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Productivity of the Cases

5.1 Introduction

Hitherto I have only utilized one of the main methods available, discussed in Chapter 1 to investigate case assignment in Icelandic in order to discover what the function of case in the Icelandic language is.1 I now proceed to the other main method of this thesis. In this chapter, new verbs in Icelandic are examined, in particular the morphological case they assign to their arguments. I begin by presenting the Icelandic data which is then divided into groups according to which schematic constructions the novel verbs can occur in (section 5.2). After having put forward general conclusions on the productivity of the cases (section 5.3.1), I discuss the different predictions which follow from the basic assumptions of different grammatical theories on the productivity of the cases (section 5.3.2), mainly comparing Generative Grammar's distinction between structural and lexical case to how Construction Grammar deals with productivity. The results of this comparison show the predictions of Construction Grammar to be more accurate. Furthermore, I will discuss how novel verbs in general acquire case and argument structure (section 5.3.3), and in section 5.3.4 I examine some specific examples of verbs selecting for dative subjects, dative objects, and accusative objects, and give a constructional account of the case assignment of these verbs. Section 5.4 is a summary.

5.2 The Icelandic Data

In this section, I first account for the Icelandic data used in the survey of this part of the thesis. In subsection 5.2.1 I give an overview of the principles of word formation in Icelandic, both planned and spontaneous word formation and the difference between them. I also report on the Icelandic data and its sources. In subsection 5.2.1 I define the term new verb as it is used in the remainder of this book. Subsection 5.2.2 lists the constructions in which the verbs in this study occur, exemplified with one verb for each construction.


Parts of the empirical investigation which constitutes the main body of this chapter were first published in Barðdal (1999b). However, a huge bulk of data has been added and the discussion has been greatly revised and extended. 109


5.2.1 A Sample of New Icelandic Verbs Within the Icelandic tradition neologisms are divided into two categories: planned and spontaneous word formation (see Rögnvaldsson 1986:29-30, Barðdal, et al. 1997:148-149). Planned word formation is carried out by scholars who know the rules of grammar, language history and present-day use. They therefore have the possibility of coining new words according to word formation rules, taking into account the behaviour of different prefixes, suffixes and compounding in Icelandic. Spontaneous word formation, on the other hand, is performed by the man in the street. Often such coinages are only temporary in the language, either done for the purpose of the moment ("nonce" words) or used in a small group for a specific period of time. Spontaneous word formation therefore does not always leave permanent traces in the language. There is one crucial difference between spontaneous and planned word formation; the former relies solely on highly productive word formation processes, while the latter can take into application word formation processes which do not lie at the core of productivity: processes which are less productive, processes which perhaps were productive in older Icelandic but can be revived; and so on. The verbs used in this study are taken from various sources. All the verbs are listed in Appendix C. The list contains English glosses2 and those examples of usage which were available in the sources. The verbs, and the subsequent examples of usage, were collected from five different dictionaries. The sixth source is an informal collection of new verbs from radio programmes, friends and other speech environments. These sources are listed below: · · · Subcorpus 1: A dictionary of slang, informal and forbidden language (Árnason, Sigmundsson and Thorsson 1982). From this corpus I have collected 487 verbs. Subcorpus 2: A dictionary of statistical terms (Orðasafn úr tölfræði, 1990). From this corpus I collected 6 verbs. Subcorpus 3: A dictionary of pedagogical and psychological terms (Orðaskrá úr uppeldis- og sálarfræði, 1994). From this corpus I have collected 59 verbs.


The translations of the data in corpora 1 and 6 were done by myself, with the devoted assistance of Ute Bohnacker and Vigfús Geirdal. In doing the translations we have primarily focused on the meaning of the verbs and not on their stylistic value. Some of the English translations are therefore not stylistically equivalent to the translated verbs. The data in corpora 2, 3, 4 and 5 are taken from Icelandic-English dictionaries and therefore did not need to be translated. 110

CASE IN ICELANDIC · · · Subcorpus 4: A dictionary of terms in aviation (Flugorðasafn, 1993). From this corpus I have selected 72 verbs. Subcorpus 5: A dictionary of computer terms (Tölvuorðasafn, 1998). From this corpus I have selected 285 verbs. Subcorpus 6: A list of 30 verbs collected by myself, including verbs which I have occasionally heard.

A total of 933 verbs was collected from the six sources. After removing the doublets the total for all corpora is 921 verbs. The verbs found in subcorpora 2-5 are presumably primarily the result of planned word formation, whereas the verbs in subcorpora 1 and 6 are the result of spontaneous word formation. Obviously, the total corpus of 921 verbs does not contain all instances of new verbs in Icelandic. It is a convenience sample, containing the new verbs that have been easily available to me since they (with the exception of the verbs in subcorpus 6) have appeared in print. This will presumably not affect my results, since there is no reason to assume that the corpus is biased with respect to the cases these verbs assign to their arguments. I will, however, look at the individual corpora for planned and spontaneous word formation in case there might be some statistical differences between the two. Neologism is here defined broadely. A new verb in this thesis is used of a slang-type verb from Árnason et al. (1982) which may have a morphophonologically foreign verb stem borrowed from another language, as for instance the verb bísa (1) 'steal', which is presumably borrowed from Danish. The term new verb is also used for verbs already existing in Icelandic but which have gained another usage than the existing one, i.e. a new usage, as for instance the verb beina (5) which means 'route'. beina has had the meaning 'route' for a long time, but it is only recently that it has begun to be used in the domain of computers. To sum up, neologisms here are defined as: (1) a) b) new verb (stem)s in new or old contexts. old verb (stem)s in new contexts.3

Notice that as the definition is formulated it includes all new metaphorical usages of already existing verbs in Icelandic. It is also my opinion that nonconventionalized metaphorical usages should be regarded as novel, but in this survey I will restrict myself to the corpora available, as described above.


See page 134 for two apparent exceptions to the definition, nevertheless included in Appendix C and in this survey. 111

CASE IN ICELANDIC It should also be pointed out that there are many verbs in the corpora like beina 'route' above which have been a part of the Icelandic vocabulary for a long time, which may even be common Germanic stems, and are thus not "new" in the word's most restricted sense. However, many of those are taken from the four dictionaries of planned word formation, and since I want to refrain from having to decide which are "newer" than others, I have chosen to categorically include all those verbs in my corpus. Some Icelandic readers might object to defining all the borrowed verbs in my material as Icelandic, especially if they are not used by the majority of the Icelandic population. Irrespective of the arguments for or against such a view, be they emotional or logical, that does not interfere with how new verbs acquire their case or argument structure in Icelandic and thus it does not affect the results of the investigation presented in this chapter. 5.2.2 Icelandic Schematic Constructions In the following I will account for the syntactic schematic constructions in Icelandic available to the verbs in Appendix C, and exemplify these with one verb for each construction. The constructions are presented in a frequency order, starting with the most frequent one. A complete list of the verbs which may occur in each construction is available as Appendix D. Since my corpus is not fully based on examples of real usages, i.e. since I do not have access to authentic examples of all the constructions each verb might possibly occur in, I will use the authentic examples I have in the corpus and base the remaining classification on my native speaker's intuition. Of course, basing the classification on intuition may lead to some verbs being listed under more constructions than only one, since verbs can occur in more than one construction. Another problem with a classification based on intuition is that it may lead to some verbs not being listed under all possible constructions they might occur in. It would, of course, have been ideal to base all of the classification on real usages but unfortunately such corpora, with exhaustive examples of novel usages, do not exist. The following classification should therefore under no circumstances be considered complete or final. (2) a. b. (3) a. b. SubjNom Verb ObjAcc (402 instances) Hann afbakar sannleikann 'He distorts the truth' SubjNom Verb (203 instances) Hann alhæfir


CASE IN ICELANDIC 'He generalizes' (4) a. b. SubjNom Verb PrepAcc (104 instances) Hann bjallaði í mig he phoned in me 'He phoned me' SubjNom Verb ObjDat (97 instances) Þau droppuðu þessu 'They dropped it' SubjNom Verb Part (88 instances) Hún bakkaði út 'She backed out' SubjNom Verb ObjAcc Part (70 instances) Þau dressuðu sig upp they dressed themselves up 'They dressed up' SubjNom Verb PrepDat (65 instances) Hann djókaði í þeim he joked in them 'He made jokes with them' SubjNom Verb+st (31 instances) Hann klikkaðist 'He went crazy' SubjNom Verb Adv/Prep (29 instances) Gefðu í botn! give-you in bottom 'Speed up!' SubjNom Verb ObjDat Part (28 instances)



a. b.


a. b.


a. b.


a. b.


a. b.

(10) a. b.

