Decausatives in Polish: a non-reflexive analysis Introduction



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Decausatives in Polish: A non-reflexive analysis

  1. Introduction

Valency rearrangements constitute possibly the most fascinating problem in the grey area of uncertainty between morphology and syntax. One of the key operations in valency rearrangement is the formation of mono-argumental predicates from phonologically corresponding/identical bi-argumental predicates. A phenomenon of this kind has been recently revisited and reanalyzed by Junghanns Uwe, Dorothee Fermann, Denisa Lenertová (2011)1. They have taken up what they call decausatives, which in other approaches are frequently referred to as middles or anticausatives or ergatives. Generally speaking these verbs are participants in paired oppositions, where one member is a bi-argumental verb and signifies broadly understood causation of some change of state specified by a monoargumental verb - the other member of the opposition. The bi-argumental and mono-argumental verbs are morphologically related, though not necessarily identical. The relationship between such expressions is mostly seen as grammatical, derivational in nature, though some sources present it as seriously pragmatically or contextually biased2. The relation may also be conceived of as non-derivational in the sense that none of the verbs is seen as primary: the lexicon lists the common root, which, given a variety of structures in which it can be situated, alternates in different ways3.

The analyses of this body of data vary immensely, even if we consider only the grammatical derivation over the pragmatic viewpoint. The verbal forms may be seen as formed in the lexicon4 or syntax5 or both (the choice may be language specific too6). Since in most recent generative studies no sharp distinction is drawn between morphology and syntax, the main issues cluster around the treatment of such verbs as cases of passivization7- where losing an external argument from a structure can be seen as passive formation, reflexivization8, i.e. identification of the two roles of the bi-argumental verb, or as decausativization , i.e. eradication of the externally assigned thematic role, while the internal role takes up its place, or remains in situ9. Alternately, some mono-argumentals are seen as reflexives and some are not10. There are also proposals to treat anticausatives (mono-argumentals) as primary and to derive causatives from them – in order to avoid deleting thematic information from lexical entries11. Hardly any class of morphologically complex items has attracted so much attention with so little final agreement as to the results, perhaps with the exception of causative verbs in generative semantics, so it may be not a coincidence that anticausatives are such a sensitive area of research.

Consequently, to undertake an analysis of decausatives (unaccusatives, middles, anticausatives, ergatives – to name but a few labels) seems a risky task, still we would like to revisit these verbs in Polish.


  1. Junghanns Uwe, Dorothee Fermann, Denisa Lenertová’s (2011) reflexive analysis

Since the amount of the relevant literature is overpowering, as a point of reference we will take up the most recent account of Slavic decausatives offered by JFL (2011), one reason being that it is based on broad and recent literature, the second that it directly tallies with another very recent account by Koontz-Gaboden (2009) and grafts the same spirit on various Slavic languages. Consequently, JFL’s (2011) account has much more general aspirations than the one we will present here. We will claim that decausativization in Polish is different than decausativizations in Slavic discussed by JFL (2011), as it has significantly different features of verbal behavior. We will try to show that, presented against a broader outlook on the specific morphology of one language, decausativization may appear different than if taken to be one of the many narrow subsystems within general Slavic studies. Our analysis does not undermine the findings of JFL (2011), but it might show that Polish is on a different level of development than other Slavic languages12.

The analysis such as JFL’s (2011), treating decausatives as reflexive in Polish, would be very appealing if they could show that: 1. Some phenomena support the external role status13 of the only role that gets preserved in decausatives. 2. The verbs with reflexive morphological marking exclusively show unaccusative semantics – i.e. going into, or attaining a state. 3. As Theme undergoing a change is to result from the reflexive derivation (role identification), it has to be shown that in Polish no obligatorily agentive verbs can derive decausatives. We shall show that none of the above obtain for Polish. We will begin our discussion with point 1. – as it will allow us to introduce the decausative data itself, then move to point 2., which requires a more extensive presentation of the Polish verbal system. Point 3., equally important, but concerning a very limited body of data, will be discussed at the end. The paper will terminate with an outline of our alternative (non-reflexive) analysis.

