Across languages, many diagnostics for unaccusativity are known to be sensitive to two semantic factors: telicity of events and animacy (and therefore potential agentivity) of subjects. Floating Numeral Quantifiers (FNQs), the best known unaccusative diagnostic in Japanese, is no exception. Usually only unaccusative subjects readily license FNQs, but it has been claimed that unergative subjects can license FNQs if a telicity-inducing adjunct is present. While this led some studies to propose that telicity of events triggers a grammatical change in unergative sentences, this study challenges such a claim with novel empirical evidence from an acceptability judgment experiment that manipulated both telicity of unergative events and animacy of unaccusative subjects. It is argued that the results of the experiment fail to support predictions of grammatical accounts of the effect of telicity on FNQ-licensing. As an alternative, a processing-based account is proposed, according to which the higher acceptability of telic unergative sentences with FNQs is due to an initial unaccusative analysis of these sentences that temporarily licenses the FNQs.
Proceedings of the 34th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Aaron Kaplan, Abby Kaplan, Miranda K. McCarvel, and Edward J. Rubin
Table of contents