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Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian: A corpus-based approach

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
Constructions with subject vs. object
experiencers in Spanish and Italian
A corpus-based approach
Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
Univer sity of Sant iago de Comp oste la/ University of California, Santa Barbara
is study analyzes Spanish and Italian clauses that denote processes or states
of feeling or emotion involving two participants, an experiencer and a stimulus.
Some of these clauses construe the experiencer as Subject and the stimulus as
Object, while others have experiencers coded as dative or accusative Objects
and stimuli as Subjects.
Using corpus data, we track the frequency and distribution of a number
of discourse-related properties of the arguments, such as animacy, person, and
syntactic category, in order to gain insight into how both constructions are
really used and conceived of by speakers. e results point to a non-random
distribution of these properties when comparing the ‘Experiencer-as-Subject’
with the ‘Experiencer-as-Object’ constructions, and reveal striking dierences
in their frequency across textual genres.
1. e constructions: Experiencer as Subject (ESC) vs. Experiencer
as Object (EOC)*
1.1 e constructions
We analyze Spanish and Italian clauses that denote processes or states of feeling or
emotion involving two participants, an experiencer and a stimulus.
e examples in (1) show a syntactic-semantic pattern dierent from the pat-
tern exemplied in the examples in (2). In (1), the clauses encode the experiencer
* We wish to thank Stefan Gries for his invaluable help with the statistical analysis for this
paper, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments, which helped us improve the paper.
All remaining errors are of course our own. Part of this research has received nancial sup-
port from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (projects FFI2010-17417 and
FFI2014-52287-P).
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66 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
as a subject – ‘I’ in Spanish and ‘he’ in Italian – and the stimulus as a direct object
‘haughty men’ (Sp.) and ‘society’ (It.) –, whereas in (2) the experiencer– ‘He(Sp.
and It.) is cast as an indirect object and the stimulus – ‘long and noisy parties’
(Sp.), ‘grandiose schemes’ (It.) – as the syntactic subject that triggers verb agreement:
(1) a. Yo detestaba a los hombres altaneros
I..1 detest..1 to the.. man. haughty..
‘I detested haughty men (C: 35, 6)
b. Egli detestava la società (della sua epoca)
He..1 detest..3 the.. society. (of his time)
‘He detested the society of his time (LaRep, 03.17.92, ‘Cultura’)
(2) a. Le gustaban las estas ruidosas y largas
3.=like..3 the.. parties.. noisy.. & long..
‘He liked long and noisy parties’ (C: 32, 20)
b. Gli piacevano […] i grandi disegni
3..=like..3 the.. schemes.. grandiose.
‘He liked grandiose schemes (LaRep, 02.12.92, ‘Aari & Finanza’)
Similar contrasts have been described in a number of languages that have both an
‘Experiencer as Subject’ construction (henceforth called ESC) and an ‘Experiencer
as Object’ construction (henceforth called EOC), both historically and synchronic-
ally, including English.1 e study of these alternative patterns has mostly focused
on the formal properties of the constructions and on their semantic motivation,
particularly the meanings behind the various valency options like state vs. action,
dierences in causation, control, and volition, among others. However, little atten-
tion has hitherto been paid to the real frequencies of these patterns in running
texts and little is known about their function in discourse.
We l l- k n o wn a rt i c l e s o n s o - c al l e d p s y c h- v e r b s2 tend to concentrate on the struc-
ture of constructions with non-nominative experiencers, especially those written
in the generative paradigm (Belletti & Rizzi, 1988; Masullo, 1993). ey continue
the tradition of research started in the sixties and seventies by Fillmore, Lako and
Postal (Fillmore, 1968; Lako, 1970; Postal, 1971). ese authors attribute the same
semantic role of experiencer both to the subject of a transitive construction (such
as the Yo, ‘I-’ in 1a above), as to the object of an ‘inverse construction’ (such as
the le ‘he-’ in 2a above) and argue that the semantic structure of the clause is the
same. eir eorts are mostly aimed at ascertaining whether the experiencer has
1. e bibliography on this subject is very extensive, for a number of languages including English,
Icelandic, Italian, and Spanish see, among others, Lightfoot (1981), Fischer and Van der Leek
(1983), Allen (1986), Sigurðsson (1989), Whitley (1998), Shibatani (1999), Haspelmath (2001),
Barðdal & Eyþórsson (2003, 2009), Bentley (2006), Gutiérrez Bravo (2006), Melis & Flores (2007).
2. Psych verbs are verbs expressing mental processes, as the ones analyzed in this paper.
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 67
all the necessary features of a subject. Instead of using corpus data, however, they
use constructed examples. is allows the researchers to control for specic factors
that would otherwise invalidate the tests used to establish whether the experiencer
behaves indeed as a syntactic subject. Moreover, they do not evaluate the frequency
of use of the dierent structures, or their communicative value.3
1.2 Case marking and pronominal syncretism in ESCs and EOCs
Cross-linguistically, experiential predicates tend to be cast as EOCs4 rather than
ESCs more frequently than with other verb types (Bossong, 1998; Shibatani, 1999;
Bauer, 2000; Haspelmath, 2001). e constructions we analyze in this paper fall
into this semantic class. e present study explores the supposed identity between
dative experiencers of verbs such as gustar (Sp.)/piacere (It.) ‘to like’, and the nomi-
native experiencers of verbs such as amar/amare ‘to love’, using data from actual
usage. EOCs are found to be very lively in both Romance languages, and they are
especially productive in Spanish.
Because of considerable syncretism between the dative and accusative forms
of the experiencer pronouns, as well as the frequent dative-accusative pronominal
alternations found in Spanish (see below), we propose to classify all of the non-
nominative experiencers as ‘objects’ in one category, hence the use of ‘EOC,i.e.
‘e xp er i en ce r a s ob je ct’ c on st ru c ti on . is point requires the discussion of some
examples and previous literature to justify the data treatment in this study.
Sentences (3)–(5) below are examples of ESC clauses in the Spanish corpus,
and (6)–(8) are their equivalent Italian constructions:
(3) Pero no aguanto sus ideas, su falta de fe en
but not stand..1 her/his ideas his/her lack of faith in
un mundo nuevo
a world new
‘But I can’t stand his/her ideas, his/her lack of faith in a new world’
(CAR:156.21)
(4) todos los jugadores le temen al árbitro único
all the players 3.=fear..3 to.the referee only
del encuentro
of-the game
All the players are afraid of the only referee for the game (1VO:010-1.2-57)
3. See for instance Belletti & Rizzi, 1988; Sigurðsson, 1989; Masullo, 1993; Gutiérrez Bravo,
2006. A discussion of subjecthood tests for Icelandic and their value can also be found in
Barðdahl, 2001, which otherwise advocates for a CxG analysis of quirky subjects in Icelandic.
4. EOCs are also called inverse or reverse constructions, and the experiencer is oen referred
to as an oblique or quirky subject. ESCs may be referred to simply as transitive constructions.
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68 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
(5) El amaba esa ciudad
he yes love..3 that town
‘He did love that town (MIRADA: 93, 32)
ese are all constructions that have their equivalent in Italian too and are fre-
quently used in common speech:
(6) Non sopporto i miei coetanei
not stand..1 the my contemporaries
‘I can’t stand my contemporaries’ (LaRep, 09.07.91, ‘Extra’)
(7) Gli altri politici […] temono le reazioni delle femministe
the other politicians fear..3 the reactions of.the feminists
e other politicians are afraid of the feminists’ reactions’
(LaRep, 03.24.91, ‘Cronaca’)
(8) Cendrars amava il cinema di un amore non ricambiato.
Cendrars love..3 the cinema of a love not requited
‘Cendrars loved cinema with unrequited love
(LaRep, 06.24.89, ‘Mercurio-Scaale’)
e examples below, on the other hand, depict EOC constructions both in Spanish
and in Italian, where objects can be marked both in dative (9a, 13a and 13b, 15a
and 15b), accusative (9b, 12a and 14b), or an ambiguous syncretic form that could
be either (10a and 10b, 11a and 11b, 14a) in order to show the similarity between
the two languages, as well as the existing syncretism:5
(9) a. hacer música les entretiene mucho más que jugar
make. music 3.=amuse..3 much more than play
al fútbol
to.the soccer
‘Playing music amuses them much more than playing soccer’
(2VO:072-2.2-09)
b. Chiacchierare di politica li diverte
talk. of politics 3..=amuse..3
‘Talking about politics amuses them (LaRep, 03.22.92, ‘Extra’)
(10) a. francamente la televisión a me aburre
frankly the television to me 1.=bore..3
‘Frankly television bores me (SEV:094.08)
5. Moreover, Spanish allows for dative-accusative alternations with the same verb (see Vázquez
Rozas, 2006b; Miglio et al. 2013), such that (9a) and (12a) would be grammatical in Spanish also
as hacer música los(ACC) entretiene mucho más que jugar al fútbol and la música de Los Bandidos
le() entristecía with no substantial change in meaning.
