A0263 Nikolaos lavidas null vs Cognate Objects: What Aspect Can Tell Us about Their Diachrony

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Nikolaos LAVIDAS
Null vs Cognate Objects: What Aspect Can Tell Us about Their Diachrony
The present paper attempts to examine some diachronic aspects of null (as detransitivizing markers) and cognate (as transitivizing markers) objects in English and Greek. We are going to deal with questions that concern (a) the directions of the development of null and cognate objects; (b) the type of the historical correlation between Aspect and these (de)transitivization processes.

We are going to argue that the changes in null and cognate objects can be correlated with an innovation in the aspectual system of English and Greek. Following Roberge (2002), Cummins and Roberge (2004), Borer (2004) and Tsimpli and Papadopoulou (2006), [null or implicit objects can be attributed to a T(ransitivity) R(equirement) just as null subjects are due to the EPP], it appears that referential null objects do not violate the TR in O(ld) E(nglish) and A(ncient) G(reek). Referential null objects in Mod(ern) E(nglish) and Mod(ern) G(reek) are ungrammatical since the aspectual characteristic of +/-progressive and +/-perfective, respectively, is grammaticalized and a conflict occurs between the atelic interpretation of these constructions (that emerges when an element is merged in [Compl,VP]) and the telic interpretation of the referential null object. That conflict does not occur before progressive and perfective were grammaticalized, since before the grammaticalization of these aspectual characteristics, the atelic/telic interpretation depended on the aktionsart and not on the merge (or not) of an element in the [Compl,VP]. With regard to the development of the cognate object construction, a diachronic argument in favor of Horrocks and Stavrou’s (2010) analysis is evidenced; OE and ModG have no activity/event noun cognate objects of the ModE kind, since the default aspectual character of the verbs (that allows the presence of activity/event noun cognate objects) seems to be a later development for English, parallel to the development of progressive aspect in English.


Borer, Hagit. 2004. “The Grammar Machine”. The Unaccusativity Puzzle ed. by Artemis Alexiadou, Elena Anagnostopoulou & Martin Everaert, 288-331. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cummins, Sarah & Yves Roberge. 2004. “Null Objects in French and English”. Contemporary Approaches to Romance Linguistics: Selected Papers from the 33rd Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL) ed. by Julie Auger, Clancy Clements & Barbara Vance, 121-138. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Horrocks, Geoffrey & Melita Stavrou. 2010. “Morphological Aspect and the Distribution of Cognate Objects Across Languages”. Lexical Semantics, Syntax, and Event Structure ed. by Malka Rappaport Hovav, Edit Doron & Ivy Sichel, 284-308. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Roberge, Yves. 2002. “Transitivity Requirement Effects and the EPP”. Paper presented at the Western Conference on Linguistics (WECOL), November 2002, Vancouver.

Tsimpli, Ianthi Maria & Despina Papadopoulou. 2006. “Aspect and Argument Realization: a Study on Antecedentless Null Objects in Greek”. Lingua 116.1595-1615.

Workshop title

The Diachrony of Referential Null Arguments (Silvia LURAGHI, Dag HAUG)

Nikolaos LAVIDAS nlavidas@enl.auth.gr
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