Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft
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The argumental status of verbal participants in event nominalizations is still under debate. Investigating syntactic and semantic properties of referentially interpreted genitive noun phrases related to German nominalized infinitives (= NI), cf. das Stören der Mannschaft (‘the disturbing the team-gen’), I will argue in favor of different interpretative mechanisms at stake: whereas themes retain their argumental status in the nominal domain, agents are not lambda-bound in the argument structure of NI. Instead, the corresponding participant is a modifier whose agentive interpretation is motivated merely conceptually.
Evidence for the proposed asymmetric analysis comes from two sources: it will be shown that the alleged agentive genitive contributes a possessive relation not identical to the verbal agentive interpretation. The conceptual preference for an identification with the verbal agent will be accounted for by abductive reasoning thereby explaining the modifier's argument-like behavior. In addition, as data on NI from different sources reveal, the genitive interpretation is mainly conditioned by lexical properties of the base verb. In particular, it will be shown that a postnominal agentive interpretation is bound to configurations where the theme is independently predicted optional. These findings follow from the proposed asymmetry.