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 69
b. Il teatro, sono sincera, mi annoia
the theater be..1 sincere. 1.=bore..3
‘I admit it: theater bores me’ (LaRep, 02.06.92, ‘Spettacoli’)
(11) a. A me asusta, me desagrada
to me 1.=scare..3 1.=disgust..3
este Madrid ruidoso
this Madrid noisy
e noise of Madrid scares and disgusts me’ (MAD:103.17)
b. Non mi spaventa, ma non lo ritengo corretto
not 1.=scare..3 but not it consider..1 fair
‘[It] does not scare me, but I do not think it’s fair
(LaRep, 03.01.92, ‘Extra’)
(12) a. La música de Los bandidos lo entristecía
the music of Los Bandidos 3..=sadden..3
e music of Los Bandidos made him feel sad’ (HIS:055.03)
b. questo è il sospetto che rattristava l’umore
this be..3 the suspicion that sadden..3 the-mood
del presidente
of.the president
‘this was the suspicion that saddened the president’s mood’
(LaRep, 06.15.91, ‘Extra’)
(13) a. lo que le interesa al Ayuntamiento
it which 3.=interest..3 to.the Council
de Vigo es poder seguir otorgando licencias.
of Vigo is can. keep. issuing licenses
‘What the Council of Vigo is interested in is being able to keep on issuing
licenses’ (1VO:026-4.1-11)
b. quello che gli interessa6 è una Padania unita
that which 3..=interest..3 is a Padania unied
attorno a Milano
around to Milan
‘what interests him is a Padania region unied around Milan
(LaRep, 03.26.92, ‘Commenti’)
(14) a. La suavidad de la manita conmueve al viejo
the soness of the small hand move..3 to.the old man
e soness of the small hand moves the old man (SON:235.16)
6. Interessare in Italian is problematic, because it can be constructed as a EOC with the mean-
ing of ‘to interest’, but also as a ESC with the meaning of ‘to aect’, and this latter is typical of
formal or journalistic style, hence common in the La Repubblica database.
© 2016. John Benjamins Publishing Company
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70 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
b. lo commuove con la perfezione della bellezza
3..=move..3 with the perfection of.the beauty
‘it moves it [the audience] with the perfection of beauty’
(LaRep, 11.24.91, ‘Spettacoli’)
(15) a. Le gustaban las estas ruidosas y largas
3.=like..3 the.. parties.. noisy.. & long..
‘He liked long and noisy parties’ (C: 32, 20)
b. E non piace invece ai reazionari, agli
and not like..3 conversely to.the reactionaries to.the
incolti, ai provinciali
uncultivated to.the country bumpkins
‘Reactionaries, uncultivated people, and country bumpkins, on the other
hand, do not like it (LaRep, 03.26.92, ‘Politica Estera’)
Syntactic descriptions of Spanish and Italian usually distinguish two types of objects,
direct and indirect. Direct objects are oen represented by non- prepositional con-
stituents (sus ideas, su falta de fe en un mundo nuevo in 3, i miei coetanei in 6) or
accusative clitics (Sp. lo in 12a; It. lo in 14b). Only in Spanish, however, they are
quite frequently introduced by the preposition a ‘to’, particularly if they are animate
and denite (a los hombres altaneros in 1). Indirect objects, which are mainly ani-
mate and denite, are invariably marked by the preposition a if represented by a
NP both in Spanish (see Example16 below) and in Italian (ai reazionari, agli incolti,
ai provinciali in 15b):
(16) Se rumorea que el negocio interesa asimismo
 rumor..3 that the business interest..3 also
a los ejecutivos de una poderosa multinacional
to the executives of a powerful multinational
‘It is rumored that the business also interests the executives of a powerful
multinational’ (PAI:113.20)
e prepositional phrase introduced by a is frequently found in combination with
a co-referent dative clitic in Spanish7 (le in 13a), or the dative clitic can otherwise
stand on its own (le in 2a for Sp., gli in 13b for It.).
In addition to the use of the same preposition for both indirect objects and
some direct objects, other factors contribute to blur the contrast between these
two functions especially in Spanish. In some Spanish varieties the dative clit-
ics le, les are also used as direct objects (“leísmo”), mainly, but not exclusively,
7. Clitic doubling is ungrammatical in standard Italian and would not be found in formal writ-
ten texts, although there are examples of non-standard reduplication in the oral BAdIP corpus.
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 71
with masculine human referents as in (4), while accusative clitics lo, la, los, las,
also represent indirect objects in a few dialects (the “laísta” and “loísta” variet-
ies8). More relevant still is that there is no formal distinction between direct
and indirect object for rst and second person clitics, which are syncretic forms
(Examples 10 and 11), both in Spanish and Italian, and this should be considered
also in the light of usage data.9
e tendency of Spanish direct and indirect objects to conate into one
category is noticeable precisely in EOC clauses, as their object usually refers to
animate and denite participants, which is typical for the semantic role of the
experiencer.10 is is true also for the examples we analyzed for Italian, although
an exact parallel with the Spanish data cannot be drawn because we did not have
a comparable database to ADESSE for Italian. From Examples(9)–(16) above, it
is clear that the syncretism between direct and indirect object forms may have
been resolved in favor of direct object constructions in Italian, since among those
examples only interessare – with the meaning of ‘to be interesting to’ – and piacere
are constructed with dative objects.
In Italian, the tendency towards EOCs with direct objects may be a histori-
cal evolution, conrmed by some archaic forms found for instance in the 1612
Vo ca bo la r io d e gl i Ac ca d em ic i d el l a Cr us ca :11 here we nd examples such as
Ciascuno gl’ infastidisce, e fugge ‘Everyone annoys him- and he runs away’,
where infastidire is constructed as and EOC with dative object, whereas in con-
temporary standard Italian it can only participate in an EOC construction with a
direct object.
High animacy and deniteness of the objects in EOC are not the only features
that result in similar coding properties of direct and indirect objects in these con-
structions. e aforementioned syncretism of rst and second person clitic objects
is prominent in EOC clauses, when compared to the general frequency data of
the objects in two-argument clauses with the same Subject-Object syntactic pat-
tern. Figures in Table1 below show that 62.47% of the EOC clauses in the corpus
ARTHUS do not make any coding distinction between two types of object.
8. NGLE (2009: 2591, 2655.).
9. Note that 3rd person non-doubled lexical objects can be seen as syncretic too (compare 14a
and 16 above).
10. In ARTHUS 95,6% of the objects in EOCs are animate and 97.7% are denite.
11. Available online at: http://vocabolario.signum.sns.it/. e corresponding Spanish verb, mole-
starto annoy, is constructed with an EOC that can take both dative and accusative object,
depending on the semantic interpretation and dialect.
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72 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
Table1. Syncretic object clitics in EOC and all Subject-Object constructions in Spanish
Construction EOC Subject-Object
Total number 2953 65103
1st person object clitics 1495 (50.62%) 4151 (6.37%)
2nd person object clitics 350 (11.85%) 1459 (2.24%)
Sum of syncretic clitic forms 1845 (62.47%) 5610 (8.62%)
Usage data support, therefore, the combination of all the Experiencers of EOCs
into a single category of Object, without distinguishing between direct or indirect
objects, at least in a broad analysis of the data. is does not preclude the useful-
ness of a more ne-grained distinction for a more specic analysis. By conating
the two types of object, our proposal is based on a more realistic and unbiased
empirical evidence and overcomes the aforementioned drawbacks caused by the
existence of syncretic forms.
e structure of the paper is as follows: in Section1.3 below we discuss rel-
evant previous literature on the relation between case marking of the experiencers
and verb types participating in the EOC/ESC ‘alternation’; in Section2 we lay out
the methodology and the corpora used for this study; the results of the study are to
be found in Section3, including discourse properties of experiencers and stimuli
and their interactions with genre; the discussion of results is in Section4 and our
conclusions in Section5.
1.3 e object experiencer in Di Tullio (2004) and Melis (1999)
Since the issue of the accusative vs. dative status of the object experiencer with
verbs of feeling has been exhaustively discussed in the literature, it should be fur-
ther assessed here by addressing two important contributions to the topic. We will
rst consider the formal approach taken in Di Tullio (2004) and then comment on
the corpus-based analysis presented by Melis (1999).
Di Tullio (2004) adopts Belletti and Rizzi’s (1988) tripartite analysis of psych-
verbs. e rst type (temer ‘fear’, respetar respect’) chooses to cast the experiencer
as a subject. e other two types choose to cast the experiencer as an object, which
is assigned accusative case by the second one (preocupar ‘worry’, asustar frighten’)
and dative case by the third one (It. piacere, Sp. gustar ‘like’). However, Di Tullio,
who takes a lexicalist approach, observes that ‘in Spanish the boundaries between
the second and the third group are blurry’ (en español los límites entre segundo
[grupo] y tercero se desdibujan, p. 23).
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 73
Her analysis focuses on the second type of verbs, ‘verbs of emotional reaction’
(verbos de reacción emotiva), characterized by the possibility of alternating accusa-
tive object structures with dative object structures.12 Di Tullio attributes a dierent
aspectual meaning to each construction: the accusative one depicts an event while
the dative one depicts a state. Di Tullio adduces constructed clauses like (1b) and
(28b) below as instances of the -eventive- accusative pattern, and examples like
(2a) and (29b) below as instances of the -stative- dative one [we keep her number-
ing in the examples below]:
(17) Di Tullio’s examples:
(1b) Los problemas de seguridad intimidan a los turistas
the problems of safety intimidate..3 to the tourists
‘Safety problems intimidate tourists
(28b) El cine italiano lo aburre a Juan, pero
the cinema Italian 3..=bore..3 to Juan but
últimamente no.13
lately not
‘Italian cinema bores Juan, but lately not [so much]’
(2a) A los turistas *(les) intimidan los problemas de seguridad
to the tourists *(3.)=intimidate the problems of safety
‘Tourists are intimidated by safety problems
(29b) A Luis le aburre/ fascina/ interesa
to Luis 3.=bore..3 / fascinate..3 / interest..3
el cine italiano
the cinema Italian
‘Luis is bored by/ fascinated by/ interested in Italian cinema
Di Tullio claims that the constructions with dative objects (2a) and (29b) denote a
derived stateas opposed to the ‘inherent states’ denoted by the rst type (temer)
and third type with dative object too – (gustar), but the tests she adduces do
not conrm this distinction empirically (the progressive with estar + ,
the interpretation of the simple present, among other tests, produce ambiguous
12. is alternation is not possible in Italian, where EOC constructions have arguments either
cast in the accusative or the dative depending on verb choice.
