Massachusetts, Amherst. – Kratzer, A. (1996). Severing the external argument from its verb. In Rooryck, J. & Zaring, L. (eds), Phrase structure and the lexicon. Dordrecht: Kluwer, pp. 109-138. – Levin, B. & M. Rappaport Hovav (1995). Unaccusativity. At the Syntax-Lexical Semantics Interface. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press. – Meltzer-Asscher, A. (2011). Adjectival passives in Hebrew: evidence for parallelism between the adjectival and verbal systems. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 29/3: 815-855. – Van Valin, R. Jr. & R. LaPolla (1997). Syntax. Structure, meaning and function. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press. – Van Valin, R. Jr. (2017). Some issues regarding (active) accomplishments. To appear.