(11) a.


b. (12) a. b.

Hann fokkaði þessu upp 'He fucked this up' SubjNom Verb ObjAcc PrepDat (23 instances) Hann intresserar sig fyrir þessu he interests himself for this 'He shows an interest in this' SubjNom Verb ObjDat PrepAcc (18 instances) Ég skal redda þér um þetta! I will provide you about this 'I'll get this for you!' SubjNom Verb+st Part (17 instances) Hann þynnist upp he thins up 'He gets a hangover' SubjNom Verb ObjDat Adv/Prep (10 instances) Loksins gubbaði hann því út úr sér finally spewed he it out of himself 'Finally, he spit it out' SubjNom Verb ObjAcc PrepAcc (9 instances) Ég ordna þetta fyrir þig I fix this for you 'I'll fix it for you' SubjNom Verb ObjAcc Adj/Adv (8 instances) Ég fíla þetta vel I like this well 'I like this a lot' SubjNom Verb PrepGen (8 instances)

(13) a. b.

(14) a. b.

(15) a. b.

(16) a. b

(17) a. b.

(18) a.


CASE IN ICELANDIC b. Hún fónaði til hans she phoned to him 'She phoned him' SubjNom Verb+st PrepAcc (7 instances) Hann draugaðist um bæinn he ghosted around town 'He dragged himself (like a ghost) around town' SubjNom Verb ObjDat PrepDat (7 instances) Hann söng þessu að lögreglunni he sang this at the police 'He give the information to the police' SubjNom Verb ObjAcc PrepGen (6 instances) Ég faxa þetta til þín I fax this to you 'I'll fax it to you' SubjNom Verb ObjDat ObjAcc (5 instances) Ég símsendi þér þetta I fax you this 'I'll fax it to you' SubjNom Verb ObjDat PrepGen (4 instances) Slakaðu þessu til mín hand this to me 'Hand it over to me' SubjDat Verb (3 instances) Honum stendur him stands 'He's got a hard-on' SubjNom Verb ObjAcc ObjDat (3 instances)

(19) a. b.

(20) a. b.

(21) a. b.

(22) a. b.

(23) a. b.

(24) a. b.

(25) a.


CASE IN ICELANDIC b. Hann samsamaði sig hópnum He identified ("samed") himself the group 'He identified himself with the group' SubjDat Verb+st Clause (1 instance) Mér analýseraðist svo að ... me analysed so that 'I came to the analysis that ...' SubjNom Verb Part PrepAcc Hann brann inni með þetta he burned in with this 'It became to late for him to say it' or 'It became to late for him to do anything about it' SubjNom Verb+st PrepDat Hann bömmeraðist yfir því he bummered over that 'He became depressed because of that' SubjNom Verb PrepAcc PrepAcc Hann dílaði við þau um þetta he dealt with them about this 'He made a deal with them about this' SubjDat Verb Part Mér finnur til me finds till/to 'I'm in pain' SubjNom Verb Part ObjDat Þau hnoðuðu saman krakka they kneaded together a kid 'They made a baby' SubjAcc Verb PrepAcc


(26) a. b.

(27) a. b.

(28) a. b.

(29) a. b.

(30) a. b.

(31) a. b.

(32) a.



Mig klæjar í fingurna me itches in the fingers 'I'm restless (to begin sth)' SubjNom Verb ObjAcc Adv/Part Hann labbaði sig í bæinn he walked himself in town 'He walked to town' SubjNom Verb ObjGen Hann leitar e-s he searches sth 'He searches for sth' SubjNom Verb+st ObjGen Hann minntist þess 'He recollected that' SubjAcc Verb Adv/Part Vélina rekur um 'The aircraft drifts around' SubjAcc Verb Vélina rekur 'The aircraft drifts' SubjNom Verb ObjDat ObjDat Hann snapaði sér upplýsingunum he scavenged himself the information 'He scavenged the information' SubjDat Verb Adv/Prep Þá byrjaði krökkunum að snjóa inn í sjoppuna then started the kids (dat) to snow in the shop 'then the kids flocked inside the shop'


(33) a. b.

(34) a. b.

(35) a. b. (36) a. b. (37) a. b. (38) a. b.

(39) a. b.


(40) a. b.

SubjDat Verb Prcp Mér er sveitt me is sweaty 'I feel sweaty'

Note that in the frequency counts in the parentheses above I have not distinguished between reflexive and non-reflexive verbs. Both are listed according to their occurrences in constructions, irrespective of the status of the object as reflexive or non-reflexive. This means that verbs selecting accusative or dative objects are listed separately and the count includes both reflexive and non-reflexive objects.

5.3 The Findings

In this section, I first discuss the statistics available when summarizing the results of the counts from the previous section (subsection 5.3.1), and I then measure those results against the predictions on productivity that follow from the main assumptions of the different grammatical theories (section 5.3.2), especially the predictions of Generative Grammar and its distinction between structural and lexical case, on the one hand, and Construction Grammar, on the other. In section 5.3.3. I discuss different ways for new verbs to acquire argument structure, i.e. by Argument Structure Borrowing, Cluster Attraction and Isolate Attraction. In section 5.3.4 I explore how these ways are compatible with the Icelandic dative and accusative data of this study, and give an account of how the selection of different cases, accusative or dative, can correlate with productivity. 5.3.1 General Conclusions The figures for all the morphological cases assigned by the verbs occurring in Appendix C are illustrated in the following table:

Table 5.1: The Distribution of cases of the arguments of novel verbs across the three syntactic functions: subjects, objects and indirect objects.4 Subjects Objects IObjects Nominative Accusative Dative


1247 3 7

528 168


Recall that each verb can occur in more than one syntactic construction, thus the figures in this table are higher than the total amount of 921 verbs. 118


Genitive 2

The list in 5.2.2 above and the figures in Table 5.1 illustrate that nominative is the absolutely dominant subject case of most constructions, and no nominative objects are found in the data. Since nominative objects only occur with dative subjects, the amount of nominative objects is dependent on the amount of new verbs selecting for dative subjects, and those are not very numerous in my material. For a detailed discussion of the productivity of the Dat-Nom constructions, see subsection below. Objects in the dative case are not as frequent as the objects in the accusative case but the amount is, however, substantial. There are only seven dative subjects in the list in 5.3.2 and a closer inspection shows that not all of them are novel (see section below). Most direct objects of transitive verbs are in the accusative case (thereby supporting Rögnvaldsson's claim (1983a) that most novel verbs assign accusative to their objects). The three examples of accusative subjects are all selected by verbs which already exist in Icelandic with accusative subjects. (41) klæja í fingurna 'be restless to begin sth.', flatreka 'drive so sharply in a curve that you might lose control', reka 'drift, be adrift'. The first predicate is probably not novel in spite of being listed in Árnason et al. (1982) since a very similar example is listed in Íslensk orðabók (1988) and Jónsson (1998). The usage domain of the two other verbs in (41) has only been expanded. No genitive subjects are found in the data, but since most genitive subjects are found in passive formation and the verbs in my corpus mostly occur in the active form, this does not come as a surprise. Only two verbs select a genitive object and both already exist in Icelandic in another usage domain. (42) leita e-s 'search, find', minnast e-s 'recollect'. Genitive as an object case can therefore not be said to be particularly productive. There are only five ditransitive verbs in my material, including the novel e-meila 'e-mail', and they all show up with the indirect object in the


CASE IN ICELANDIC dative case and the direct object in the accusative case. However, e-meila can also occur in the Transfer construction: e-meila e-ð til e-s 'e-mail sth to sby'. To conclude, the nominative is clearly productive as a morphological case form for subjects. Accusative and dative are productive as a morphological case form for objects. The genitive is hardly productive as a case form for objects. Finally, the dative is the only productive case form for the indirect object of ditranstive verbs. 5.3.2 Predictions of Different Theories on Productivity Different linguistic theories make different predictions about the productivity of the morphological cases. I will here discuss "Classical" Generative Grammar and Construction Grammar and the predictions that follow from the basic assumptions of these theories. Generative Grammar divides morphological case into structural and lexical case (see Zaenen, Maling and Thráinsson 1985, Holmberg 1986, Falk 1997, Allen 1995, Lightfoot 1999, Jónsson 1997-98. Sigurðsson 1989 and subsequent work) (see also the discussion in 4.3.5 below). Structural case is nominative case for subjects and accusative case for objects, based on the position of the subject and the object in an ordinary transitive clause. Lexical case is, on the other hand, all the exceptions to this general rule that the subject be in the nominative case and the object in the accusative case, i.e. accusative subjects, dative subjects and genitive subjects are lexically case marked, and dative and genitive objects are lexically case marked. Lexical case has been further divided into thematic/semantic case and idiosyncratic case, with thematic case being semantically motivated, such as dative of Experiencers and Beneficiaries, whereas idiosyncratic case is neither structurally nor semantically motivated. An example of that would be dative and genitive of (most) objects (Zaenen Maling and Thráinsson 1985, Jónsson 1997-98). As I understand this, it means that in practice a child acquiring such a language only has to learn and memorize in the lexicon which verbs select for lexical case, while this kind of information does not have to be stored in the child's lexicon for Nom-Acc verbs. Chomsky and Lasnik (1995:19-20) argue that regular behaviour, such as the formation of past tense -ed for verbs like walk, takes place through a rule, either in the computational system, which means that the form walked is generated online when it is processed, or in the lexicon itself. Irrespective of whether we postulate that the form walked is generated in the computational system or in the lexicon the point here is that it is produced with the help of a rule. The distinction between structural and lexical case is the same as the distinction between regular and irregular verbs, as far as I can see, in the sense that structural case is regular and lexical case is irregular. That