13. We wish to thank a reviewer for pointing out that the clitic doubling of a direct object is
typical of and widely accepted in Argentinian Spanish, in light of which we can make better
sense of the acceptability of Di Tullio’s example, which at rst seemed odd to us.
© 2016. John Benjamins Publishing Company
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74 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
results; cf. ibid.: 34).14 erefore, there are no convincing grammatical arguments
that support a distinction between clauses like (29b) A Luis le aburre/ fascina/
interesa el cine italiano, and clauses with third type verbs like A Luis le gusta/
encanta el cine italiano. e consequence for our corpus analysis is that we nd
justiable to combine ‘dative object’ patterns of second type verbs in the same
category (EOCs) in Di Tullio’s proposal with patterns of the third type in her
classication.
e possibility of distinguishing two subtypes of structures for the second
type verbs – accusative marked experiencer object plus eventive reading as in Di
Tullio’s (1b) and (28b) vs. dative marked experiencer object plus stative reading
as in her (2a) and (29b) also warrants some discussion. As stated above, because
of the frequent syncretism, in these clauses the coding properties alone seem
too weak to justify a clear-cut distinction between the direct and the indirect
object. To overcome this diculty, the contrast between the two functions has
been based on some behavioral properties of the constructions such as pas-
sive alternation (passivization), the substitution of the lexical objects by clitics
(pronominalization), or the preposing of the lexical object to check if it entails
either accusative or dative clitic doubling (thematization). But these tests are
not really useful: the sequences are manipulated by the analyst and most of the
resulting expressions can hardly be interpreted unambiguously (cf. Di Tullio
passim, main text and footnotes). Furthermore, the diculties in making a dis-
tinction between direct and indirect objects through behavioral criteria are even
greater in the case of the 1st and 2nd person clitics. Despite these shortcomings,
Di Tullio also draws interesting conclusions about the semantic make-up of the
structures she analyzes.
Melis (1999), on the other hand, carries out a thorough empirically-based
analysis of the syntax and semantics of causative emotional verbs (causativos emo-
cionales). She denes this verb class by stipulating that the verbs can be used in all
the three following constructions [we keep her numbering in the examples below]:
(18) Melis’s examples:
(i) the ‘basic transitive’ construction, with a preverbal subject and a direct object:
(1a) Pedro la había desilusionado
Pedro 3..=disappoint...3
‘Pedro had disappointed her’;
14. We also have reservations about the use of this type of tests as heuristic tools in analyzing
real linguistic data.
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 75
(ii) the ‘inverse voice’ construction,
15
with an initial’ direct or indirect object and
a postverbal subject:16
(2a) lo irritaban varias cosas de su agenda
3..=annoy..3 various things of his schedule
‘Various things about his schedule annoyed him
(2b) le desesperaba el tránsito de la Ciudad de México;
3.=infuriate..3 the trac of the City of Mexico
e trac in Mexico City infuriated him
(iii) the middle voice construction, which takes pronominal se and a prepositional
phrase:
(3a) qué tal si se horrorizaba con la sangre.
What if  freak..3 with the blood
‘what would happen if s/he freaked out at the sight of blood?’
(cf. Melis, 1999: 50)
e distinction between classes (i) and (ii) poses problems partly similar to those
we have seen in Di Tullio’s account. Besides, particular criticisms can be raised
against the mixing of two dierent parameters in the classication: the sequen-
tial order of subject and object relative to the verb, and the presence of a direct
object in (i) versus a direct or indirect object in (ii). Even if it were possible to
discriminate between direct and indirect objects in all cases which is not the
case when the forms are syncretic –, one wonders which of the two construc-
tions is represented by a clause like (19) below: it has a preverbal subject, as (i)
constructions are expected to have, but also has an indirect object, as required in
(ii) constructions.
(19) El texto que acaba de redactar no le satisface
the text that nish..3 of write. not 3.=satisfy..3
en absoluto
at all
e text s/he has just written doesn’t satisfy her/him at all’ (PAI:181.10)
15. e inverse construction is formally distinguished from the transitive construction in
the order of its arguments: the object-experimenter appears in preverbal position, whereas
the subject-stimulus moves to a post-verbal position” (ibid.: 51) (or La construcción inversa se
diferencia formalmente de la transitiva en el orden de colocación de los argumentos: el experi-
mentante-objeto aparece en posición preverbal, mientras que el estímulo-sujeto se desplaza hacia
el lugar posverbal (ibid.).
16. e clauses Melis gives as examples are actually not good illustrations of the ‘initial’ posi-
tion of the object, as they are clitics, and their position is therefore obligatorily proclitic to the
verb form.
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76 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
An additional consequence of the criteria proposed for distinguishing the ‘basic tran-
sitive’ construction from the ‘inverse’ construction is shown through Examples(20)
and (21) below, which will be classied dierently – (20) as basic transitive (i), and
(21) as inverse (ii) –, though there is no apparent syntactic or semantic dierence
between them. e dierence in the sequential order of subject and verb, it could be
argued, aects the information-structural level, but not the grammar:
(20) la actitud de mi amigo me sorprendió y
the attitude of my friend 1.=surprise..3 and
me entristeció
1.=sadden..3
‘My friend’s attitude surprised and saddened me (HIS:132.09)
(21) Me ha sorprendido la negación y la pasividad de un
1.=surprise..3 the denial and the passiveness of a
pequeño sector
small sector
e denial and passiveness of a small sector has surprised me’ (JOV:144.16)
en, as far as the direct vs. indirect object distinction is concerned, the analysis
of Melis (1999) does not provide operational criteria to maintain the two catego-
ries separate.
As convincing evidence for establishing separate functions is lacking, the gures
corresponding to EOCs in this paper were calculated on the basis of a single object
category – combining direct objects and indirect objects in an all- encompassing
object function.
e study by Melis (1999) is based on a sample of 839 clauses from a corpus
of Mexican Spanish texts from the 1980s and 1990s, from which she elaborates
a penetrating analysis of the semantics and syntax of causative emotional verbs.
She does, however, not include ESCs in her paper.17 Nevertheless, Melis (1999)
provides interesting data and remarks to further understand the relationships
between the syntactic form and the semantic and discourse-functional meanings
of the constructions we are studying.
Melis examines the inverse voice’ clauses (ii) as compared to middle voice
clauses (iii), focusing her attention on two factors associated with the stimulus –
its form, NP vs. clause, and its cataphoric persistence (Givón, 1983) – and a third
factor associated with the aectedness of the experiencer. Melis claims that the
object experiencers of (ii) are aected while the subject experiencers of (iii) are
not. Such a semantic dierence is related to the person of the participant. Melis
17. Nor the non-causative EOC verbs, such as gustar, or other verbs that do not enter in all three
above-mentioned constructions; cf. her footnote on p. 50.
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 77
bases this relationship on the notion of ‘empathy’ (Kuno and Kaburaki, 1977) and
assumes that the speaker tends to identify or empathize more easily with entities
more similar to him/herself. In this particular case,
e concept of empathy allows us to understand why it is easier for a speaker to
evaluate the state of aectedness of the experiencers cast in rst and second per-
son, as they are much closer to him than those in the third person18
(Melis, 1999: 56)
e data provided by Melis (1999: 58) show a greater number of 1st and 2nd per-
son experiencers in inverse voice constructions as compared to the experiencers
in middle voice constructions, which are mostly 3rd person participants.19 e
relationship between aectedness and empathy suggested by Melis is certainly
useful for us to analyze the contrast between EOCs and ESCs.
e use of textual corpora for this study provided relevant data to ll the gap
in the analyses of EOCs that take actual usage into account. We used the ARTHUS
corpus and BDS/ADESSE database for Spanish and the BADIP, C-ORAL (Cresti
& Moneglia, 2005), and La Repubblica corpora for Italian, to track the frequency
and distribution of a number of discourse-related properties of the arguments,
such as animacy, person, and syntactic category. Ultimately, this study provides
some insight into how both ESC and EOC constructions are used and conceived
of by speakers in actual discourse. Our analysis of these constructions is couched
in Construction Grammar terms, because CxG oers the ideal framework to inte-
grate semantic (such as animacy of participants or level of agentivity of the clause),
syntactic (speakers’ choice of EOC or ESC constructions), and discourse proper-
ties (such as topic continuity or salience) in the study of grammar.
2. Methods
We analyzed the features of EOCs and ESCs in two Romance languages, Italian
and Spanish, where the usage and vitality of non-nominative subjects showed cer-
tain parallels. In order to work with naturalistic data, we used corpora comprising
both written and spoken usage for both languages.
18. “El concepto de empatía nos permite entender por qué le resulta más fácil al hablante valo-
rar el estado de afectación de los experimentantes de primera y segunda persona que le son
mucho más próximos que los de tercera.
