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Linguistic Inquiry

Summer 2008, Vol. 39, No. 3, Pages 355-377
(doi: 10.1162/ling.2008.39.3.355)
© 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Leaf Fell (the Leaf): The Online Processing of Unaccusatives
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According to the Unaccusative Hypothesis, unaccusative subjects are base-generated in object position and move to subject position. We examined this hypothesis using the cross-modal lexical priming technique, which tests whether and when an antecedent is reactivated during the online processing of a sentence. We compared sentences containing unergative verbs with sentences containing unaccusatives, both alternating and nonalternating, and found that subjects of unaccusatives reactivate after the verb, while subjects of unergatives do not. Alternating unaccusatives showed a mixed pattern of reactivation. The research directly supports the Unaccusative Hypothesis.