CASE IN ICELANDIC means, again, that structural nominative and accusative case are generated with a rule and do not have to be stored in the lexicon as Nom-Acc verbs, while Nom-Dat verbs, Nom-Gen verbs, Acc-Acc verbs and Dat-Nom verbs have to be stored in the lexicon as such. This interpretation is confirmed by the following quote from Pinker (1999:135): (43) In a language such as Kivunju or Turkish every word may come in a half a million to several million forms, and speakers could not possibly have memorized them all in childhood.

Pinker is here discussing regular and irregular verb forms but the distinction between structural and lexical case is exactly parallel to that, with structural case being regular and lexical case being irregular. Moreover, Chomsky and Lasnik (1995:19-20) divide grammar into two components: core grammar and the periphery (cf. Haegeman 1991:16, Josefsson 1997:9-10). The difference between the two is that core grammar is the place where regular behaviour is generated while irregularities and idiosyncrasies belong to the periphery. I quote Chomsky and Lasnik (1995:19-20): (44) [...] we make a rough and tentative distinction between the core of a language and its periphery, where the core consists of what we tentatively assume to be pure instantiations of UG and the periphery consists of marked exceptions (irregular verbs, etc.). [emph. original]

The implication of this is that structural case belongs to the core, since it is regular, and lexical case belongs to the periphery since it is an irregularity. On such a view of language and grammar, it follows that structural case should be productive, since it belongs to the core of grammar, whereas lexical case, or at least idiosyncratic case, should be unproductive since it belongs to the periphery. A quotation from Pinker confirms this (1999:19): (45) The theory that regular forms are generated by rule and irregular forms are retrieved by rote is pleasing [...] because it explains the differences in productivity between the two patterns [...]

Here Pinker assumes that productivity is associated with rules, while lack of productivity is associated with memory. To summarize, according to this case distinction made within the framework of "Classical" Generative Grammar we would only expect structural and (possibly) thematic case to be productive, not idiosyncratic case. Such a prediction is not borne out for Icelandic. According to the


CASE IN ICELANDIC figures in Table 5.1 above, approximately 75% of the novel transitive verbs assign accusative to their objects while approximately 24% of the verbs assign dative case to their objects. This figure of 24% is certainly unexpected for lexical case, which should not be productive in a language, according to the predictions of "Classical" Generative Grammar that I have just outlined above. Let us now examine the verbs that assign dative to their objects, in order to find out whether we are dealing with thematic case, i.e. dative for Experiencers and Beneficiaries, or idiosyncratic case, i.e. dative for Themes and other roles. Furthermore, let us confine ourselves to spontaneous word formation and leave out planned word formation, as defined in section 5.2.1 above. Thus, I restrict my selection to subcorpora 1 and 6. I do this in order to get to the core of productivity. The verbs are the following: (46) Dative: applisera 'apply', arisera 'arrange', bakka 'back', bánsa 'bounce', bísa 'steal', býtta 'switch', blaka 'leave', blanda 'cut', bulla 'begin', búmma 'cast nets', bylta 'have sex', dilla 'leave', dingla 'leave', diskriminera 'discriminate', díla 'sell, deal', dripla 'dribble', drita 'shit', droppa 'drop', drulla 'leave', dúmpa 'dump', dúndra 'smash', dæla 'drink', dömpa 'dump', fiffa 'fix', fingra 'steal', fiska 'get', flagga 'show off one's underwear', flassa 'flash', fokka 'fuck up', forvarda 'forward', fókusera 'focus', fríka 'freak out', gubba 'talk', gæda 'guide', installera 'install', krunka 'talk', kúpla 'back out', labba 'go well', lansera 'launch', leka 'leak information', negla 'nail', næla 'get', organisera 'organize', pakka 'pack', parkera 'park', pilla 'leave', planta 'put', poppa 'take poppers', pósta 'post', putta 'pick pockets', pússa 'sell, spread', raða 'recollect', redda 'fix', ríða 'have sex', róta 'move', runka 'masturbate', rúlla 'get down', signalera 'signal', sippa 'leave', skalla 'head a ball', skippa 'skip', skíta 'shit', skrambla 'scramble', skrolla 'scroll', skruna 'scroll', skúbba 'scoop', skúffa 'push', skvísa 'leave', slaka 'hand over', slaufa 'skip', slátra 'win', smassa 'smash', smúlla 'smuggle', snýta 'win', splitta 'split', spólera 'spoil', spreða 'waste', spreia 'spray', starta 'start', stranda 'strand', streða 'work hard', stúta 'kill', troða 'perform', turna 'win sby over by giving him cannabis for the first time', umturna 'change upside down', variéra 'vary', þruma 'kick', þrusa 'kick, leave',

Of the 88 verbs in (46) only one would possibly fulfil the criterion of assigning dative to its arguments on basis of thematic case assignment, namely, the verb runka 'masturbate' where the object can be viewed as an Experiencer. However, runka is not an emotive verb, as emotive verbs were defined in Chapter 3, section 3.3.1 above, thus we would hardly want


CASE IN ICELANDIC to say that the object of runka is Experiencer but rather an ordinary affected Theme. The same argument is applicable to the other verbs meaning 'have sex'. It is noteworthy how many of the verbs in (46) are borrowings. This may lead us to conclude that the dative case is a default case form for objects of borrowed verbs. However, casting a glance at the verbs in subcorpora 1 and 6 that assign accusative to their objects reveals that this is not the case: (47) Accusative: afmeyja 'open a bottle', baka 'win', banka 'hit', barna 'add', bekenna 'admit', betrekkja 'wall cover', beygla 'hit', bíta 'fuck off', blammera 'scoff', blanda 'mix, cut', bleyta 'soften', blikka 'flirt', blokkera 'hinder', blotta 'expose', blúsa 'be down', blöffa 'bluff', bomma 'make pregnant', brennsa 'booze', bræða 'charm', bursta 'win', búmma 'cast nets', búsa 'booze', bústa 'boost', böffa 'sell bad drugs', bögga 'bug', bösta 'bust', dánsa 'drug', dekka 'cover', demonstrera 'demonstrate', deyja 'take an overdose', digga 'like', diskútera 'discuss', dírka 'open a locker without a key', djeila 'imprison', djúsa 'booze', djönka 'be a junkie', dobla 'doublecross', dópa 'dope', drekka 'booze', drepa 'hunt', dressa 'dress', dúmma 'look stupid', dúmpa 'dump', döbba 'dub', e-maila 'e-mail', eiga 'have dope', eitra 'use drugs', endurnýja 'get a younger wife', éta 'use drugs', falsa 'write a check', fatta 'understand', faxa 'fax', feika 'fake', feisa 'face', fiffa 'fix', filma 'film', fingra 'pick pockets', finta 'trick', fiska 'get', fíla 'like', fletja 'hit', flotta 'be showy', fókusera 'focus', fríka 'freak out', frímerkja 'be glued to sby', frústrera 'make frustrated', fúla 'fool', fúlla 'seduce', fæfa 'smoke', fæla 'categorize', garantera 'guarantee', gefa 'be a good lover', gilja 'masturbate', glerja 'booze', gleypa 'accept', greipa masturbate', grilla 'treat badly', gróðursetja 'bury', grófmixa 'mix sound temporarily', grunna 'record basic tunes', græja 'fix', gútera 'accept', gæda 'guide', hilla 'flirt', hita 'prepare for conflict', hlaða 'make pregnant', hljóðblanda 'mix sound/music', hnoða 'have sex', hreinsa 'pick pockets', húkka 'hook', hýða 'play drums', intressera 'be interested in', ísa 'put sth on ice', jesúsa 'call upon God', kitla 'drive', klassa 'mend', klessa 'destroy', klessukeyra 'destroy a car in an accident', knúsa 'hug', koffína 'tune up by caffeine', kómpónera 'compose', kóp(í)era 'copy', krumpa 'speed', kútta 'cut', kyssa 'drink', kýla 'begin', kæsa 'treat sby badly', labba 'go well', láta 'have sex', lempa 'adjust', lepja 'drink alchohol slowly', lesa 'smoke grass', liggja 'have sex', lyfja 'use drugs', mala 'defeat', manúera 'solve a problem', meika 'make', meina 'mean', melda 'report', mixa 'mix', mjólka 'masturbate', mæka 'intensify a sound', möndla 'make an agreement', negla 'nail', nótera