19. Notice though that Melis’s ‘inverse construction’ is not strictly comparable to our EOC,
because her ‘basic transitive’ construction (i) (e.g., Pedro la había desilusionado) sets the class
apart from the ‘inverse voice’ construction (ii), whereas our EOC is a broader class that includes
all the constructions with object experiencers, therefore our EOCs subsume (i) and (ii).
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78 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
e analysis of the Spanish data is based on the ARTHUS corpus, which com-
prises American and Peninsular samples for a variety of genres. ARTHUS is not
simply a corpus of ‘raw data‘. Syntactic and semantic features for each clause,
numbering 159,000, are recorded in a complex database (BDS/ADESSE) for fur-
ther detailed syntactic and semantic studies of Spanish (García Miguel, 2005;
Vaamonde et al., 2010). e database allows for general searches and counts of
clausal schemata and subschemata, as well as for automatic counts of syntactic
and semantic features including verbal semantic classication. Each clause in the
corpus was annotated for syntactic functions of the arguments (subject, direct
object, etc.), syntactic categories (NP, pronoun, etc.), semantic roles, verb semantic
class, etc. With the ADESSE/BDS database, it is also possible to have forms tal-
lied by textual genres. Its drawbacks are however, that it is mostly comprised of
written language texts (only about 20% of its contents are oral), and that contents
are limited in size to 1,449,005 words. Table2 below, shows the distribution of
the number of words in the ADESSE database across textual genres and broad
dialectal areas for Spanish.
Table2. Number of words in the ARTHUS corpus according to text types and regions20
# of words ,Spanish (totals) Spain Latin America20
Fiction ,538,906 (37.19%) 385,661 153,245
Press ,166,804 (11.51%) 166,804 0
eater ,212,507 (14.66%) 212,507 0
Essay ,257,718 (17.78%) 168,511 89,207
Oral ,273,070 (18.85%) 207,948 65,122
Total 1,449,005 1,141,431 307,574
e situation is more problematic for Italian, since there are no publicly avail-
able, automatically searchable, tagged corpora. We therefore had to compound
the contents of the following databases: BADIP, C-ORAL, and an excerpt from
La Repubblica. BADIP21 is a database that contains the totality of the Spoken
Italian Lexical Frequency Corpus (LIP). e corpus is made up of dierent oral
text types: informal conversations (face to face or on the phone), transcripts from
meetings, oral exams, interviews, conferences, classes (K-12 to university level),
homilies, TV programs not based on a written screenplay (De Mauro et al. 1993).
e LIP corpus contains 490,000 words. e second corpus used was the Italian
20. http://adesse.uvigo.es/data/corpus.php.
21. http://badip.uni-graz.at.
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 79
section of the C-ORAL-ROM22 corpus (approximately 300,000 words), which
comprises spontaneous conversation from unscripted sources including infor-
mal conversations in private and in public, formal speeches in natural contexts
(political speeches and debates, preaching, conferences), formal spoken discourse
in the media (talk shows, interviews, political debate), and formal and informal
telephone calls.
Finally, for the press section of the analysis, we used an excerpt of about
500,000 words from the La Repubblica newspaper archives to make the compari-
son between the two languages numerically more balanced. e texts analyzed
from La Repubblica were taken from two randomly chosen weeks in 1991 and
1992 to make the language comparable to that gathered in the other corpora,
which are also from the beginning of the 1990s, except for the LABLITA corpus
(part of C-ORAL-ROM), which spans 1965–2000. It was only possible to distin-
guish between oral vs. press textual genres in the Italian corpora, and the number
of searches was limited by the fact that they had to be performed manually. Table3
below shows the distribution of the number of words in the Italian databases
across textual genres. Dialectal areas were not recoverable for Italian, although
the sources are from dierent regions.23
Table3. Number of words used for the Italian analysis according to text types
and corpus
# of words ,Italian (totals) Corpus
Press ,500,000 (38.8%) 500,000– La Repubblica
Oral ,790,000 (61.2%) 300,000– C-Oral
490,000– BAdIP
Total 1,290,000
Because we were forced to conduct manual searches of non-tagged corpora for
Italian, the analysis of those data is more limited and less sophisticated than the
detailed analysis of the ARTHUS corpus data. We can, however, point to similar
tendencies between the two languages, even if EOCs – especially those with dative
experiencers – seem to be more productive in Spanish than in Italian.
22. http://www.elda.org/en/proj/coralrom.html
23. LABLITA is multidialectal, but many of the speakers are not classied by provenance (http://
lablita.dit.uni.it/corpora/descriptions/lablita/), BAdIP is made up of texts from Florence,
Naples, Rome and Milan, and the texts in La Repubblica have no clear dialectal bias, since they
are mostly written in formal standard Italian.
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80 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
2.1 Data selection
Previous studies on experiential predicates, such as those mentioned in Section1,
underline that non-nominative subjects tend to be found in constructions with
verbs expressing mental processes and feelings in a variety of languages. Mental
processes and feelings can however also be expressed through regular transitive
constructions: these verbs thus oer a good testing ground for the distribution of
EOC and ESC constructions. Corpus analysis provides a solid empirical founda-
tion to identify the dierences between ESCs and EOCs with verbs of feeling at
the discourse level and to determine if the relative distribution of the two con-
structions in usage is random or not. To address the issue, we have carried out
a quantitative analysis of the following features of the experiencer and stimulus:
animacy, syntactic class, and grammatical person in both ESCs and EOCs. We
have also examined the frequency of the constructions according to textual genre.
Data from the Spanish ARTHUS corpus were restricted to clauses (and their
verbs) that met the following conditions, and the same was done in the choice of
constructions for Italian:
a. Verbs must belong to the semantic class of ‘feeling’ (Sp. sensación in ADESSE),
except the ‘volition’ subclass, which is always encoded by ESC without alter-
nate EOC pattern.
In ADESSE, clauses are categorized into six main types according to their concep-
tual meaning: mental, relational, material, verbal, existential and directive.24 In this
study we focus on the mental process category, which involves two basic partici-
pants, the experiencer and the phenomenon causing the mental process (stimulus).
Mental processes represent a 23.67% of the clauses in the corpus (37,636 items)
and comprise four classes: feeling, perception, cognition and choice. Feeling and
cognition classes are in turn divided into two subclasses: ‘volition’ is a subdivision
of ‘feeling,’ while ‘knowledge’ and ‘belief’ are subsets of the cognition category.
As the paper analyzes the distribution of ESC vs. EOC, only subclasses that
display both types of constructions can be taken into account. erefore, percep-
tion (e.g., versee’, mostrarshow’), choice (e.g. decidirdecide’, elegirchoose’), the
cognition general class (e.g. pensar ‘think’, entenderunderstand’), and the volition
subclass of feeling (e.g. querer ‘want’)25 were excluded from our sample, since all
24. Some clauses are ascribed to more than one class. e reader is referred to http://adesse.uvigo.
es/data/clases.php for further information. See also Albertuz (2007), Vaamonde et al. (2010). e
ADESSE typology of verbal processes goes back to the one proposed by Halliday (1985).
25. It is worth noticing that the verb querer belongs to the volition subclass when it has the sense
of “to wish for something, to want something, or to want something to happen” (ADESSE),
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 81
the clauses in these categories are ESCs. e ‘belief ’ and ‘knowledge’ subclasses
were also excluded from the study. ese subclasses display very unbalanced dis-
tributions of the two constructions examined: EOC represent just a 0.8% of the
total of clauses in the knowledge subclass (46 vs. 5599 of ESC),26 and a mere 16.5%
in the belief subclass (483 vs. 2436 of ESC).27 In contrast, the general class of feel-
ing provides us with a more balanced number of occurrences of both construc-
tions and a wider range of verb lexemes.
b. Clauses must have just two arguments that ll either ESC or EOC conditions.
Table4. Criteria for data searches in ADESSE
Argument 1 Argument 2
ESC Experiencer = Subject Stimulus = Object
EOC Experiencer = Object Stimulus = Subject
c. Clauses must be in the active voice. Passive and middle (reexive) construc-
tions were avoided in this study; as a consequence, expressions like intere-
sarse por algo/ interessarsi di qualcosa ‘be interested in something’, asustarse
con algo/ spaventarsi per/di qualcosa ‘be afraid of something’ etc., were not
included in the counts.
e total number of verb forms analyzed for Spanish was 4,114. Similar criteria
were followed for Italian, but only six lemmas were analyzed, three participating
in ESC constructions and three in EOC constructions, for a total of 689 forms.
Despite the disparity in size, the Italian forms analyzed oer a comparable picture
to that of the Spanish verbs, corroborated by statistical analysis provided by the
classication and regression tree in Section3. e Italian verb forms were chosen
with the same selection criteria as the Spanish ones, so as to parallel some of the
most common verbal lemmas in the ARTHUS corpus participating in the EOC/
ESC alternation; we made sure that the chosen verbal forms for Italian were also
used frequently both in the oral and written genre, in both EOC and ESC con-
structions (see results below).
which is by and large its most frequent meaning in the corpus (1040 clauses); ex.: Erni, ¿quieres
apagar las luces? (CIN:063,12) ‘Erni, do you want to turn o the lights?’. In other contexts (183
clauses), querer means “to feel or show aection towards someone” (ibid.), so it is not a volition
verb, but a verb of the general feelings class, and as such it is included in the analysis.
26. Tally carried out on Dec. 8, 2012.
27. ese gures represent the clauses that fulll condition b: all of them are constructions with
two participants, experiencer and stimulus, cast respectively as subject and object in ESCs, and
vice versa in EOCs.
