DOI: 10.1075/lali.00151.wuy ISSN: 1606-822X

Causative alternation in Zuo Tradition

Saina Wuyun
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


This study examines the different variants of causative alternation in Zuo Tradition (左傳), an archaic Chinese narrative history from the Pre-Qin period. It is found that denominal verbs, unergative verbs, and “pure” unaccusative verbs participate actively in the alternation, and that the causative variant bears a complex relation with the agentive and putative variants; this causes problems for previous analyses. This paper proposes a two-step build-up of eventuality for causative alternation in archaic Chinese. Specifically, I propose that verbs in archaic Chinese are monadic and select only one argument. The merger of the verb with this argument is the realization of its eventuality conceptualized in the Lexicon; any further merger is determined by the eventuality composed by different light verbs in syntax. The uninitiated light verb is a placeholder with an empty argument. A specific light verb value is determined by the eventuality that is sent to the syntactic structure. Thus, the difference between all variants in causative alternation witnessed in Zuo Tradition lies in the different eventualities which they introduce into the syntactic configuration.

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