At the outset we will present the rudiments of JFL’s (2011) research, as it is a very recent proposal. They begin by drawing a distinction between decausatives and reflexive passives, while claiming that decausatives are formed through the reflexivization process whenever the external argument of the verb can carry typical nonagentive roles. Passives appear when the role is agentive and can be represented as the instrumental phrase (JFL 2011) :


  1. Dver’ zakrylas’/zakryvalas’ ot poryva vetra – decausative in Russian ‘The door closed due to wind’

  2. Dver’ zakryvalas’ slugoj – reflexive passive in Russian ‘The door was closed by a servant’

JFL (2011) make a note that in Polish reflexive passives do not exist nowadays. They discuss availability of ‘by phrases’ (realized as instrumentals in Slavic languages) and find them available only in some languages.

More importantly for the decausative body of data, they claim that the subject anaphor binding functions with decausatives, even if ‘by phrases’ are not available with them. They take it as evidence for the precence of external arguments in reflexive decausative constructions, since such arguments bind the said anaphors. Given that external roles are present with decausatives and yet decausative constructions have the semantics where the only visible argument takes up the role of the undergoer of the action, JFL (2011) reason that this discrepancy can be resolved if decausatives are reflexives, with external and internal arguments identified with each other. The additional condition states that the external argument is not agentive (with agents we get reflexive passives14 or true reflexives). Their solution very ingeniously explains away curious fact about decausatives: they have subjects ( external roles?) with all semantic properties of internal arguments (Themes). JFL (2011) do not want to accept the possibility that it is the internal role that becomes externalized as such a solution would fail to explain why the unassigned external role cannot appear in a ‘by phrase’, nor why certain verbs with external agents cannot undergo the derivation. In their system the latter phenomenon is explained in such a way that for reflexivization to take place the identified roles have to match up to a point and the roles of agents and undergoers are not compatible. To sum up, the solution depends on the viability of two claims: subject anaphors can appear with decausatives, but not with other unaccusatives as those do not have to be derived by reflexivization operation and may function differently, and agentive verbs derive no decausatives. Below we will show that for Polish none of these claims can be defended.



  1. Decausatives do not preserve any form of an external argument

In this section we will argue against claims that the sole argument preserved with decausatives is external. The material we will cover includes structures with ‘by itself’ anaphor, structures with the Genitive case, scrambling, scope of negation and arguments coming from Information Structure.

3.1. ‘by itself’ anaphor with decausatives

First we will take up the matter of subject anaphors with decausatives. In Polish their presence cannot be quoted in favor of treating the argument accompanying decausatives as external, though identified with the internal one through reflexivization: the same subject anaphors appear with unaccusatives with no reflexive morphology, or indeed with other intransitives and transitives. In other words, it seems that the presence of the subject anaphor in Polish signals no distinctions of the interesting kind among verbs: the very same anaphoric phrases resume arguments of alternating, but non-reflexive decausatives in Polish and also of underived unaccusatives.

JFL (2011), after Jabłońska (2007:154), claim that the data concerning the anaphor distribution with decausatives and unaccusatives without reflexive marking contrast in Polish. We argue that the analysis is based on misrepresented Polish data; namely we believe that Jabłońska’s judgements are faulty, and we support our linguistic intuition with utterances taken from the National Corpus of the Polish Language, so that the data are not biased towards our pre-conceptions and can be independently verified. At the same time, we have to admit that the relevant material is scanty since the ‘by itself’ anaphor – sam, sama, samo, sami, same 15- is used for a reason and such a need with the verbs that primarily stress the result of the causation does not arise frequently. First, however, let us quote Jabłońska’s data.