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82 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
3. Results
In BDS/ADESSE there are 1161 ESC clauses that fulll criteria a–c above. e more
frequent verbs in this construction are those included in Table5 below, along with
their gures:
Table5. Verb lemmas participating in ESC constructions and their quantity
in the Spanish corpus used
Verb Quantity Ver b Quantity
querer 2* ‘love 165 adorar ‘adore’ 28
temer ‘fear’ 113 experimentar 2 ‘feel’ 20
vivir 2 ‘live’ 103 despreciar despise’ ‘scorn 20
sufrir ‘suer’ 101 desdeñar ‘scorn’ 19
amar ‘love 73 gozar enjoy’ 16
sentir 2 ‘feel’ 68 apreciar 1 ‘be fond of’ 15
odiar ‘hate 67 paladear relish’ 14
respetar respect’ 51 detestar detest’ 12
admirar ‘admire 40 extrañarmiss’ 12
aguantar ‘stand’ 39 añorar ‘long or yearn for’ 12
padecer ‘suer’ 38 acusar 2 show signs of ’ 10
lamentar regret’ 34 compadecer ‘feel sorry for’ 8
celebrar 2 28 Other 55
Total** 1161
* Numbers next to the verbs mark the specic verb meaning in the construction (cf. ADESSE).
** ere are 43 dierent verb lexemes in ESCs in our sample.
As for EOCs, the more frequent Spanish verbs in our corpus are listed in Table6.
ese verbs all have common equivalents in Italian, which can be rendered
by EOC constructions, sometimes they are periphrases with verbs such as dare
‘to give’, or fareto do/make’: gustar– piacerelike, importar– importare ‘mat-
ter’, interesarinteressare ‘interest’, sorprendersorprendere ‘surprise’, encantar
aascinare ‘like a lot, charm, doler– far(e) male ‘hurt’, atraer– attrarre ‘attract’,
extrañar– sorprendere ‘surprise’,28 molestar– dar(e) fastidio ‘bother’, asustar
spaventare/far(e) paura ‘frighten’, divertirdivertire ‘amuse’, calmarcalmare
‘calm’, alegrar– far(e) piacere ‘to be happy. Apetecer ‘feel like’ in Italian can be
translated by an equivalent EOC construction far(e) gola, but it is most commonly
translated by an ESC construction: aver(e) voglia (di qualcosa).
28. e relevant meaning of extrañar here is ‘to surprise’ as in ya son las ocho, me extraña que
no haya llegado ‘it’s already 8 o’clock, I am surprised that s/he hasn’t arrived yet,’ which is con-
structed as an EOC, not extrañar as in ‘to miss (someone),’ which is constructed as an ESC.
© 2016. John Benjamins Publishing Company
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 83
Table6. Verb lemmas participating in EOC constructions and their quantity
in the Spanish corpus used
Verb Nr Verb Nr
gustar ‘like 1219 impresionar ‘strike’ 29
interesar 1 ‘interest’ 167 tranquilizar calm down 25
importar 1 ‘matter’ 153 calmar ‘calm’ 23
encantar ‘love’ 98 animar 1cheer up’ 23
sorprender 1surprise’ 77 conmover 1move 22
doler ‘hurt’ 54 ofender ‘oend / be ofended) 22
molestar 1 ‘bother’ 54 asombrar amaze / be amazed’ 22
atraer 2attract’ 45 entusiasmar to be enthusiastic’ 21
apetecer ‘feel like’ 44 divertir ‘amus e’ 20
extrañar surprise’ 43 fascinar ‘love / be mad about’ 19
asustar ‘frighten 37 alegrar to be happy’ 17
satisfacer satisfy’ 36 irritar annoy / get annoyed’ 16
preocupar ‘worry’ 32 Other* 635
Total 2953
* Our whole Spanish corpus includes 174 verbs in EOC clauses.
e Italian equivalent verbs could not all be included in our study, but all of the
verbs in Tables5 and 6 were analyzed for Spanish, while the manual searches for
all verbal forms in Italian limited the number of lemmas we could analyze for the
present study to the six mentioned in Table7 below. e same criteria, however,
were followed in the Italian searches as those used in the automatic searches for
the Spanish corpus through ADESSE; but in practice, only 689 Italian forms were
analyzed, comprising 6 verb types corresponding to frequent Spanish verbs found
in ADESSE, covering similar semantic elds and paired in ESC-EOC construc-
tions: amare ‘to love’ vs. piacere ‘to like’, avere paura ‘to be afraid’ vs. fare paura
‘to scare, ammirare ‘to admire’ vs. aascinare ‘to fascinate,’ as laid out in Table7.
Nevertheless, we trust that the frequency of use of these forms in Italian across
genres (oral vs. press) and the sizable Italian sample make the comparison between
Italian and Spanish EOCs and ESCs still viable.
Table7. Verb lemmas participating in ESC&EOC constructions and their quantity
in the Italian corpus used
ESC verbs Quantity EOC verbs Quantity
amare ‘to love 104 piacere ‘to like’ 408
avere paura ‘to be afraid’ 10 fare paura ‘to scare’ 70
ammirare ‘to admire 74 aascinare ‘to fascinate 23
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84 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
e EOC type of construction is very productive in Spanish, especially with dative
pronominal marking, as attested by non-standard expressions such as EOC molar
‘to like’, latirto surmise’ that are very typical of non-standard, oral, youth Spanish,
both in Spain and in Latin America. As can be gleaned from the equivalent forms
in Italian in the examples above, EOCs are also commonly found in this other
Romance language, even if the objects tend not to be marked with dative as oen
and as productively as in Spanish.
3.1 Discourse-related and semantic features of EOCs and ESCs
In this section we lay out quantitative results concerning some semantic and
discourse-related properties of the constructions under examination. e data
analysis is aimed at getting a better understanding of the EOCs’ and ESCs’ com-
municative function.
3.1.1 Properties of the experiencer
To begin with, if we compare the animate character of the experiencer in both
constructions, a clear (and expected) semantic parallel between the subject of ESC
and the object of EOC appears, i.e. the fact that they are predominantly animate
in both languages:
Table8. Experiencer’s Animacy in ESCs and EOCs in Spanish and Italian
ESC EOC
N. % N. %
Spanish Experiencer + Animate 1110 95.6% 2802 94.8%
Total 1161 2953
Italian Experiencer + Animate 223 99% 454 98%
Total 225 464
However some dierences appear when we examine the syntactic categories that
codify the experiencer in each construction (subject vs. object) (see Table 9).
e object experiencer (EOC) is represented by a clitic or a personal pronoun
in 82.78% of the cases, while the subject experiencer (ESC) is expressed by verbal
agreement alone or personal pronouns 76.64% of the times. ese dierences are
slight, but present both in Spanish and Italian (see Table10 below), and they could
be related to the fact that, in discourse, the object experiencer is more accessible or
more continuous as a topic than the subject experiencer. About topic continuity,
the literature generally agrees that there is a relation between speakers’ accessibility
to a referent and the linguistic encoding it requires (cf. Givón, 1983, 1992; Ariel,
© 2016. John Benjamins Publishing Company
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 85
1990). In fact, if a referent is more accessible, it will typically be expressed by less
semantic and phonetic content (Vázquez & García, 2012).
However, the similarities in frequency of occurrence of the experiencer in
each construction point to the fact that an experiencer in general is usually highly
salient, recoverable, and does not need to be mentioned again by a fully edged
noun phrase.
Table10. Experiencer’s syntactic categories in ESC and EOC in Italian
ESC EOC
N. % N. %
Stressed personal pronoun 24 10.66% 64 13.85%
Verbal agreement alone (ESC)/ clitic alone (EOC) 130 57.77% 322 69.39%
Other (NPs, relative prons.) 71 31.55% 78 16.88%
Total 225 464
Incidentally, the low ratio of full-edged experiencers in usage should be noticed:
these are less than a third in both ESCs and EOCs (the sum of stressed pro-
nouns and “other”) in Spanish and 42% in ESCs and 30% in EOCs respectively in
Italian. However, the order of constituents has oen been employed in literature
as a means for supporting functional distinctions in EOC constructions (Melis,
1999: 50–51; Di Tullio, 2004: 33; Gutiérrez-Bravo, 2006), but this should be recon-
sidered in view of the actual usage of such constructions. e experiencer, in fact,
is oen expressed by agreement only or by a clitic, whose position is obligatorily
determined. us, the low frequency of lexical experiencers undermines the crite-
rion of the pre- or post-verbal ‘experiencer position’ to classify the constructions.
As for the person and number of the experiencer, Table11 below shows a
remarkable contrast between ESCs and EOCs: object experiencers (EOCs) are
mostly 1st person sg. participants (47%), while subject experiencers (ESCs) are
represented by 3rd person in 38.6% of the cases, and only 29.7% are 1st pers. sg.
Table9. Experiencer’s syntactic categories in ESCs and EOCs in Spanish
ESC EOC
N. % N. %
Stressed personal pronoun 95 8.37% 305 10.32%
Verbal agreement alone (ESC)/ clitic alone (EOC) 776 68.37% 2140 72.46%
Other (NPs, relative prons.) 264 23.36% 508 17.20%
Total* 1135 2953
* As generic innitives and gerunds were excluded from the gures pertaining to the ESC, the total of
ESC cases is lower than in Table5. e slight discrepancies in the ADESSE gures – if queried now –
result from corrections operated on the database in the last year since we carried out our analysis.