CASE IN ICELANDIC 'note', opna 'show one's feelings', ordna 'fix', organisera 'organize', para 'mate', pensla 'have sex', peppa 'pep', pikka 'take, get', plaffa 'shoot', plana 'organize', planera 'organize', plata 'deceive', plokka 'con money off sby', plotta 'plot', pluma 'do well', pressa 'press', pródusera 'produce', prógrammera 'indoctrinate', pumpa 'pump', púffa 'smoke grass', pöffa 'smoke grass', renusa 'get rid of a suit (in cards)', rífa 'argue', rótbursta 'win', rúnna 'round off', ræsa 'start', rövla 'babble', salla 'shoot', servera 'serve', setla 'settle', sénera 'bother', signalera 'signal', sjarmera 'charm', sjá 'see', sjokkera 'shock', sjússa 'drink', sjæna 'make shiny', skalla 'head a ball', skálka 'close with shutters or a sail', skjóta 'shoot', skrifa 'falsify a check', skvera 'square', slá 'get a loan', sleikja 'kiss', smakka 'drink', smika 'smoke cannabis', smóka 'smoke cannabis', sniffa 'sniff drugs', snuða 'deceive', spila 'play', sporta 'have fun', sprauta 'inject', sprengja 'inhale in too large proportions', spæla 'trick sby', stímulera 'stimulate', stóna 'smoke cannabis', stónka 'smoke cannabis', stramma 'sober up', strauja 'crash', stressa 'make nervous', strokka 'masturbate', stropa 'make pregnant', stuða 'bother', stöffa 'use drugs', sverja 'swear', svípa 'sweep', takla 'tackle', teista 'try', tékka 'falsify a check', títa 'have sex', tjúna 'tune', trixa 'trick', umtútta 'change tires', víma 'drug oneself', vökva 'drink', yfirhala 'go over sth and mend it', þenja 'play intensely'. There are many verbs in (47) which are borrowings, in fact approximately half of the verbs in both (46) and (47) have a morpho-phonologically equivalent stem in a closely related language, either Danish or English, and since these verbs are typically slang it seems reasonable to assume that these are borrowings and not inherited common Germanic stems. The fact that novel verbs assigning accusative to their objects are also borrowings shows that we would not expect borrowings to gather around one particular case as a default case for non-typical verb stems (see for instance the discussion in Cruse and Croft (Ch. 12) and the references cited there on certain constructions functioning as default for borrowings in some languages), which we otherwise might conclude if only the data in (46) were available to us. To sum up, the verbs in (46) which assign dative to their Theme arguments are therefore examples of idiosyncratic case assignment being productive, a fact predicted not to be borne out by "Classical" Generative Grammar and its major distinction between structural and lexical case. One of the few novel examples of dative subjects in the material (see section for a discussion) is with the verb analýserast:


CASE IN ICELANDIC (48) Mér analýseraðist svo að... I.dat analysed-st so that 'I came to the analysis that...' It would be highly controversial to argue that the verb analyse selects for an Experiencer subject, in fact many people would argue that analysing is an agentive event. Therefore, a more natural analysis of this example is to assume that the subject is a Theme of some sort (compare the English glosses above), and that it is assigned by the construction itself. Thus, this can be viewed as a constructional way of deagentivizing the subject in Icelandic. However, on a structural vs. lexical case account a dative is unexpected here, since case assignment to Theme subjects categorizes as being either structural case, if the morphological case is a nominative, or idiosyncratic, if it is a dative. Hence, this is another example of idiosyncratic case being productive, only this time on subjects. Furthermore, it is expected that Experiencer subjects of novel verbs should be dative, since that would be an example of thematic case assignment. There are not many verbs in my corpus with the right semantics to fulfil this criterion; I have only found two: fíla 'like' and digga 'like', both of which receive a nominative subject in my material. As is evident from Table 5.1, approximately 75% of the transitive verbs select for an accusative object while 24% select for a dative object. The interesting question arises whether there are any differences between case assignment of verbs found within the corpus more typical of planned word formation and the corpus more typical of spontaneous word formation. It is a possibility that different cases are favoured within these two different social settings of word formation. Let us look at the figures for accusative and dative assigning verbs in the different subcorpora:

Table 5.2: The amount of verbs assigning accusative and/or dative to their objects in different corpora. Accusative Dative Total Corpora 1 and 6 Corpora 2-5 204 (69.9%) 324 (80.2%) 88 (30.1%) 80 (19.8%) 292 (100%) 404 (100%)

Assuming that subcorpora 1 and 6 are better representatives of spontaneous word formation while corpora 2, 3, 4 and 5 are more typical of planned word formation, we find that within planned word formation there are higher proportions of accusative objects at the cost of dative objects. Within spontaneous word formation the proportion of accusative objects is lower, yielding higher proportion of dative objects. It is clear that the


CASE IN ICELANDIC accusative is certainly more common as an object case for both sets of subcorpora but it seems that within planned word formation the accusative is favoured, presumably at the expense of the dative. This is a reasonable conclusion if we assume that spontaneous word formation is a better representative of core productivity than planned word formation (compare the definitions of spontaneous vs. planned word formation at the beginning of section 5.1 above). In sum, only some of the predictions that follow from the widely assumed structural vs. lexical case distinction of "Classical" Generative Grammar for morphological case are borne out. These predictions are that nominative should be productive as a case for subjects, that accusative should be productive as a case for objects. The prediction that thematic case of datives might be productive is not borne out, at least not for new verbs (see however section below on already existing verbs), and the prediction that idiosyncratic case of datives should be non-productive is not borne out either. It could be argued now that productivity can be understood in at least two ways, (a) as what is regular in a language, (b) as what speakers do when they are being innovative. It can further be argued that the "Classical" Generative Grammar's distinction between structural vs. lexical case is only meant to capture the first one, thus it should be possible to maintain the structural vs. lexical distinction. I certainly believe that speakers, when being innovate and creative, do not conform to the regularities of language. Instead they often break the most obvious rules of language. Such usages, however, do usually not go unnoticed by the immediate environment, and are often regarded as being somewhat "funny" or creative (see Schultink (1961) and Lieber (1992:3), cited here by Josefsson (1997:12)). When it comes to the assignment of dative case to objects of new verbs in Icelandic, there is nothing "funny" about it; even my 81-year-old grandmother uses arisera 'arrange' with a dative object, without anybody lifting an eyebrow. Also, the high amount of new verbs assigning dative to their objects shows that this is not a peculiarity. As will become evident below, the assignment of dative to objects is highly regular and structured. I am not claiming that Generative Grammar cannot account for the productivity of the morphological cases in Icelandic, once the relevant facts are known. However, I believe that this productivity can only be satisfactorily accounted for at the cost of the distinction between structural and lexical case, or the distinction between the core and the periphery, or both. A Construction Grammar based approach to morphological case assumes that morphological case is constructional, in the sense that morphological case is a property of arguments, and as such it participates in argument structure constructions (see Barðdal 1999b). By that I mean