Jabłońska (2007:154) maintains that in Polish the intransitive forms with the reflexive clitic się16 admit the anaphor, while the forms without się, i.e. true unaccusatives, do not. Were it a fact, it would speak very strongly in favor of treating decausatives as reflexives with the external role present, as the anaphors (Chierchia 1989/2004:42) must be bound by an external agent or causer and the anaphor’s antecedent ‘…must be construed as the sole cause of the event under consideration’ :


  1. Marta sama sie utopiła

Marta.NOM.f. alone.f refl drown.PST.3sg.f

‘Marta drowned by herself (without any external cause)’



  1. *Marta sama utonęła

Marta.NOM.f. alone.f drown.PST.3sg.f

‘*Marta drowned by herself’



  1. Trawa sama się zazieleniła

Grass.NOM.f alone.f refl Get.green.PST.3sg.f

‘The grass got green by itself’



  1. ???Trawa sama zzieleniała

grass.NOM.f alone.f get.green green.PST.3sg.f

intended: ‘The grass got green by itself.’ (Jabłońska 2007:154)


JFL (2011) give analogical examples, though with such predicates which do not present additional problems, as is the case with e.g. zzieleniała above: we would like to stress the fact that (6) sounds much better (we believe – perfect), if a different prefix is added: Trawa sama pozieleniała. This may suggest and Jabłońska perceives the difference in ‘goodness’ between (4) and (6), that there are prefixation phenomena involved, additionally interfering with the grammaticality judgements. Perhaps not all prefixes ‘tolerate’ unaccusative structures equally well17.

If we refer to the corpora available for the Polish language, we find unaccusatives with the anaphors (7-13 below), just like we find reflexive decausatives with them (14-18). For the purposes of this text we have used NKJ:.



  1. ponieważ choroba z czasem sama wygaśnie18 19 ‘… as the illness will with time recede by itself’(NKJP)

  2. Człowiek włącza się bowiem w historię przez swoje działania, w których i przez które wpływa na kształt otaczającego go świata i w których sam dojrzewa do pełni swojego wieku. ‘Man joins history through his action, in which and through which he influences the surrounding World, and in which he, by himself, matures to the fruition of his age.’ (NKJP)

  3. Wydaje mi się, że sama popadam w szleństwo20 ‘I believe that I, by myself, am going crazy’(NKJP)

  4. odeszła żona, a on sam zdziwaczał ‘…the wife has left and he grew weird by himself’(NKJP)

  5. W dzieciństwie uratował mu życie, sam przy tym ginąc ‘In childhood he saved his life, himself dying’ (NKJP) Chce abym ja sam zginął! He wants me to get killed’ (NKJP)

  6. Jak potem wybielisz ten tynk, powiesisz obrazek w starej ramce, to sam oszalejesz z zachwytu ‘When you whiten the plaster, put up the picture in an old frame, then you will go crazy by yourself’(NKJP)

  7. Pamiętał dobrze, jak powstawały domy handlowe Zenit I Skarbek, może dlatego, że sam wtedy dorastał ‘He remembed well how the supermarkets Zenith and Skarbek came into being, perhaps because he was growing up by himself’(NKJP), etc.

The same pattern is available with się decausatives:

  1. Sama grzła się ciepłem jego wspomnień ‘She, by herself, grew warm with the warmth of his memories ‘(NKJP)

  2. ale i sam bez wahania jej się poświęcił ‘but so he, by himself, devoted himself to her’ (NKJP)

  3. Sam zaś zadowolił się urzędem ministra ‘He was satisfied by himself with the minister’s post’(NKJP)

  4. A zresztą sam się przekonasz ‘And then you will get convinced by yourself’(NKJP)

  5. Po chwili sam się poprawił ‘After a while he corrected himself’(NKJP)

To sum up, the anaphor, which was to tell us that much about the nature of decausatives, freely appears with non-reflexive unaccusatives, decausatives, and also with other types of intransitive verbs, as the examples below summarise:

  1. Drzwi zamykają się same (decausative) ‘The door closes by/of itself’ vs. Uczeń zamyka drzwi ‘A pupil closes the door’ vs. Wiatr zamyka drzwi ‘The wind closes the door’

  2. Rany zarastają same (non-reflexive unaccusative, non agentive causer possible) ‘Wounds close by themselves’ *Lekarz zarasta rany ‘A doctor closes wounds’ vs. Tkanka zarasta rany ‘Tissue closes wounds’

  3. Statki toną same (non-reflexive unaccusative, no causer possible in the external argument position – intrincic unaccusatives) ‘Ships sink by themselves’ vs. *Marynarze toną statki ‘Sailors sink ships’ vs. *Fale toną statki ‘Waves sink ships’

  4. To forsa sama wlata w kieszeń (unergative) ‘The money pours into the pocket by itself’ (NKJP)

The evidence so far has shown that, contrary to earlier suggestions, decausatives in Polish do not behave so differently with respect to ‘by itself’ anaphor as to vouch for their special position in the derivational system of Polish, viz. reflexively derived unaccusative/decausative semantics.

