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Share Paper 2460

Intransitive Sentences, Argument Structure, and the Syntax-Prosody Interface
Patricia Irwin
275-284 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper presents experimental results from the prosody of intransitive sentences that support the claim that verbal argument structure determines sentence accent. The results of this experiment support long-standing intuitions that unaccusative sentences are pronounced differently from unergative sentences, such that broad focus unaccusative sentences have what is called the subject-accent pattern (e.g., A BOY fell), and broad focus unergative sentences have what is called the verb-accent pattern (e.g., a boy JUMPED). Furthermore, if a phase-based approach to sentence accent is assumed (Kahnemuyipour 2009, Kratzer and Selkirk 2007), then this study also supports claims that unaccusative and unergative verbs are selected for by different types of little-v (Chomsky 2001, 2005; contra Legate 2003): unaccusative verbs are selected for by a weak (non-phasal) little-v, and unergative verbs are selected for by a strong (phasal) little-v. A simple, broad focus unaccusative sentence thus consists of just one phase and so only one constituent (the subject) receives a pitch accent; prosodically, this structure results in the subject-accent pattern. Unergative sentences contain two phases and therefore two domains for pitch accent, resulting in the verb-accent pattern.

Published in

Proceedings of the 28th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Mary Byram Washburn, Katherine McKinney-Bock, Erika Varis, Ann Sawyer, and Barbara Tomaszewicz
Table of contents
Printed edition: $375.00