© 2016. John Benjamins Publishing Company
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86 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
Table11. Person/number distribution of the experiencer in ESC and EOC clauses
in Spanish
Experiencer’s person & number ESC % EOC %
1ª sg 345 29.7 1389 47.0
2ª sg 83 7.1 333 11.3
3ª sg 449 38.6 597 20.2
Vd sg 10 0.8 71 2.4
1ª pl 83 7.1 106 3.6
2ª pl 8 0.6 17 0.6
3ª pl 154 13.2 114 3.9
Vd pl 3 0.2 3 0.1
Generic inference/ No clitic* 26 2.2 323 10.9
Total 1161 2953
* EOC data are classied by the person and number of the clitic experiencer. e 323 units marked as ‘no
clitic’ in EOCs with verbs of feeling correspond to 3rd person object experiencer with no clitic-doubling,
as in Example (14a) above. Since ADESSE does not allow to distinguish between singular and plural in
this case, we opted to consider them as an independent set, even if they belong with the third person (sg.
or pl. as the case may be).
is is paralleled in Italian too, as can be seen in Table12 below:
Table12. Person/number distribution of the experiencer in ESC and EOC clauses
in Italian
Experiencer’s person & number ESC % EOC %
1ª sg 49 26.63 198 42.67
2ª sg 4 2.17 53 11.42
3ª sg 74 40.20 137 29.52
Vd sg 2 1.08 7 1.50
1ª pl 13 7.06 19 4.09
2ª pl 11 5.97 6 1.29
3ª pl 31 16.84 44 9.48
Vd pl 0 0
Total personal forms 184 464
e relationship between mental process clauses and the person of the experi-
encer has captivated the attention of (discourse-functional) linguists since at least
1958 with the seminal work of Benveniste (cf. also Lyons, 1994; Bentivoglio &
Weber, 1999; Scheibman, 2001, 2002; Travis, 2006). ese studies pointed out the
tendency of the clauses of mental process – and especially those of the cognition
subclass – to be associated with a rst person singular subject. Benveniste called
attention to the function of mental process verbs (“propositional attitude verbs”
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 87
in particular) in the rst person and the present tense, since with rst person
subjects, these verbs do not describe mental states or processes as they do with
third person subjects (she believes that…; he supposes that), but they express
instead the epistemic attitude of the speaker towards the proposition that follows
(I believe that…; I suppose that), which makes them ‘markers of subjectivity’
(cf. Benveniste, 1958: 185).
e recurrent use of this function in discourse has provoked the formal freez-
ing of elements such as (yo) creo/ creo yo ‘I believe, I think’, me parece ‘it seems
to me’, supongo ‘I suppose’, etc., and the consequent weakening of their argument
structure as they little by little lost their event-codifying function as a result of
their progression towards becoming subjective experience markers (cf. Weber &
Bentivoglio, 1991; Bentivoglio & Weber, 1999; Vázquez Rozas, 2006a; Travis, 2006).
If we return to Tables11 and 12, we see that corpus data show the preference
of EOC for 1st person experiencer in both Spanish and Italian, as in Examples
(10a–b) and (11a) (repeated here):
(10) a. francamente la televisión a me aburre
frankly the television to me 1.=bore..3
‘Frankly television bores me (SEV:094.08)
b. Il teatro, sono sincera, mi annoia
the theater be..1 sincere. 1.=bore..3
‘I admit it: theater bores me’ (LaRep, 02.06.92, ‘Spettacoli’)
(11) a. A me asusta, me desagrada este
to me 1.=scare..3 1.=disgust..3 this
Madrid ruidoso
Madrid noisy
e noise of Madrid scares and disgusts me’ (MAD:103.17)
As for ESC, third person experiencers outnumber rst person experiencers, so the
more frequent uses can be illustrated through examples like (5) for Sp. and (8) for
It. above, repeated here:
(5) Él amaba esa ciudad
he yes love..3 that town
‘He did love that town (MIRADA: 93, 32)
(8) Cendrars amava il cinema di un amore non ricambiato.
Cendrars love..3 the cinema of a love not requited
‘Cendrars loved cinema with unrequited love
(LaRep, 06.24.89, ‘Mercurio-Scaale’)
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88 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
Interestingly, the association between the object experiencer and the rst person
singular in the ARTHUS corpus mirrors the tendency detected by Melis (1999) in
her Mexican corpus, as the object experiencer of her ‘inverse voice’ construction
is also more oen a Speech Act Participant (SAP) than the subject experiencer of
middle constructions (cf. footnote nr. 19).
Melis relates the dierent person choices of the experiencer to the notions
of empathy and aectedness and quotes Mithun (1991: 522) when she states
that “Speakers do not claim to feel what another individual is feeling” (cf. Melis,
1999: 58). And feelings, emotions, aectedness and other mental states are
expected to be more oen expressed by the person who experiences or feels them.
Corpus data conrm that EOCs meet this expectation, but the data of ESCs show
a dierent picture.
Why do the experiencers of ESCs fail to meet the expected preference for
1st person referents, then? As they are syntactic subjects, these experiencers are
candidates to be conceptualized as potentially endowed with agency, volition and
control.
Even with symmetric predicates, the participant assigned to subject position is
interpreted as the more controlling participant or at least the more empathized-
with participant (Kuno and Kaburaki, 1977). is is a general tendency of the
interpretation of arguments assigned to subject position (cf. DeLancey, 1984).
(Cro, 1993: 61)
Subjects are initiators of causal events and in ESC, being typically animate and
human, they are assigned a certain degree of responsibility in the process, as they
have to direct attention to the object stimulus.
Actually, the control and agency of the experiencer over the state of aairs
have been identied in instances of ESCs with the usual tests of agency and control
(imperative, compatibility with adjuncts of purpose, etc.).
(22) ¡quiéreme! aún no lo sabes, pero
love..2=1. you yet not 3.=know..2 but
te queda poco tiempo de abuelo.
2.=remain..3 little time as grandfather.
‘Love me! You don’t know it yet, but you only have a short time le as grand-
father’ (SON:281.14)
In contrast, object experiencers do not display any trace of activity or control over
the situation.
Usage data suggest, therefore, that a higher agency potential of the experiencer
associates more with 3rd person (ESC), while a lower agency potential promotes
the 1st person reference (EOC). However, these data run counter to what is pre-
dicted by the ‘Animacy Hierarchy,’ which assigns the top position to the 1st person
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 89
pronoun and is dened in Silverstein (1976) as a scale of “likelihood of function-
ing as transitive agents” (apud Dixon, 1979: 85).
According to the hierarchy, the speaker occupies the position of highest agen-
tivity, as Dixon maintains (1994: 84):
[…] a speaker will think in terms of doing things to other people to a much
greater extent than in terms of things being done to him. In the speaker’s view of
the world, as it impinges on him and as he describes it in language, he will be the
quintessential agent.
e clauses with verbs of feeling analyzed here suggest, however, a dierent inter-
pretation: it is the 3rd person that is conceptualized more frequently as an agent,
since it is more oen cast as a syntactic subject than the 1st person, which prefers
the function of object, and whose role is, as a consequence, less active.
Several researchers have maintained that agentivity does not justify the posi-
tion of rst person discourse participants in the upper level of the animacy hier-
archy compared to 3rd person (cf. DeLancey, 1981; van der Auwera, 1981: 94 .;
Myhill, 1992: 224 and 278, in a footnote)29 and it has been pointed out that 1st and
2nd persons are also high in the hierarchy because of their features of empathy and
topicality. ese notions are found in the original formulation of the hierarchy by
Hawkinson & Hyman (1974), and are also part of the proposals by Givón (1976),
Kuno & Kaburaki (1977), Langacker (1991: 306–307) and Lehmann et al. (2000: 6
& .), among others.
In the constructions analyzed here, what is most surprising is that the most
empathetic experimenters, 1st person experimenters, are not preeminently associ-
ated with the subject function (which happens instead in other verbal classes both
in Spanish and other European languages, cf. Lehmann et al., 2000), but rather
with the object, whereas 3rd person experimenters, the less empathetic ones, do
indeed associate with subject function.
3.1.2 Properties of the stimulus
e stimulus participant also displays dierent syntactic and semantic properties
in ESC and EOC constructions.
In ESC and EOC, as reported in Table13 and 14 below, the stimulus, which
is cast as the object in ESC and as subject in EOC, is predominantly inanimate.
29. Silverstein motivates his animacy hierarchy by claiming that it reects the likelihood of
dierent NP types serving as agents. However, as pointed out in work such as DeLancey, 1981,
topicality, viewpoint, or empathy is a more likely motivation, as it is clear why these parameters
would rank rst and second person pronouns higher than third person pronouns, but it is not
clear why rst and second person pronouns should be more likely than third person pronouns
to serve as agents.” (Myhill, 1992: 278 in a footnote).
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90 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
However, there is a considerable incidence of animate stimuli in ESC construc-
tions. is corresponds to the referents in the construction having a more ‘visible
side’ (public, external, objective), which is consistent with the representational
(descriptive, referential) function of ESCs analyzed in the previous section.
