A Semantic Explanation for the External Argument Generalization

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4 Scopus citations


-Er nominals usually obey the External Argument Generalization: the argument of the nominal receives the thematic role that the verb assigns to its external argument. I argue that this syntactic generalization, as well as the exceptions to it, can be explained by semantics. Specifically, -er nominals usually express properties that are inherent in the subject; I argue that they therefore belong to the class of expressions that express such properties—dynamic modals. Crucially, dynamic modals are subject oriented; hence, the proposal that -er nominals are dynamic modals naturally provides an account of the External Argument Generalization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-103
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • -Er nominals
  • Dynamic modals
  • External argument generalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics


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