‘The Gradeability of Causative Events’: A Combined Corpus-based and Dictionary-based Study of Middle English -isen Simplex Copies

Main Article Content

Susanne Lang


Causativity is one of the most extensively studied operations in linguistics. No matter whether on a morphological, phonological, semantic, or syntactic level, there seems to be nothing that has not already been explored about this notion (cf. Beavers & KoontzGarboden, 2020; Givón, 1975; Kemmer & Verhagen, 1994; Levin & Rappaport Hovav, 1995; Martin & Schäfer, 2014). The current study demonstrates that further insights into causativity and the semantics of English causative verbs can be gained by traveling back in time into the morphological history of Middle English. Causativity and the causativizing properties of verbal affixes are not comprehensively explored concerning previous stages of English (Dalton-Puffer, 1996; van Gelderen, 2018).

This study investigates Middle English -isen simplex copies, which came to English through the language contact situation with Anglo-Norman (Dalton-Puffer, 1996, p. 201). For this purpose, a combined corpus-based and dictionary-based investigation is carried out using three Middle English corpora. The concept of causativity is broken down into its component parts to investigate causative -isen simplex copies with the help of a classification schema that manifests three parameters of causativity. As a result of this investigation, the -isen simplex copies are classified into seven causative subclasses.

In addition, an event semantic analysis based on Piñón (2001a, 2001b) and Pizzolante (2017) allows for identifying fine-grained differences between different types of causative events. In this regard, it is demonstrated that causative events denote not only “varying degrees of causativity” but manifest different degrees of complexity on an event semantic level. This study does not only provide further insights into the extensively explored notion of causativity but must, at the same time, be considered as one of the long-awaited stories about the morphological history of English.

Article Details

How to Cite
Lang, S. (2023). ‘The Gradeability of Causative Events’: A Combined Corpus-based and Dictionary-based Study of Middle English -isen Simplex Copies. Mannheim Papers in Multilingualism, Acquisition and Change, 5, 1–49. https://doi.org/10.25521/mapmac.2023.263
Student Edition