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Volume 45, Issue 3 (May 2007)


A typology of tritransitives: alignment types and motivations

Seppo Kittilä
  • Corresponding author
  • University of Helsinki.
  • Email:
Published Online: 2007-07-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/LING.2007.015


The present article discusses the syntax and semantics of tritransitive constructions. The label comprises constructions like a physiotherapist made the phonetician give a book to the bassoon player and a phonetician gave a book to the bassoon player for the physiotherapist and their equivalents in the languages of the world. The article proposes a formal typology, which is based on the formal similarities and differences in the Recipient and Beneficiary/ Causee coding in ditransitive and tritransitive clauses. Four types are distinguished, all of which are illustrated by crosslinguistic data. The arguments either receive distinct formal treatment irrespective of clause type, or the differences may be confined to tritransitives (they may also be marked alike). Moreover, the attested differences can be divided into subtypes based on whether the relevant arguments bear marking not attested outside tritransitives, or whether their formal treatment is different in more general terms. In addition to the formal typology, the article also discusses the rationale behind the attested tritransitive types. The key feature here is Ambiguity Avoidance, which is compared to Case Hierarchy (see, e.g., Comrie 1975).

About the article

*Correspondence address: Seppo Kittilä, Dept of Linguistics, P.O. Box 9, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.

Received: 2004-11-16

Revised: 2006-07-24

Published Online: 2007-07-31

Published in Print: 2007-05-23

Citation Information: Linguistics, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/LING.2007.015. Export Citation

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