    1. Internal arguments with decausatives

Having shown that decausatives do not necessarily manifest the presence of an external argument with them, we would like to argue that the role that accompanies them shows characteristics of being internal, at least at some point in the derivation, and that would additionally undermine the reflexive analysis. This conjecture we would like to support with an analysis of structures with the Genitive case realized on the object, the differences in the scope of negation and scrambling. The analysis will be adopted from Russian after Romanowa (2004) and Potsdam (2011).

      1. Genitive case as an indicator of objecthood

It may be observed that in sentences with negation the object of a sentence, both in Russian and in Polish, appears in the Genitive case, unlike in a positive statement, where it usually takes the Accusative case. The object in unmarked utterances realizes the internal argument of the verb:

  1. Piotr zbierał grzyby ‘Peter.Nom picked up mushrooms.Acc’ vs. Piotr nie zbierał grzybów ‘Peter did not pick up mushrooms.Gen’

Negation does not seem to affect subjects of verbs with external theta roles (unergatives below):

  1. Piotr tańczył ‘Peter.Nom danced’ vs. Piotr nie tańczył ‘Peter.Nom. did not dance’

In Russian unaccusatives appear with negation and the Genitive case, so there is direct evidence that their arguments are internal (Potsdam 2011:349):

  1. Mogło [ne pojavit’sja ni-kak-ix mal’cik-ov v klassie] ‘There could not have apeared any boys in class’

could.NTR not appear.INF.PNF.PFV NEG-kind-GEN.PL boy-GEN.pl in class

Similar sentences in Polish are not readily accepted, although they do not strike us as totally ungrammatical:



  1. ?? Mogło nie pojawić się żadnych chłopców w klasie. ‘There could not have apeared any boys in class’

However, even if these judgements are faulty, we may treat the appearance of the Genitive case itself as a possible sign of the internal nature of the argument, at least at some point in the derivation. Structures with the Genitive case accompanying an unaccusative verb abound in Polish, the fact which we will illustrate below21:

  1. Nasłabło22 ludzi w kościele ‘Grew faint.NEUT people. GEN in church’

  2. Narosło nam kłopotów ‘Accumulated.NEUT to us problems.’

  3. Natonęło statków ‘Sunk. NEUT ships. GEN’

  4. Nazamykało się drzwi Closed.REFL.NEUT

vs.

  1. *Natańczyło (się) ludzi ‘Danced.NEUT people. GEN’ vs. Ludzie natańczyli się ‘People danced a whole lot’

  2. *Naczytało nam książek ‘Read us.Dat książek.Gen’

The examples above have the impersonal form of the predicate, the unaccusatives prefixed with na- and arguments in the Genitive case. Notice the distinction between various unaccusatives (27-30) (decausatives among them - 30) and unergatives (31), which cannot take the Genitive case in such structures. We feel that the data show very convincingly that the role associated with unaccusatives is not the same external role that we find with unergatives (or transitives for that matter, see (32)).The above examples reveal that the Genitive case is assigned to the (logical) subjects of our decausatives, but not to subjects of causative verbs, nor to unergatives. This data, like the distribution of the ‘by itself’ anaphor, argue against decausatives being a result of reflexivization with an external role assigned to the available argument.

Other arguments that Potsdam (2011) uses against covert A-movement of unaccusatival arguments can also be adopted to argue against the external nature of arguments with unaccusatives (decausatives among them). The issue which Podsdam (2011:347) considers is whether the argument in the direct object position in the surface structure moves at LF to the matrix subject position in the Spec of TP. In his paper he argues against such an analysis, as a by-product giving evidence for internal nature of unaccusative arguments. Only some of his tests work for Polish, which turns out to be significantly different from Russian with respect to the behavior of unaccusatives. However, some arguments can be adapted for Polish.



