Abstract

An important ongoing discussion in theories of argument structure concerns the explanatory division of labor between thematic properties and event structure. In this context, the English get-passive provides an interesting test case. Much previous work has analyzed get-passives as differing thematically from be-passives. Yet many get-passive properties remain poorly understood. We present an analysis of the get-passive centered on the proposal that it contains additional event structure (realized as get) relative to its be counterpart. We employ by-adjuncts to identify the event structures in passive types, and demonstrate that the behavior of this and other diagnostics support the conclusion that get- and be-passives differ systematically in ways that accord with our analysis. Further discussion considers the prominent proposal from previous studies that get-passives differ thematically from be-passives in (sometimes) assigning an Agent role to their surface subjects. We show that there is no evidence for such an analysis. Instead, intuitions about the interpretation of the get-passive surface subject arise from how an event’s Responsible Party is identified: contrasts between get and be on this dimension are a consequence of event structural differences between the two. The overall result is a unified analysis of the get-passive, one that has implications for the role of event structure in understanding the syntax and interpretation of arguments.

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