Figures in Tables13 and 14 show remarkable dierences related to the ani-
macy of the stimulus:
Table13. Stimulus’s animacy in Spanish
ESC (object) % EOC (subject) % % ESC % EOC
Animate 385 33.16 495 16.76
Inanimate Concrete 163 14.03 567 19.20 51.41 55.36
Abstract 434 37.38 1068 36.16
Propositional 179 15.41 823 27.86
Total 1161 2953
ese gures are also conrmed by the Italian data, which report similar percent-
ages for animate stimuli in ESC and EOC:
Table14. Stimulus’s animacy in Italian
ESC (object) % EOC (subject) % % ESC % EOC
Animate 70 38.25 51 11.61
Inanimate Concrete 29 15.84 175 39,86 36.61 71.52
Abstract 38 20.76 139 31.66
Propositional 46 25.13 74 16.85
Total 183 439
e large proportion of animate (mostly human) objects as stimuli is worthy of
further research. is rate of animate participants in object function in Spanish,
for instance, is notably higher than the percentage of animates in the total of
Subject-Object clauses in ARTHUS (22.5%).
e stimulus in EOC – cast as subject – displays a lower percentage of animate
referents and a higher proportion of propositional referents.
(23) yo me gusta que los chiquillos sepan por lo menos
I 1.=like..3 that the kids know at least
nociones de música
notions of music
As for me, I like the kids to have at least some notions about music’
(MADRID: 210, 20)
is is possible in Italian too, see Example(24) below, and Italian also has a high pro-
portion of clausal stimuli in ESC, as exemplied in both clauses below. e structure
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 91
found in (25) reects a common use of the verb ’to love’ in Italian,30 i.e.to like a lot
as in the generic English usage of ‘to love (to do) something’; it should be noticed
that Spanish diers from Italian (or English) in this usage of the verb ‘to love, as Sp.
amar would not be used for the same construction with a clausal stimulus.
(24) Cossiga ha premesso che non gli piace
Cossiga have..3 opened. that not 3.=like..3
‘tracciare identikit’
draw. proling
‘Cossiga opened by saying that he does not like to ‘do any proling’
(LaRep, 03.29.92, ‘Extra’)
(25) [Tiri da tre] ‘Entrambe le squadre amano farne’
[threepointers] both the teams love..3 make.=3.
‘[reepointers] Both teams love to shoot them (LaRep., 05.16.91, ‘Sport’)
Clauses, as ‘third order entities’, are not conceived of as individuals, which can be
acting on other individuals,31 so the sentences of which they are a part (those with
cognitive predicates, such as ‘I think,‘I believe,’ ‘I suppose’ etc., and with evaluative
predicates, such as ‘I like,‘I hope,etc.), are not primarily directed at represent-
ing “objective” events. On the contrary, such sentences tend to refer to subjective
(private, internal) states of aairs and to have an evaluative function.
Di Tullio (2004) also analyzes interpretive dierences related to subject fea-
tures, and observes that a ‘causal subject’ (which in this case could also be dened
as a ‘clausal’ subject, unlike an actual agentive one) activates a psychological read-
ing of predicates that also admit a physical reading (in which the subject would be
an agent). She maintains, thus, that the psychological reading of the verb depends
on the ‘clausal’ reading of the subject: ‘it is not the category of the subject – noun
30. A sample from the La Repubblica corpus reveals that they account for about 30% of the
occurrence of this verb in this corpus.
31. Melis (1999: 53): ‘the medio-passive voice is used more oen with clausal stimuli, which can
hardly be seen as ‘participants’ in the event’ (“[…] la media se utiliza más con los estímulos ora-
cionales que con dicultad se ven como “participantes” del evento […]”). Also: ‘However, even
when they exhibit referential or functional anities, nouns and clauses do not behave identically
in syntax (Lehmann, 1991: 203–204). According to Lehmann (1991: 205), this is due to the fact
that clauses, unlike nouns, cannot refer to an entity that can ‘participate’ in the described event
and that can be characterized as having less ‘prominence’ and ‘cognitive independence’ than
nouns’ (“Sin embargo, aun cuando presentan anidades referenciales y funcionales, se sabe
que los nombres y las oraciones no se comportan de manera idéntica en la sintaxis (Lehmann,
1991: 203–204). Esto se debe, en la opinión de Lehmann (1991: 205), a que las oraciones se
distinguen de los nombres en que no sugieren al igual la gura de un ente que ‘participa’ en
el evento descrito y que se caracterizan, frente a las entidades nominales, por tener un menor
grado de ‘prominencia’ e ‘independencia cognoscitiva’”) (ibid.: 57).
© 2016. John Benjamins Publishing Company
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92 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
phrase or clause – that activates the psychological meaning, but rather the possi-
bility of a clausal interpretation (i.e. of a ‘propositional thematic role’).32 (28)– Di
Tu l li o i n f a c t c o nc l ud e s t h at t he ba s i c f or m o f t h e s u bj e c t ( s ti m u lu s ) i n t h e se ve r b s
is the expression of an event, whose canonical structure is an innitival clause or
nominalization. Verbs of feeling, she maintains, select mostly clausal subjects, and
only indirectly agentive ones (ibid.: 28–29).
However, although clausal stimuli do appear in considerable numbers in our
data, the majority of stimuli are represented by fully-edged NPs. is is in clear
opposition to what was mentioned above for the experiencer in both ESC and
EOC constructions, and points to a lower salience of the stimulus in discourse.
Table15. Syntactic class of stimulus in Spanish
ESC % EOC %
Stressed pers. pron. 12 1.03 18 0.60
Subject Agreement/ Object Clitic alone 370 31.86 820 27.76
NP 660 56.84 1524 51.60
Clause 119 10.24 564 19.09
Adverbial 1 0.03
Generic innitives 26 0.88
Total 1161 2953
e Italian data show that there are similar tendencies in the frequency of NPs to
represent stimuli (see TableXVI below), although Spanish ESCs are more inclined
to represent their object by a NP than Italian ones, and conversely Italian EOCs
are fonder of NP stimuli than Spanish ones:
Table16. Syntactic class of stimulus in Italian
ESC % EOC %
Stressed pers. pron. 1 0.53 1 0.22
Subject Agreement/ Object Clitic alone 54 28.72 113 24.88
NP 87 46.27 267 58.81
Clause 46 24.46 73 16.07
Adverbial 0 0
Total* 188 454
* Minor discrepancies in numbers of stimuli/experiencers and total number of clauses analyzed in Italian
is due to either experiencer or stimulus being omitted or only partially recoverable from the limited
context oered by the database.
32. “No es la categoría del sujeto sintagma nominal u oración – lo decisivo para activar el
signicado psicológico sino la viabilidad de una interpretación oracional (en otros términos,
de un ‘Papel Temático Proposicional.)’
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 93
3.2 ESCs, EOCs and text type (genre)
Last but not least, we examined the incidence of cross-genre variation in the fre-
quency and distribution of the constructions examined.
e gures in Tables17 and 18 clearly show the tendency of EOCs to correlate
with oral discourse, although this tendency is more marked in Spanish than in
Italian (where, however, admittedly the analyzed sample is much more restricted).
Table17. Distribution of ESC and EOC according to text type in Spanish
ESC EOC To t a l
N % N %
Novel 579 34.15 1116 65.85 1695
Press 75 58.14 54 41.86 129
eater 254 33.82 497 66.18 751
Essay 152 41.87 211 58.13 363
Oral 101 8.59 1075 91.41 1176
Total 1161 28.2 2953 71.8 4114
e Table18 represents the Italian results according to genre:
Table18. Distribution of ESC and EOC according to text type in Italian
ESC % EOC % To t a l
Press 103 45.37 124 54.62 227
Oral 122 26.40 340 73.59 462
Total 225 464 689
If the distinction is not clearer for the Italian press (represented by La Repubblica),
this may be due to interviews and reports of direct speech, where EOCs would
mimic oral usage and frequencies. Nevertheless, it is to be expected that in talk-
ing about feelings, emotions, likes and dislikes, in short where the speaker oers
subjective evaluations, EOCs would be preferred and that these would correlate
with oral texts, rather than with the printed word. ESC constructions, which cor-
relate with event descriptions and objectivity, are more frequently found in the
detached, descriptive style of the press as would be expected, and this is indeed
what happens in Spanish. Italian, however diers from Spanish in this respect, by
having more EOCs even in the press section. is may be a genuine distinction
between the two Romance languages or it may be the eect of a high amount of
oral interviews in our random sample of Italian texts analyzed.
While percentages may give us a hint about tendencies, only statistical analysis
may conrm the accuracy of conclusions based on raw data. A classication and
© 2016. John Benjamins Publishing Company
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94 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
regression tree33 was tted to the target variables (construction types EOCs and
ESCs) using dierent predictors (see Figure1).
Predictors used in the model were animacy of the stimulus (with two levels:
yes/no), person of the experiencer (with three levels: 1st, 2nd, 3rd), number of the
experiencer (with two levels: sg., pl.), and genre (with 5 levels: novel, press, theater,
essay, oral). e model had a high classication accuracy of 87.9%, compared to
a baseline of 58.9%.
As we surmised, genre is clearly a factor in the choice of construction, where a
clear distinction can be found between oral, on the one hand, and the written word
on the other (subsuming essay, novel, press, and theater). Person and number of
the experiencer are also signicant, as well as animacy of the stimulus. Moreover
some language dierences are also signicant.
4. Discussion
As mentioned above, there is a clear distinction between oral and written texts.
If a text is oral, there is a further highly signicant dierence between singular
and plural experiencers. If the experiencer is plural or is not recoverable from
the context or is just a generic entity, there is a distinction between Italian and
Spanish (node 8). In Italian, if the experiencer is generic or non-recoverable, ESCs
are prevalent; whereas if the experiencer is plural, EOCs are predicted to be a little
over 50%, and ESCs a little more than 40%. In Spanish on the other hand, in either
case EOCs are predominant.