CASE IN ICELANDIC that case structure is a part of a verb's argument structure. The Usagebased model predicts that all morphological cases should be productive if the constructions they occur in are coherent enough and reach a sufficiently high level of type frequency. Within Construction Grammar, therefore, there is no fundamental difference between structural and lexical case; nominative, accusative, dative and genitive are the four morphological cases of Icelandic and each and every one is a part of the form of argument structure constructions of verbs, or of other constructions such as prepositional constructions together with their objects. Thus, if a certain argument structure construction is productive then the morphological cases associated with it are also productive. Construction Grammar also makes explicit the assumption that thematic roles are derived from the meaning of the main verb or the construction (see Goldberg 1995), as a result of the fact that the relative order of thematic roles in a clause is not random but also relies on the meaning of the main verb or the construction (see Croft 1998). Bybee, in her work on morphology (1985, 1995), and following her, Goldberg, in her work on the partial productivity of the English ditransitive construction (1995: Ch. 5), argue that productivity is a function of a construction's (formal and/or functional) coherence and its high type frequency, i.e. the more coherent a construction is, and the more types, rather than tokens, that associate with it, the more likely it is that this construction attracts new items or already existing items in the language. It is undeniable for Icelandic that the transitive Nom-Acc construction is both the most open construction semantically, and also the most common one. Hence, on a constructional account we would expect nominatives to be productive as subject case and accusative to be productive as object case. Within Construction Grammar/Usage based model, productivity is regarded as a gradient phenomenon: low-frequency constructions exhibit a low degree of productivity, high frequency constructions show the highest productivity and constructions at intermediate levels of frequency also show productivity at an intermediate level (Bybee and Slobin 1982, Bybee and Moder 1983, Ragnarsdóttir, Simonsen and Plunkett 1999). This has been confirmed in research on the productivity of the different classes of weak and strong verbs in Icelandic and Norwegian, which differ from English in that these languages do not have one large class of weak verbs and a few classes of strong verbs; instead Icelandic and Norwegian have two classes of weak verbs of different sizes. Ragnarsdóttir et al.'s results were that not only is productivity a gradient phenomena but also that there was a correlation between productivity, the size of the verb class and the age of the children participating in the experiment. This means that only the oldest children used the smallest class in a productive way, while all the children


CASE IN ICELANDIC generalized from the largest class. Ragnarsdóttir et al. concluded that this was a clear sign of productivity not only correlating with the size of the classes, but also that the participants' inclination to generalize from a class was dependent on the amount of input found in their environment. In other words, since the older children had been exposed to more language than the younger children, they had also been exposed to more types of the lowfrequency classes. This effect of age has also been documented in an experiment on the case assignment of nonce verbs in Icelandic (see Barðdal 2000c). Ragnarsdóttir et al. thus conclude on the basis of this that productivity cannot be a function of an innate rule. Turning back to my investigation, on the assumption that productivity is a function of a construction's coherence and its type frequency, it is expected that the lexical item under consideration will be assigned formal properties based on overall similarity, i.e. the more similar an item is to an already existing item, the more likely that the item under consideration will pick up the formal properties of the existing item. Given this we would expect that a novel verb would be associated, in the mind of speakers, with an already existing verb with the same or similar meaning. Experimental research on nonce verbs, done by Braine and his colleagues, shows that unknown verbs are assigned argument structure on the basis of their meaning. Let us review this research. Braine (1988:241-250) and Braine, Brody, Fish, Weisberger and Blum (1990) argue that if we use a novel verb without having been exposed to its argument structure we assign an argument structure to this verb from a canonical sentence schema. Braine et al. (1990) experiment with action verbs, which have two canonical sentence schemas available to them: the causative, transitive construction with an agent subject and a patient object or the intransitive construction with a patient subject. Some action verbs in English are transitive like drop, some are intransitive like fall and some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive like roll. The results of the experiment show clearly that novel verbs presented to the participants (both adults and children) in an environment which is neutral regarding argument structure are treated as optionally transitive verbs in English, while other novel verbs presented either as transitives or intransitives are treated as the fixed transitive and intransitive English verbs (Braine et al. 1990:331-333). The fact that the novel verbs which were presented in an environment neutral to argument structure were treated as the optionally transitive verbs in English has led Braine et al. to conclude that the participants assigned argument structure to these verbs by default. Default argument structure assignment is assignment from canonical sentence schemas. Braine (1988:247-250) argues that when learning a new verb we first of all notice the most salient features of the verb, i.e. the meaning of the


CASE IN ICELANDIC verb. At that point in acquisition we can assign argument structure by default since we know that certain semantic classes of verbs are associated with certain argument structures. Braine et al. (1990:314) give the example tavver, which hypothetically means 'to convey information telepathically'. Immediately we know that we can both say John tried to tavver George the answers to the language quiz and John tried to tavver the answers to the language quiz to George. Goldberg, in her work on the Ditransitive construction in English (1995: Ch. 5), also elaborates on similarity clusters as one motivation for the partial productivity of the Ditransitive construction. She assumes that verbs fall into similarity clusters on the basis of their meaning (and possibly morpho-phonological properties) and that only those instances which form a similarity cluster yield the construction as high enough in type frequency to be used productively, while those instances which are so few that they do not form a similarity cluster should not be productive. However, as will become evident below, if a novel verb is synonymous to an existing verb which is not a part of a similarity cluster, its argument structure construction may still be productive on the basis of similarity alone. In Barðdal (1999b and 1999c) I found that the predictions of Construction Grammar and the Usage-based model of the productivity of argument structure constructions are borne out; both high type frequency and similarity seem to be crucial factors. Novel verbs either associate with the argument structure constructions that are very frequent in a language, i.e. are high in type frequency, or they pattern with verbs with a similar meaning; either they fall right into a similarity cluster that already exists in the language, or they pick up the argument structure construction of a synonymous verb. In addition to these mechanisms, a novel verb that has been borrowed into a language can also be borrowed together with its source language's argument structure construction. An experimental study on the argument structure and case of nonce verbs in Icelandic (Barðdal 2000c), where the participants were presented with a nonce verb and given its meaning in the form of a synonymous verb, the participants used the argument structure of the synonymous verb in 44% of the cases, while in the remaining 56% of the cases they used an argument structure which is higher in type frequency than that traditionally associated with the synonymous verb (these figures are only based on the examples where the argument structure of the synonymous verb was not the same as the argument structure that has the highest type frequency in the language). Furthermore, it is argued that constructions at different levels of schematicity can be activated when novel/nonce verbs acquire case and argument structure. Different levels of schematicity can be


CASE IN ICELANDIC illustrated in the following way for the English Ditransitive construction (following Croft 2000):

Figure 5.1: The Ditransitive construction at different levels of schematicity. When constructions which are high in type frequency are productively used, the most abstract schematic construction at the topmost level of the hierarchy has been activated. When constructions which do not exhibit particularly high type frequency are used productively, it can be assumed that a construction at an intermediate level has been activated (verb-classspecific construction), due to the novel verb fitting into a well-defined similarity cluster. Furthermore, when a novel verb acquires its argument structure on the basis of a similarity with only one verb and not necessarily a whole cluster, it may be assumed that a construction low in schematicity, i.e. a concrete or a substantive construction (verb-specific construction) has been activated in the mind of speakers. I will consider some examples of the activation of constructions at different levels of schematicity in section 5.3.3 below. Assuming that different argument structure constructions, at different levels of schematicity, can be activated either on the basis of high type frequency or on the basis of similarity alone, and thereby be used productively actually predicts that all the morphological cases of a language can be productive. However, it is expected that this productivity be gradient, i.e. reflecting the type frequency of the construction. Thus, it is expected that both the Nom-Acc and Nom-Dat transitive constructions are productive, as illustrated above in (43) and (44), and it is also expected that other case constructions have the potential of being productively used providing that the semantics of the new verb is of the right type. I now proceed to examine the syntactic behaviour of verbs from my material where constructions at different levels of schematicity can be assumed to have been activated within the mind of speakers. Furthermore, the Icelandic data reveal that borrowed verbs either pattern with verbs which have a similar meaning, or they seem to be borrowed complete from the contact language to Icelandic, together with its contact language's argument structure construction. After having discussed the origin of the


CASE IN ICELANDIC argument structures of the verbs in my material, I will discuss both some dative assigning verbs and some accusative assigning verbs, and how they can be accounted for within this model (section 5.3.4). 5.3.3 The Argument Structure of Novel Verbs In my material I have found some verbs which fall right into a similarity cluster, and seem to get their argument structure from a verb-class-specific construction. Some new verbs, however, do not seem to pattern with a similarity cluster since they seem to get their argument structure from only one predicate with the same meaning and not from a whole cluster, i.e. they seem to get their argument structure from a verb-specific construction. These two alternatives I label Cluster attraction and Isolate attraction, respectively. The third option, that a verb is borrowed with its verb-specific construction, I call Argument structure borrowing. These will now be discussed in turn. Cluster Attraction The list in Appendix C provides us with plenty examples of new verbs which are obviously attracted by a cluster of verbs with the same or similar meaning and the same argument structure construction. Such examples are netast á 'write to each other on the Internet', bullast á 'talk nonsense to each other', meilast á 'e-mail to each other' and boltast um 'move around heavily'. These verbs behave like a number of other verbs, already existing in the language, with a similar meaning and a similar syntactic form: (49) a. netast á bullast á meilast á skrifast á 'write to each other' drekkast á 'drink to each other' kallast á 'shout to each other' kankast á 'tease each other' hringjast á 'phone to each other' kveðast á 'take turns in reciting poetry'...

b. boltast um ganga um 'walk around' labba um 'walk around' ráfa um 'wander around' reika um 'wander around' veltast um 'roll around' ...

