One prevalent assumption in the literature on nominalization is that the interpretation of external arguments in the prenominal position is governed by encyclopedic knowledge (see Marantz 1997, Harley and Noyer 2000). Thus, in the enemy’s destruction of the city, “the possessor can be interpreted as an agent/causer, based on our encyclopaedic knowledge about destroy” (Alexiadou, Anagnostopoulou, and Schäfer 2009:46). Since the possessive position (Spec,DP) is compatible with a range of semantic roles, it also supports the PATIENT interpretation of the internal argument, when it appears prenominally, as in the city’sdestruction.

If the interpretation of the prenominal possessive is restricted by our knowledge about the world, then it is a puzzle why the prenominal argument of destruction in (1) must be a patient, while the prenominal argument of invasion in (2) can be either an agent or a patient. The...