      1. Scope of negation with decausatives

Interesting evidence for the internal nature of arguments accompanying unaccusatives comes from the scope of negation phenomena. Subjects in Polish may interact with the scope of negation in the same clause in such a way that ambiguity may result ambiguity:

  1. Wszyscy ludzie nie tańczą ‘All people do not dance’

This sentence, with an unergative verbal element, so the one possessing an external role, can be interpreted in two ways: either all people do not dance, or not all people dance (Potsdam 2011:353 for Russian) ‘all>neg, neg>all. However, if you consider sentences with our decausatives, then the negation scopes over the internal role: neg>all and no ambiguity arises.

  1. Całe mieso nie rozkłada się ‘The whole meat does not rot’

  2. Wszystkie kwiaty nie więdną ‘All the flowers do not wilt’

  3. Wszystkie gałęzie nie łamią się ‘All the branches do not brake’

Consequently, the role that decausatives (34 above) or other unaccusatives (35-36) possess is not of the same type as the one with unergatives: we claim it is the case of external – internal role differentiation.

      1. Scrambling phenomena

Potsdam (2011) also analyses scrambling phenomena in Russian, which again point in the same direction – no external role with unaccusatives. He (pp. 351-352) states that long distance scrambling is possible in Russian from non-subject positions, and argues that it is also possible with unaccusatives. He stresses that it happens in colloquial Russian. The same reservation holds for Polish:

  1. *Piotr nie chce mi się żeby przyszedł ‘Peter I do not feel like that came.3rd.sg.past’ (unergative)

vs.

  1. Chuliganów nie chce mi się żeby się tu pojawiło mnóstwo ‘Hooligans.Gen I do not feel like that appeared 3rd.pl.past’ (unaccusative)

  2. Gałęzi nie chce mi się żeby się tu nałamało ‘Branches.GEN I do not feel like that broke3rd.pl.past’, etc. (unaccusative)

The fact that all unaccusatives, whether decausative or not, with the reflexive marking or without it, behave uniformly with respect to the above tests shows that decausatives with się are not unique, and that their reflexive derivation is doubtful.

    1. Evidence from Information Structure

The next piece of evidence has been prompted to us by remarks about the topic/focus Information Structure as reflected by external and internal subjects in a sentence. Slioussar (2011) argues that external subjects appear after the verb if they are in narrow focus in Russian. She links this property to the EPP requirement in such a way that external subjects have to undergo the obligatory EPP-driven movement and only then can they, if in narrow focus, be transported to the post-verbal position. Internal subjects, on the other hand, can either behave in the same way or remain in their original underlying position after the verb, irrespective of the Information Structure.23 It follows that if we have a post-verbal subject in a topical (or non-narrow focus ) function in a Russian sentence, it has to represent an internal argument. We have adopted this analysis to the Polish data and found out that in the post verbal position of się verbs we may have subjects as topics, hence they probably represent internal arguments in these sentences. This dovetails with the so-far findings from the area of morphosyntax and syntax of the Polish language, which point in the direction of the unaccusative nature of się verbs. Of course we find also pre-verbal subjects with się verbs, but the preverbal position does not allow us to test anything relevant; here both external and internal subjects can be positioned as topics, and most frequently they are so situated as (Erteschik-Shir 2007:18) ’one of the connections between information structure and syntax that is best known is the propensity for languages to order given, old, or topic information before new or focused information.’ The sentence initial position is a regular subject position in Russian and in Polish, so both types of subjects can appear here as topics. Only internal ones, however, will be frequent as topics post-verbally. This prediction is borne out by the language material from NKJP: we have found numerous cases where the post-verbal positions in sentences with się predicates are occupied by with what seem to be topics, and not foci – wide or narrow. Below we include some such examples: the underlined parts indicate that the following subjects in bold characters are topics, since one of the criteria that allow us to specify that something is a topic in a written text, without phonological clues, is its earlier introduction in some form into the text (see e.g. Erteschik-Shir 2007)24:

  1. Problemy nasilały się, gdy Mateusz zostawał sam z matką. Bożena mogła poczuć się osamotniona w wychowywaniu Mateusza. To ona zajmowała się synem, więc wszelkie porażki przypisywała sobie. Nie rozumiała, skąd wzięły się problemy. ‘Problems grew when Mathew stayed alone with his mother. Bożena may have felt on her own in bringing up Mathew. It was her who took care of her son and all failures she attributed to herself. She could not understand wherefrom the problems appeared.