In (49a) the construction [V+st á] means 'to V to each other'. The construction has its own meaning and the verb provides the lexical content of the simple sentence, 'write', 'drink', 'shout', 'tease' and so on. The same


CASE IN ICELANDIC holds for (49b). The construction [Vmotion um] means 'to V around' and the verb decides further what the lexical content is, 'walk', 'wander', 'roll' and so on. In fact, the verbs in Appendix C with the particle um all mean 'movement around in a particular way', with one exception skipta um 'replace, overlay'. These verbs are the following: (50) krúsa um rápa um rása um rúnta um synda um voka um draugast um bunkast um bömmerast um hlunkast um lesbast um lyfjast um 'drive around' 'navigate around' 'swing around' 'drive around' 'move/be around drunk' 'hover around' 'move/be around like a ghost' 'plop around' 'move/be around in a depressed mood' 'move around heavily' 'move/be around and behave like a lesbian' 'move/be around drugged'

Notice that verbs occurring in this construction are both "ordinary" verbs and st-verbs.5 The fact that both ordinary and st-verbs are found in the umconstruction is in accordance with the findings of Anderson (1990) that stverbs behave syntactically like ordinary verbs, that they do not form a unitary group of verbs with the same syntactic behaviour. The following examples illustrate more instances of Cluster attraction: (51) New verbs trekkja að ' attract' 6 matsa við 'match' fitta við 'fit' Existing verbs laða að, draga að, hæna að, passa við, eiga við, passa við, eiga við,

Without having exhausted the verbs in Appendix C, I have found that Cluster attraction certainly is one way for novel verbs to acquire their argument structure, in accordance with the predictions of Construction Grammar and the Usage-based model. These examples would therefore be


st-verbs are called so because they all have an -st suffix, originally a cliticized reflexive/reciprocal pronoun sik, which then grammaticalized to a derivational/ inflectional ending and finally to a suffix (see Anderson 1990 and Ottósson 1992). 6 The verbs in the right column are synonyms to the verbs in the left column. 132

CASE IN ICELANDIC examples of a verb-class-specific construction being activated when a novel verb is assigned argument structure. Isolate Attraction Some new verbs don't seem to be attracted by a whole cluster of verbs with the same or similar meaning. Instead they seem to be formed analogically to only one existing verb in Icelandic with the same or a similar meaning. Consider the following examples: (52) New verbs bjalla/fóna í e-n fóna/netsíma til e-s dona uppi koffína/tjúna sig upp digga/dudda/dúlla við e-n díla við e-n um e-ð syngja/krunka e-u að e-m sjarmera/spóla/trixa e-n upp úr skónum

Existing verbs hringja í e-n hringja til e-s daga uppi æsa sig upp reyna við e-n semja við e-n um e-ð lauma e-u að e-m plata e-n upp úr skónum

'phone sby' 'phone/fax sby' 'be forgotten' 'tune up' 'make a pass at sby' 'negotiate with sby about sth' 'give sby information' 'deceive sby'

The already existing verbs in Icelandic which form the basis for the behaviour of the novel verbs do not seem to be a part of a cluster, but rather single, lexical items. This is definitely true for hringja í e-n 'phone sby', hringja til e-s 'phone sby', and daga uppi 'be forgotten'. This is presumably true also for æsa sig upp 'get upset', reyna við e-n, 'make a pass at sby' and semja við e-n um e-ð 'negotiate with sby about sth'. The remaining verbs in (52), lauma e-u að e-m 'give sby information' and plata e-n upp úr skónum 'deceive sby', also seem to be single items and not a cluster. In fact, both daga uppi and plata e-n upp úr skónum are idiomatic expressions more or less lexically filled. Yet these verbs are used as models when novel verbs, with the same meaning, are assigned argument structure, by default. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the novel verbs in (52) above are assigned argument structure on the basis of semantic similarity alone, since these verbs seem to be synonymous to only one existing verb and do not necessarily share properties with a whole cluster of verbs. Thus, these examples show that high type frequency is not necessarily the only prerequisite for productivity. The examples in (52) would therefore be examples of a verb-specific construction being activated when a novel verb is assigned argument structure.


CASE IN ICELANDIC Argument Structure Borrowing The third mechanism of argument structure assignment found in the Icelandic data is what I have labelled Argument structure borrowing (see also Barðdal 1999c for equivalent examples from earlier periods of Icelandic).7 There are many borrowed verbs in my material where it seems that the argument structure of a verb in a foreign language was important for the borrowing of this verb into Icelandic. Consider the following examples: (53) New verbs tékka inn brenna út brotna niður fríka út pissa út koxa út 'fall asleep', 'give up' fíla digga English (or foreign) equivalent check in burn out break down freak out piss out kokse ud (Danish) feel dig

The verbs in (53) are all borrowed from a foreign language and not only has the verb stem and the meaning been borrowed in many cases but also the argument structure, or the complex predicate structure, of the verb in the source language. It is of course possible to argue that, for instance, tékka inn has its argument structure from an Icelandic verb with a similar meaning, as skrá inn which means register, but not from the English verb check in. It is hard to imagine evidence in favour of one or the other analysis, and even if such evidence existed, the other examples in (53) are clear-cut. The verb brenna út with the meaning 'burn out, become exhausted' is a fairly new concept in Icelandic and is associated with an increased awareness of psychological strain at workplaces, mostly at workplaces within the domain of public health and psychology. Furthermore, verbs like fíla and digga have as their closest synonym in Icelandic the verb líka 'like' which selects for a dative subject in Icelandic. In these cases, therefore, the syntactic usage associated with these verbs in the source language may have been an influential factor for the assignment of argument structure to these verbs in Icelandic. Support for such an analysis comes from the fact that language learners are


I suspect that what I call Argument structure borrowing may perhaps resemble, or be the same as, what has traditionally been called Lexical transfer. It is not clear to me, however, whether Lexical transfer implies identical syntactic usage of the transferred item in both languages or not, as is the case with Argument structure borrowing. 134

CASE IN ICELANDIC conservative in their language use (see Braine 1990, Gropen, Pinker, Hollander, Goldberg and Wilson 1989, Pinker 1989, Goldberg 1995, 133 ff). This means that language learners tend to use lexical items in the same way as they hear them used. Given that fact, it should not come as a complete surprise that this is valid across language boundaries, especially when the languages in question are structurally similar (see Barðdal 2000c). It should of course be noted that by Argument structure borrowing I am not suggesting that new structures have been borrowed and introduced into Icelandic, but rather that a verb has been borrowed into Icelandic together with its verb-specific construction. Argument structure borrowing would therefore be an example of a transfer of a lexical verb and that verb's verb-specific construction into Icelandic. 5.3.4 Case In this section I will discuss some novel verbs in the material which select for different case patterns, in particular dative as subject and object case, and accusative as object case. Furthermore I will discuss how my findings are compatible with Construction Grammar and the Usage-based model. The Novel Usage of the Dative Case Dative Subjects The predicates that select for dative subjects in the Icelandic material are the following: (54) a. Krökkunum snjóaði inn í sjoppuna kids-the.dat snowed in to shop-the.acc 'The kids flocked inside the shop' Honum geigar. he.dat yaws Honum stendur. he.dat stands 'He has an erection.' Honum finnur til. he.dat feels to/till He's hurting.' Honum er sveitt. he.dat is sweaty 'He feels sweaty.'

b. c.




CASE IN ICELANDIC e. Honum analýserast svo að... he.dat analysed so that... 'He came to the analysis that ...'

