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Folia Linguistica

Acta Societatis Linguisticae Europaeae

Editor-in-Chief: Fischer, Olga / Norde, Muriel

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Volume 51, Issue 3


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

Henrik Høeg Müller
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Management, Society and Communication, Copenhagen Business School (CBS), Dalgas Have 15, 2000 Frederiksberg, Denmark
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Published Online: 2017-11-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/flin-2017-0026


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.

Keywords: affectedness; agentivity; causativity; prepositional variation; Spanish nominalisations


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About the article

Received: 2015-04-23

Received: 2016-01-21

Revised: 2016-12-19

Accepted: 2017-01-30

Published Online: 2017-11-25

Published in Print: 2017-11-27

Citation Information: Folia Linguistica, Volume 51, Issue 3, Pages 695–744, ISSN (Online) 1614-7308, ISSN (Print) 0165-4004, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/flin-2017-0026.

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