Anticausative verb

Anticausative Verb

Anticausative verb

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Description:
An anticausative verb is an intransitive verb that shows an event affecting its subject, while giving no semantic or syntactic indication of the cause of the event. The single argument of the anticausative verb (its subject) is a patient, that is, an experiencer. One can assume that there is a cause or an agent of causation, but the syntactic structure of the anticausative makes it unnatural or impossible to refer to it directly. Examples of anticausative verbs are break, sink, move, etc.

Anticausative verbs are a subset of unaccusative verbs. Though for the most parts both terms turn out to be synonymous, some unaccusative verbs are more obviously anticausative, while others (fall, die, etc.) are not; it depends on whether causation is defined as having to do with an animate volitional agent (does "falling" means "being accelerated down by gravity" or "being dropped/pushed down by someone"? Is "old age" a causation agent for "dying"?).

English language

In English, many anticausatives are of the class of "alternating ambitransitive verbs", where the alternation between transitive and intransitive forms produces a change of the position of the patient role (the transitive form has a patientive direct object, and this becomes the patientive subject in the intransitive). For example:

  • He broke the window.The window broke.
  • Some pirates sank the ship.The ship sank.


Passive voice is not an anticausative...
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