I do not consider example (54a) as novel since similar examples are found in Íslensk orðabók (1988) and Jónsson (1998). The example in (54b) is an example of usage domain expansion. The verb in (54c) has been under a taboo but is nevertheless recorded in Íslensk orðabók (1988). The only real examples of novel dative subjects are therefore those in (54d-e). The predicates finna til and vera sveitt are not novel in the sense used in this work, defined in (1) above, since both already exist in Icelandic, since they have the same meaning and have not acquired a new one, and since their usage domain has not been expanded. They are nevertheless included in Appendix C and D for one reason: in Icelandic they usually select a nominative subject and not a dative one. So even though they are not novel in our sense they should still be treated here because of this novel case usage, and because they illustrate the productivity of the Dative subject construction. Dative substitution in Icelandic, a process where Accusative experiencer subjects change their case into dative, has received abundant attention in the literature (see Svavarsdóttir 1982, Halldórsson 1982, Rögnvaldsson 1983b, Svavarsdóttir et al. 1984, Smith 1994, Eythórsson 2000). A couple of examples have also been noted where verbs which select a nominative subject according to prescriptive grammar occur instead with accusative or dative subjects. Well-known examples are with the verbs hlakka til 'look forward' and kvíða fyrir 'be anxious'. Most verbs which undergo Dative substitution select Accusative subjects according to prescriptivists. These accusatives tend to change into datives, or, in a minority of cases, into nominatives. The only documented verbs undergoing Dative substitution, which prescriptively select nominative subjects, are therefore hlakka til and kvíða fyrir. They differ from finna til and vera sveitt in one respect: the nominative subject of hlakka til and kvíða fyrir has also been found in the accusative case and not only as a Dative subject, but finna til and vera sveitt in the Icelandic material presented here only occur with a Dative subject. Psych-predicates with the copula verb vera 'be' and an adjective occur in two syntactic constructions in Icelandic, with a nominative subject and an adjective agreeing with the subject, and a dative subject and an adjective in the default


CASE IN ICELANDIC (55) [SubjNom V Adj+agr]

Ég er reiður Ég er illur Ég er glaður Ég er hamingjusamur Ég er áttaviltur Ég er sveittur Mér er illt Mér er kalt Mér er bumbult Mér er óglatt Mér er heitt

'I am angry' 'I am angry' 'I am glad' 'I am happy' 'I am lost' 'I am sweaty' 'I feel sick' 'I am cold' 'I am nauseated' 'I am nauseated' 'I am warm'

[SubjDat V Adj-agr]

The original predicate vera sveittur can obviously now occur in both of these copula constructions and not only in the personal type. Goldberg (1995: Ch. 5) discusses the partial productivity of the Ditransitive construction in English, but according to her, new and hypothetical forms can be added to the list of verbs occurring in the construction, while already existing verbs which otherwise fulfil the criteria of being used ditransitively do not change their syntactic behaviour. In this context it is interesting to note that my data suggest partial productivity of the Dative subject construction but unlike the Ditransitive construction in English the Dative subject construction has been spreading to already existing items but does not attract novel verbs (see the discussion in 5.3.2 above). That may, of course, be due to the fact that there are not many verbs in my material with the right semantics for the Dative subject construction, and those that are found seem to have been borrowed into Icelandic together with the source language's verb-specific argument structure construction. Experimental evidence has also testified to the mild productivity of the construction, since nonce verbs selecting for dative subjects could be elicited in a nonce-probe task (Barðdal 2000c). The fact that Accusative subjects are giving way to Dative subjects can easily be explained by Construction Grammar and the Usage-based model: It is expected that the construction which is higher in type frequency be more productive (see the discussion in Chapter 2, section 2.5), and thereby that the Accusative subject construction should be lower in type frequency than the Dative subject construction. This prediction is borne out. In a list of predicates selecting for Oblique subjects in Icelandic (Jónsson 1998) the amount of dative subject selecting verbs was as high as 301. When different senses of the lexical entries were added, the amount went up to 484, and when the adjectives that select for dative subjects were


CASE IN ICELANDIC added the number increased to 687. However, the amount of verbs selecting for Accusative subjects was only 171, and when the different senses of the lexical entries were added the number rose to 206 (there are, however, no adjectives that select for an accusative subject in Icelandic). Furthermore, a count of the type frequency of the Accusative and Dative subject construction in language use, i.e. in a corpus of written and spoken Icelandic (see Chapter 4), has revealed that the type frequency of the Accusative subject construction was 14 while it was 71 for the Dative subject construction. That means that the 49 examples of Accusative subjects were instantiated by only 14 verbs, whereas the 221 examples of Dative subject verbs were instantiated by 71 verbs. Thereby, it is clear that the Dative subject construction is instantiated by significantly more verbs than the Accusative subject construction, hence we would expect the Dative subject construction to be more productive than the Accusative one. To go back to my material, example (54e) e-m analýserast svo, is an example of a Dative subject together with a st-verb selecting a clausal complement. As stated in section, st-verbs in Icelandic are not a unitary group of verbs, neither syntactically nor semantically. A closer inspection of the st-verbs in Icelandic reveals that this borrowed verb analýsera falls right into a subgroup of st-verbs, i.e. a similarity cluster where all the verbs express some sort of a mental 'thinking' activity, all selecting Dative subjects and a clausal complement: (56) Mér reiknaðist það til að ... Mér taldist það til að ... Mér hugsaðist það svo að ... Mér hugkvæmdist það að ... Mér skipulagðist þetta þannig að ... Mér skrifaðist þetta þannig að ... 'I estimated it so ...' 'I estimated it so that .... 'I thought about it such that ...' I got the idea that ...' 'I organized this such that ...' 'I wrote this such that ...'

The two last examples are not documented in Íslensk orðabók (1988) or in Jónsson (1998), but they are perfectly fine according to my native speaker's intuition. It might even be better to gloss the two examples as 'I managed to organize this so ...', and 'I managed to write this so ...', which suggests that Icelandic has a constructional way of "deagentivizing" the subject. Let us compare the following minimal pair: (57) a. Ég analýseraði þetta þannig að ... 'I.nom analysed this such that ...'


CASE IN ICELANDIC b. Mér analýseraðist þetta þannig að ... I.dat analysed-st this such that ... 'I came to the analysis that ...'

The meaning of the lexical verb analyse is the same in both constructions; it entails a mental activity of analysing data. The difference between the examples in this pair is that in the latter the event is constructed as if the subject is not in control of the analysing event while this implication is missing in the former example. The fact that the borrowed verb analyse is found in this construction suggests a low degree of productivity of the construction. Dative Objects The verbs selecting for dative objects in Icelandic also pattern up in certain constructions, just like the verbs that select for dative subjects. I now consider some of these, as presented by the Icelandic material. Three new verbs with the meaning steal are found in Appendix C: (58) bísa, fingra, putta. They all select a dative object, just like the already existing stela, hnupla and ræna, with the same meaning. More examples of new dative object verbs, together with their already existing synonymous verbs, are listed below: (59) New Verbs bísa e-u, fingra e-u, putta e-u, dræfa e-m, bítta e-u,

Existing Verbs stela e-u, hnupla e-u, ræna e-u, keyra e-m, skipta e-u, víxla e-u, deila e-u, slaufa e-u, skippa e-u, sleppa e-u, hætta e-u dúmpa/dömpa e-u/e-m, kasta e-u, henda e-u, droppa e-u/e-m, sleppa e-u/e-m, hætta e-u diskriminera e-m, mismuna e-m, splitta e-u, skipta e-u, deila e-u varíera e-u, breyta e-u arisera e-u, raða e-u, haga e-u organisera e-u, stjórna e-u, stýra e-u, fókusera e-u, beina e-u, parkera bílnum leggja bílnum, gæda e-m leiðbeina e-m, sýna e-m,


'steal, rob' 'drive' '(ex)change' 'skip' 'throw' 'drop, stop' 'discriminate' 'split' 'vary, change' 'arrange' 'organize' 'focus, route' 'park' 'guide'

CASE IN ICELANDIC redda e-u spreða peningum bjarga e-u, eyða peningum 'safe' 'spend'

Surprisingly, some verbs in the material, all roughly meaning sell, i.e. díla and pússa select datives, as in the following examples: (60) a. b. díla stuði sell/deal in drugs.dat pússa stuði sell/push drugs.dat

This is surprising considering the fact that the simple verb meaning sell in Icelandic, i.e. selja, selects an accusative object and not a dative one. But a closer survey of these examples reveals that deal and push can both mean 'spread' and the equivalent of 'spread' in Icelandic, dreifa, selects a dative object. Another striking example is the dative reflexive object of a number of verbs of motion, all meaning get lost: (61) blaka sér, dilla sér, dingla sér, drulla sér, labba sér, pilla sér, slaka sér, troða sér, This construction seems to be a general construction in Icelandic for verbs of movement, all denoting moving oneself, since more such examples are found in the material (though not necessarily with the meaning 'get lost'): (62) demba sér, koma sér, sippa sér, skutla sér, skvísa sér, slaka sér, smúlla sér, Furthermore, all verbs in Icelandic with the meaning kick or smash select a dative object (not all the examples are novel though): (63) negla e-u smassa e-u dúndra e-u þrusa e-u þrykkja e-u þruma e-u 'nail, throw sth intensely' 'smash sth intensely' 'kick, throw sth intensely' 'throw, kick, thrust sth intensely' 'thrust sth intensely' 'kick, throw sth. intensely'