Notice that in the above fragment the się verbs (highlighted) first follow and then precede the nominative NP problemy. This supports Slioussar’s (2011) analysis of unaccusatives in the light of the Information Structure.

  1. Wiadomo już …, że bezrobocia nie można sprowadzić do zjawiska gospodarczego czy politycznego. To sfera społecznych odniesień moralnych jest tą płaszczyzną, gdzie rodzi się klęska bezrobocia. ‘It is known that unemployment cannot be reduced to an industrial or political phenomenon. It is the sphere of social-moral relations that constitutes this plain where the disaster of unemployment is born.’

  2. Nie można porównywać w tej mierze „Dziadów” z „Faustem”. Goethe chciał napisać tragedię; wśród pracy rozszerzył się temat i zmienił na coś innego, ale w pierwszej części zostały bądź co bądź ślady pierwotnego zamiaru. ‘In this respect you cannot compare ‘Dziady’ with ‘Faustus’. Goethe wanted to write a tragedy: During the working process the subject broadened and turned into something else, but in the first part there still remained traces of the original thought.

  3. Jakie emocje twoje lub dziecka ujawniły się w czasie rozmowy? … Jak zakończyła się rozmowa, co konkretnie ustaliliście? ‘What emotions of yours or of your child surfaced during the talk? How did the talk terminate, what did you establish?

  4. Wojna czasami bywa nieunikniona. Zabiera więcej czasu, ale przynosi ostateczne rozwiązania. – O co pan prosi Boga w modlitwach?O to, żeby wreszcie skończyła się wojna. ‘War is sometimes not to be avoided. It takes more time, but it brings final resolutions. – What do you ask God for in your prayers? – So that the war would finally end.’

  5. Pewne, wydawało się, źródło zaopatrujące afgański rząd w gotówkę, broń i wszystko, co potrzebne do funkcjonowania państwa, zaczęło nagle wysychać. Nadżibullahowi kończyły się pieniądze na opłacanie generałów i możnowładców. ‘The certain, it seemed, source supplying the Afgan government in ready money, arms and everything necessary for the functioning of the country began drying out. Nadżibullah’s money to pay the generals and VIPs began to dwindle.’

  6. Wciąż dochodziło do kłótni, rozpychania się, zajmowania cudzych ziem. Powodem do ulicznej bitwy był choćby skradziony worek cukru. Zaczęły się rozboje i egzekucje. ‘All the time quarrels, pushing out, taking somebody else’s grounds took place. A reason for street fighting could have been a mere stolen sugar sack. There began robbery and executions.’

  7. Nagle tę monotonię przerywał krzyk: Raketi! – i zaraz potem eksplozja. Podnosiła się chmura kurzu i dymu, płonęły sklepiki…Wiatr rozpędzał dym, zapadał dziwny spokój, a po chwili ludzka rzeka znowu wypływała na bazar.Omijała tylko miejsce, gdzie rozerwała się rakieta. ‘Suddenly this monotony was broken by the cry: Rockets! – and then an explosion. A cloud of dust and smoke rose, shops were on fire… Wind chased away the smoke, strange calm prevailed, and in a moment a human river flowed into the bazaar. … It stayed clear only of the place where the rocket exploded.’… Wtedy wyludniały się bazary ‘Then the bazaars grew empty’.

  8. Wszystkie rodziny przechodzą ciężkie chwile, gdy ta różnorodność daje o sobie znać. Wtedy pojawiają się problemy. ‘All families go through difficult moments. Then problems appear.’.

  9. Nieprawdą jest, aby Lwów zajęli, bo choć Wilno, Mińsk i Wschodnią Galicję należy uważać za zagrożone, stoimy linią frontu dalej niż Niemcy przed pokojem brzeskim. Zapewne będziemy jeszcze musieli się cofać, niewątpliwie wojna to groźna, ale wreszcie budzi się Polska z apatii, niskiej pogoni za zyskiem i przyjemnościami. ’It is not true that they have taken Lwów, although Wilno, Mińsk and Eastern Galicja may be considered threatened, we have positioned our front-line further than the Germans before the Brześć peace conference. We may have to withdraw still further, undoubtedly the war is dangerous, but at last Poland wakes up from apathy, low chase of gain and pleasure.’

