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Agentivity marking in Spanish nominalisations: The use of por ‘by’ vs. de ‘of’

Henrik Høeg Müller
From the journal Folia Linguistica

Abstract

The first objective of this paper is to provide justification for the claim that variation between the prepositions por ‘by’ and de ‘of’ introducing the subject argument in Spanish nominalisations should not be explained as primarily paralleling sentence-level voice or aspectual distinctions. The strongest arguments against assuming a direct analogy between the clausal and the phrasal levels with respect to these functional categories are, on the one hand, that the use of agentive por-phrases is far from limited to nominals which can reasonably be claimed to bear a resemblance to a passive structure and, on the other, that de-marking of the Agent is fully compatible with an activity reading of the nominal, as opposed to a result reading. Secondly, as an alternative, it is proposed that the use of por vs. de relates to the perceived degree of agentivity of the subject referent, correlated with the degree of affectedness experienced by the object referent, and that por functions as a semantic marker overtly signalling agentivity rather than a syntactic marker of subjective Case.

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Received: 2015-4-23
Received: 2016-1-21
Revised: 2016-12-19
Accepted: 2017-1-30
Published Online: 2017-11-25
Published in Print: 2017-11-27

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