Noncore datives in Basque and Spanish impersonal, passive and anticausative sentences


  • Imanol Suárez-Palma University of Florida
  • Alba Santamaría-Gallego University of Florida



Basque, Spanish, impersonal construction, voice, datives, applicatives, passives, middle constructions, inchoative constructions, causatives, anticausatives


This paper focuses on the Basque impersonal construction, i.e. a detransitivized configuration that can convey impersonal, passive and middle readings. Although these are agentive constructions (Fernández and Berro 2021), labile change-of-state predicates in these sentences allow for a causative and an anticausative reading, enhanced by the possibility of inserting a purpose clause or a by-itself PP, respectively (Ortiz de Urbina 2003). We suggest that two distinct underlying representations with identical exponents yield these readings: (i) a defective Voice head that encodes an implicit external argument in the causative variant (Schäfer 2008; Berro et al. 2022), and (ii) an anticausative counterpart, lacking Voice altogether. We support this claim by examining the distribution of noncore dative arguments in these contexts, whose possible interpretations are (i) affected by an intentionally or naturally caused change of state, or (ii) accidental causers of this event; this phenomenon is also attested in Spanish se-passives and se-anticausatives (Cuervo 2003; Suárez-Palma 2020). Assuming that a middle applicative head introduces these arguments (Cuervo 2020), the affected reading arises when the applicative merges below vP, and the accidental causer one when it sits on top of it. Crucially, the latter is only possible in anticausative contexts, where that position is not filled by Voice; these observations from Basque mirror Suárez-Palma’s (2020) findings for Spanish. Finally, if this proposal is on the right track, future typological studies should include Basque in the list of languages showing applicative constructions (Polinsky 2024).


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How to Cite

Suárez-Palma, I., & Santamaría-Gallego, A. (2024). Noncore datives in Basque and Spanish impersonal, passive and anticausative sentences. Borealis – An International Journal of Hispanic Linguistics, 13(1), 29–55.