CASE IN ICELANDIC A tendency towards dative object verbs denoting movement being generalized in Modern Icelandic was first noted by Barðdal (1993) and further discussed by Maling (1995 and 1999). Consider the following examples: (64) installera e-u forvarda e-u lansera e-u pósta e-u signalera e-u skrambla e-u skrolla e-u stranda e-u install sth forward sth lounce sth post sth signal sth scramble (move) sth scroll sth strand (move) sth

The verbs in (64) do not seem to have picked up the case of their Icelandic synonyms because they would all assign an accusative to their direct object. These are verbs like setja inn 'put in', senda áfram 'send forward', kynna 'introduce', setja í póst 'post', sýna 'show', færa 'move' and flytja 'transport'. The dative case therefore does not originate in the argument structure construction of a synonymous verb. Given the fact that verbs of movement very often assign dative to their objects in Icelandic, it seems reasonable to assume that these examples are instances of Cluster Attraction and not examples of Isolate Attraction, i.e. a verb-specific construction has not been activated, but rather a verb-class-specific construction has been activated (see also subsection 6.6 in Chapter 6 below for a discussion of the dative with the Caused-motion construction). The Novel Usage of the Accusative Case There are plenty of examples of new and borrowed verbs in my material which select the accusative as an object case and not the dative. In (65) some example are presented together with their Icelandic synonyms, which also select accusative objects. (65) New Verbs blokkera blotta blöffa/dobla bústa/bösta bögga dekka demonstrera Old Verbs hindra sýna plata handtaka trufla þekja sýna


'block' 'reveal' 'bluff' 'bust' 'bug' 'cover' 'demonstrate'

CASE IN ICELANDIC diskútera ræða djeila fangelsa dressa klæða e-maila senda faxa senda feika leika fingra/svípa tæma garantera ábyrgjast græja/fixa/mixa/ laga mæka/ordna/sjæna kop(í)era afrita kútta skera plana/planera skipuleggja servera bera fram stímulera örva teista reyna, prufa 'discuss' 'imprison' 'dress' 'e-mail (sth)' 'fax (sth)' 'fake' 'empty, sweep' 'guarantee' 'fix' 'copy' 'cut' 'plan, organize' 'serve (sth)' 'stimulate' 'taste'

Given the fact that there are more verbs in the material that select for accusative than for dative as an object case, and given the fact that there are probably more verbs in Icelandic in general that assign accusative to their objects than dative, it is certainly expected that some of my novel verbs would have an Icelandic synonym which also assigns accusative to its object, without that necessarily having to mean that the accusative originates in the argument structure construction of the native synonym. That is of course true, but since we have to assume that novel verbs selecting for dative objects do that on the basis of similarity to already existing verbs with a similar meaning, then there is no reason not to assume that for accusative object selecting verbs as well. Within Construction Grammar and the Usage-based model there is no fundamental difference between argument structure constructions containing accusatives or datives. In fact, the Usage-based model predicts that the productivity of the argument structures containing accusative vs. dative as object case should be in accordance with the type frequency of these argument structure constructions, meaning that we would actually expect accusative object selecting verbs to be instantiated by more verbs in my material than the dative object selecting verbs because they are more frequent in Icelandic in general. That prediction is borne out. A Choice of Accusative or Dative The observant reader may have noticed that some novel verbs are actually listed as both accusative object selecting verbs and as dative object selecting verbs.


CASE IN ICELANDIC Firstly, these can be verbs that select different case for different kinds of objects. One such example would be fingra 'steal': (66) a. Hann fingraði peningunum. he.nom stole money-the.dat 'He stole the money.' Hann fingraði vasana. he.nom stole the pockets-the.acc 'He emptied the pockets', or 'He stole from the pockets'.


In (66a) the direct object of steal is assigned dative case, as is generally true for all verbs with the meaning 'steal' in Icelandic, apart from the idiom taka e-ð ófrjálsri hendi, which literally means 'to take something with an unfree hand'. In (66b) the object is a locatum or an incremental theme and therefore it is accusative (see further Chapter 6, subsection 6.6 below). There are also examples of verbs with very similar lexical meaning selecting for different case, accusative or dative: (67) a. b. Hann fixar/ordnar/græjar þetta. he.nom fixes this.acc Hann reddar þessu. he.nom fixes this.dat

Verbs with the meaning 'fix' are numerous in Icelandic with an accusative object. It therefore seems that fixa, ordna and græja may have acquired its case from a verb-class-specific construction, while redda has presumably been associated with the verb bjarga 'save' on basis of overall similarity, and activated a verb-specific argument structure construction. These facts are in accordance with general facts of Icelandic. Verb-classes with similar meaning do not uniformly associate with only one argument structure construction, as has often been pointed out for Icelandic (see for instance Garðarsdóttir 1990, Maling 1999). Therefore we would expect different novel verbs, similar in meaning, to associate with either the accusative object case construction or the dative object case construction. Furthermore, it is even expected that the same verb be associated with different constructions for different speakers. The following authentic conversation was overheard by me, where two Icelandic speakers abroad were arguing about the morphological case of the borrowed verb applisera 'apply':


CASE IN ICELANDIC (68) A: Ef þú ætlar að applisera þessari greiningu á efnið þá ... if you.nom intend to apply this analysis.dat on material-the then ... B: Þú meinar applisera þessa greiningu. you.nom mean apply this analysis.acc A: Nei, applisera e-u eins og beita e-u. No, apply sth.dat like "apply" sth.dat B: Nei, applisera e-ð eins og nota e-ð. No, apply sth.acc. like "use" sth.acc Speaker B corrects speaker A when s/he uses applisera with dative, and makes the claim that it should be used with an accusative. Speaker A then explicitly argues that applisera should have dative case like its synonymous Icelandic counterpart beita, while speaker B associates applisera with the more general verb nota which means 'use' and selects for an accusative object. Therefore, on a combined Construction Grammar/ Usage-based account, we would actually expect verbs in Icelandic not to show a uniform behaviour in the selection of morphological case of their arguments, since Icelandic itself does not always show a uniform behaviour in the case marking of arguments of verbs with similar meaning.

5.4 Summary

This chapter has presented a survey of novel verbs in Icelandic and the morphological case these novel verbs assign to their arguments. The study has revealed that nominative is productive as a case of subjects, accusative is productive as a case of direct objects, and finally that the dative is productive as a case of indirect objects and direct objects. A mild degree of productivity has also been encountered for dative subjects. A comparison of the predictions that follow from the basic assumptions of different grammatical theories, mainly comparing Construction Grammar to the hypothesis of "Classical" Generative Grammar that case can be divided into structural and lexical case, has further revealed that only some of the predictions that follow from the generative distinction between lexical/thematic and structural case are borne out. According to the generative view of case, only structural and thematic case should be productive while idiosyncratic case should be nonproductive. This prediction is not borne out since there are numerous examples of novel verbs selecting for idiosyncratic case in Icelandic. The basic assumptions of Construction Grammar, on the other hand, make different predictions about the productivity of case, which are more in accordance with the results of this empirical investigation of new verbs


CASE IN ICELANDIC in Icelandic. Construction Grammar treats morphological case as a part of argument structure constructions and if an argument structure construction is high in type frequency then it should be productive together with its morphological case. Furthermore, an argument structure construction can also be productive on the basis of high similarity. Thus, I have found that constructions at different levels of schematicity seem to be activated when novel verbs are assigned argument structure: more abstract schematic constructions can be activated, verb-class-specific constructions can be activated, and finally verb-specific constructions can be activated in the mind of speakers when they are confronted with novel verbs and have to assign argument structure constructions to these. This is also confirmed by experimental evidence. Hence, no fundamental distinction is made between structural and lexical/idiosyncratic case, but rather all the cases are treated in a uniform way and assumed to be productive, either if the type frequency of the construction is high enough or on the basis of high similarity to an already existing item. Furthermore, on a Usage-based model account we expect constructions to show degrees of productivity in accordance with the type frequency of the construction in the language, thus it is expected that the Nom-Acc transitive construction is more productive than the NomDat transitive construction since the Nom-Acc construction has higher type frequency than the Nom-Dat construction. Therefore it is expected that more novel transitive verbs assign accusative to their objects than dative. The findings of this study confirm the predictions of Construction Grammar and the Usage-based model. This study of novel verbs in Icelandic, i.e. this study of the productivity of the different morphological cases, has revealed that case in Icelandic is constructional in the sense that it is a part of a syntactic pattern or a construction, which again can form an opposition with another construction with another case pattern. Furthermore, verbs often come in similarity clusters and are associated with certain argument structure constructions, thus it appears that groups of verbs with similar meaning assign the same morphological case to their arguments. Finally, this research on productivity has shown that verbs do not assign morphological case independently to each obligatory argument in a clause but rather are novel verbs assigned argument structure constructions, together with their case morphology.



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