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Linguistic Inquiry

Summer 2014, Vol. 45, No. 3, Pages 482-500
(doi: 10.1162/LING_a_00164)
@ 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Distribution of the Hebrew Possessive Dative Construction: Guided by Unaccusativity or Prominence?
Article PDF (1.48 MB)

This article challenges the empirical generalization that the possessed element in the Hebrew possessive dative (PD) construction cannot be an external argument (Borer and Grodzinsky 1986), a generalization that has been leveraged in the use of the PD construction as an unaccusativity diagnostic. An acceptability judgment experiment shows that the PD construction is dispreferred when the possessor is less prominent than the possessee on the animacy or definiteness scale; however, it shows no effect of unaccusativity, raising serious doubts regarding the construction’s validity as an unaccusativity diagnostic.