Cross-linguistic Similarities and Differences in Causative Constructions


Language is learned on the basis of input and general cognitive mechanisms. We present a study on causative constructions in English, Korean and Portuguese. Causative constructions vary cross-linguistically, but we show that there is a possibility of some cross-linguistic generalizations among causative constructions in the three languages. We also point out some of the idiosyncratic constructions in each language, for example, the caused-motion construction in English. First, we divide causative constructions into three types: causation by command, causation by direct physical action and causation of emotion. Second, we group them into lexical, morphological and syntactic causation structures in terms of form-meaning pairings. Lastly, we examine the similarities and differences of the three languages focusing on their cognitive and psychological properties using a prototype model. We believe that this study will contribute to the understanding of the problems of common misuses of the causative constructions by children learning native languages as well as by adults learning foreign languages.

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