Hans Christian Luschützky, Franz Rainer
December 20, 2011
According to a widely held opinion, agent-instrument polysemy in derivational morphology is the result of semantic extension from agent to instrument meaning. In the present paper we set out to explore the cross-linguistic distribution of patterns of polysemy along the agent-instrument axis. It turns out that about forty percent in a sample of 82 languages expressing both agent and instrument meaning by derivational morphology have markers that are polysemous for the categories in question. A closer look at the data reveals, however, that many of these prima-facie cases of agent-instrument polysemy have arisen not by semantic extension from agent to instrument meaning, but in a number of different ways.