In the last example, it is the general information rather than any single phrase that supplies the given context for our topic, but such an option also exists (see ftn. 24).

There may arise questions whether it is indeed the Information Structure that conditions the distribution of the nominative phrases in the considered cases. For instance it has been noted that in Polish verbs with się do not appear at the end of a sentence, where się would be in the absolute final position. For instance Ozga (1976) describes the phonology of clitic attachment in Polish and she mentions się as behaving characteristically for this group of morphemes (p.135): ‘’(…) the shift [of the enclitic] is obligatory (or recommended), if the clitic is sentence-final and there are in the sentence pre-verbal elements.’ Ozga bases these observations on Szober (1957). Consequently, we may wonder if the clitic placement related factors may condition the final placement of subjects with się verbs, rather than internal role of these subjects. However, we observe the same (post verbal subjects) tendency with unaccusatives without się, so the clitic placement argument falls through and the similarity between się unaccusatives and those without się is again highlighted. Below we quote some examples of się-less unaccusatives with the post-verbal subjects in the topic function:



  1. Mniej bezrobotnych, jak to na wiosnę... Z najnowszych danych Wojewódzkiego Urzędu Pracy w Rzeszowie wynika, że na Podkarpaciu nieznacznie zmalało bezrobocie. ‘Fewer unemployed, as usual in spring…The recent data of the Employment Office in Rzeszów have it that in Podkarpacie the unemployment decreased a bit.’

  2. Chrześcijanie, którzy przez swe grzechy na nowo krzyżują Chrystusa w swoich duszach, ściągają na świat Twój gniew. –Gaśnie wiara i stygnie miłość wielu…’- Christians, who through their sins anew crucify Christ in their souls, draw your wroth upon the Earth. – faith dwindles and love runs cold.’

  3. ... którego pomieszczenia wyglądają tak, jakby gospodarze przed momentem wyszli na przechadzkę po parku. Na świeżo zmytej posadzce ganku widać mokre smugi, w piecu dopala się drewno, stygnie kawa w filiżance. ‘…whose rooms look as if the hosts a moment earlier went out for a walk in the park. On the freshly washed floor of the threshold you could see wet patches, in the oven wood is slowly burning out, coffee grows cold in a cup.’

  4. Przez lata wspomnienie o mojej rozmowie z papieżem przechowuję jako jeden z największych prywatnych obciachów. Mam zdjęcie zbiorowe z tamtej audiencji. Wszyscy uradowani, w środku jaśnieje papież i tylko ja ponurak, Tristan, zerkam gdzieś w bok. ‘For years the memory of my private talk with the Pope I have stored as one of my greatest private misadventures. I have a group picture from that audience. Everybody happy, in the middle the Pope shines, and only me gloomy, Tristan, looking away.’

  5. Śniegi uczyniły się modre, a później fioletowe. Nie było mrozu, ale noc zapowiadała się pogodna. Z murów zeszli znów ludzie, prócz straży, kruki i wrony odleciały od szubienicy ku lasom. Wreszcie poczerniało niebo i cisza nastała zupełna. "Nie otworzą przed nocą bramy". ‘The snow grew blew, and then violet. There was no frost, but the night promised to be nice. From the walls people went down, apart from the sentry, ravens and crows flew from the scaffold towards the woods. At last the sky grew black and it got all quiet. ‘’They will not open the gate before the night’’.

The above data show once again that się verbs in Polish behave as unaccusatives, and not like reflexives with an external argument present. We have gathered data from the area of morpho-syntax, syntax and Information structure that point this way. Consequently, the reflexive solution, attractive as it is, does not seem to be plausible for Polish.

However, if we found that reflexive forms, it is verbs with się, are the sole source of semantically unaccusative verbs in Polish, it would be still worthwhile to consider the reflexive derivation as a possibility. But on this count the system of Polish fails us as well.


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