If the experiencer is singular (node 2 > 3) in an oral genre, there is also a dis-
tinction between Italian and Spanish: in Spanish with singular number we nd all
EOCs, whereas in Italian it is all EOCs with rst and second person, whereas we
nd some ESCs with third person singular. is is the same tendency discussed
above (end of Section3.3.1) that nds some of the less empathetic experiencers
(3rd person experiencers) tied to the subject function of ESCs.
In the written language, rst and second person (node 15 > 21) are further
classied by animacy of the stimulus; however, if the experiencer is in the rst
person we nd a majority of EOCs regardless of animacy of the stimulus (node
27, and node 22 > 23), once again establishing the importance of the associa-
tion between ‘private’ verbs, rst person experiencers and EOCs. is conrms
Melis’s conclusions and Mithun’s intuition that “Speakers do not claim to feel what
another individual is feeling” (Mithun, 1991; Melis, 1999: 58, and cf. Section3.1.1
33. Our thanks to Stefan . Gries who ran the statistics for the classication and regression
tree.
© 2016. John Benjamins Publishing Company
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 95
1
GENRE
p < 0.001
oral {essay, novel, press, theater}
{2pl, none}
8
LANG
p < 0.001
ita spa essay {novel, press, theater}
EXP_NUMB
p < 0.001
9
EXP_PERSON
p < 0.001
3third
Node 4 (n = 441)
eoc
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
esc
eocesc
eocesc
eocesc
eocesc
eocesc
eocesc
eocesc
eocesc
eocesc
eocesc
eocesc
eocesc
eocesc
eocesc
Node 6 (n = 161)Node 7 (n = 127) Node 10 (n = 124) Node 11 (n = 50) Node 13 (n = 436) Node 14 (n = 299) Node 18 (n = 156) Node 19 (n = 152)Node 20 (n = 530)Node 23 (n = 967) Node 25 (n = 43) Node 26 (n = 333)Node 28 (n = 333) Node 29 (n = 940)
{1rst, 2second} 2pl none none 2pl 1sg 2pl
novel {essay, theater}
5
EXP_NUMB
p < 0.001
12
EXP_NUMB
p < 0.001
17
2
EXP_NUMB
p < 0.001
15
EXP_PERSON
p < 0.001
16
GENRE
p < 0.001
21
STIM_ANIM
p < 0.001
27
EXP_PERSON
p < 0.001
24
GENRE
p < 0.001
22
EXP_PERSON
p < 0.001
1rst2second
1rst 2second
yn
3third {1rst, 2second}1sg
3
LANG
p < 0.001
spa ita
Figure1. Classication and regression tree showing EOCs and ESCs as dependent variables and several predictors (person, number, animacy
of stimulus) related to the semantic and discourse features of the constructions
© 2016. John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
96 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
above). By contrast, at least in the novel, press, and theater, if the experiencer is in
the third person (node 16 > 20), the construction of choice is ESC.
We can therefore surmise that what characterizes the use of EOCs with the
1st person, then, is not their potential agency, but, as Melis, Mithun and others
pointed out, it is the capability of witnessing his/her own inner mental state, as is
sensed rst-hand by the experiencer him/herself.
Empathy and agentivity function as alternating organizing principles within
processes of feeling in Spanish and Italian. What isolates the speaker vis à vis other
persons is his/her unique ability to perceive his/her mental state as a private and
non-transferable experience. In fact, mental activity verbs have been referred to
as ‘private verbs’ because ‘they refer to activities available for perception by the
speaker only” (Weber & Bentivoglio, 1991: 194, citing Palmer, 1965: 95.).
e fundamental dierence between the rst and other persons – in Melis’s
words – is that ‘the speaker knows what he is feeling, but since he cannot avail
himself of evidence as to what third parties feel, he chooses to represent them as
not aected.34 (Melis, 1999: 58). e tendency to codify third persons as subjects
in ESCs can be explained because their emotional states are not directly accessible
to the speaker and therefore this is less amenable to empathy and to the under-
standing of others as aected experimenters.35
On the other hand, the relative activity of the subject experiencer contributes
to his/her visibility, and as a consequence, makes it easier to infer his/her feelings
and other mental states. e speaker can have – indirect – access to the inner cog-
nitive state of a 3rd person on the basis of his/her public behavior.
Östen Dahl (2000: 48) proposes a semantic scale “private-public” or “internal-
external”36 that can be applied to the constructions examined here: the propensity
of the object experiencers to be in 1st person would be related to the ‘private’
content conventionally associated to EOCs; and the likely tendency of subject
34. El hablante sabe lo que él siente, pero al no disponer de la misma evidencia respecto a
terceros opta por representarlos como no afectados.
35. e correlation between mental processes and persons in discourse can manifest itself also
in combinatorial restrictions. In Japanese, for instance, certain predicates indicating direct expe-
rience’ such as ‘to be cold’, ‘to feel lonely’ in the so-called reportive style can only be used in state-
ments with a rst person experiencer subject and in questions with a second person experiencer
(cf. Kuroda, 1973; Tenny, 2006).
36. at is, the propensity of a predicate to occur with egophoric subjects [and we would add
“or objects”] depends primarily on the extent to which a judgment of the truth or falsity of the
proposition in question involves private knowledge, i.e. knowledge that is directly accessible to
one individual only.” (Dahl, 2000: 48).
© 2016. John Benjamins Publishing Company
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Chapter4. Constructions with subject vs. object experiencers in Spanish and Italian 97
experiencers to refer to 3rd person would be triggered by the more ‘public’ or vis-
ible character of the states conceptualized by means of ESC clauses.
e dierences across genres highlight the importance of taking into account
all the factors producing variation in linguistic usage. Cumulative data from a
broad spectrum of sources oen obscure the impact of context-dependent param-
eters on the frequency of use of linguistic constructions (text type is just a broad
factor among others). It is therefore generally advisable to undertake a more ne-
grained analysis of linguistic phenomena. is, in turn, leads to methodological
consequences in the design of corpora that aim at being representative of language
use as a whole, and of techniques to tag and query corpora in order to establish a
better picture of discourse-inuenced linguistic phenomena.
5. Conclusions
Our paper explored the importance that semantic and discourse-related factors
have on syntax by analyzing what features may inuence the speakers’ choice of
EOC or ESC constructions. We have stressed the importance of analyzing the fre-
quency and distribution of grammatical properties with naturally occurring data
pertaining to actual usage, to question the usefulness of categories provided by
traditional grammar (as seen for instance in the syncretism of the direct and indi-
rect objects in actual usage). In formal approaches, in fact, the argument structure
of the clause has generally been studied by analyzing contextless strings that, in
many cases, were created adhoc by the researcher to illustrate theoretical struc-
tural possibilities.
Our ndings support the fundamental principle of CxG that grammatical
constructions are non-componential, complex symbolic units pairing form and
meaning. e study pays particular attention to the discourse level, conceived of as
a core part of the construction intimately intertwined with the syntactic form and
the semantic structure of the clause. us, our paper broadens the range of syntac-
tic constructions studied by means of a usage-based functional analysis. Moreover,
by analyzing constructions in Spanish and Italian, it contributes to balance the
strong focus of the CxG literature on typical English constructions (ditransitive,
resultative, caused-motion constructions, cf. Goldberg, 1995, 2006; Sag, 2012).
We h a v e s h o wn t h e u s e f u l ne s s of s tu d y i n g t h e f r e q u en c y of s y nt a c t i c a n d se m a n -
tic features to gain insight into the communicative function of these constructions.
With verbs of feeling, for instance, it is expected that speakers have a tendency to
talk about themselves rather than about a third party, and for the same reasons there
are fewer examples of third persons: speakers do not feel entitled to talk about the
feelings or impressions of others, since they usually have no access to them.
© 2016. John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
98 Victoria Vázquez Rozas and Viola G. Miglio
In turn the high frequency of the 1st person in EOC constructions has a
modal eect similar to that described in Melis and Flores (2007), whereas the 3rd
person of ESC is associated to the representation of events, which inuences the
distribution of the constructions according to genre.
We have also shown, in fact, that text type is a crucial factor behind the varia-
tion in the distribution and frequency of the constructions examined: there is
clearly an association between genre and verb class, such as spoken discourse
and mental processes. However, other variation parameters are also relevant to
understand the use of the construction (clausal vs. NP stimuli, for instance), and
more ne-grained accounts should be undertaken to avoid an overgeneralization
on the basis of obtained results.
For a compelling analysis of a phenomenon, it is necessary therefore to research
both its quantitative and qualitative aspects, which are complementary facets of
the same issue. Contextualization is clearly necessary for a qualitative analysis, and
corpora are indispensable for a quantitative analysis.
As for future developments, our paper points to various avenues worth explor-
ing, for instance expanding the Italian data analyzed. e validity of our proposal, on
the other hand, i.e. that the ESC/EOC “alternation” is triggered by discourse func-
tion, would make it interesting to ascertain whether it can be applied to the whole
distribution of ESCs and EOCs (not just limited to the verb class of feelings as in this
paper). Our analysis, moreover, points to similarities, but also to subtle dierences
between the two Romance languages analyzed, and raises the need for extending
parallel empirical research to other languages with the ESC/EOC alternation.
Finally, the results of a discourse and usage-based analysis such as this one
may well enable us to achieve a better understanding of the evolution of these
constructions, another aspect of this phenomenon that needs to be investigated.
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... We chose to analyze verbs of emotion (psych verbs) and related constructions for this study, which are common and productive in Spanish (Vázquez Rozas 2006;Vázquez and Miglio 2016). Our overarching research questions were as follows: ...
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