Causation, obligation, and argument structure: On the nature of little v

Raffaella Folli, Heidi Harley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


As shown by Kayne (1975), Romance causatives with faire fall into two classes, faire infinitif (FI) and faire par (FP). We argue from Italian data that the properties of the two classes depend on the nature of the complement of fare: FI embeds a vP, FP a nominalized VP. The syntactic and semantic characteristics of these complements account straightforwardly for well-known differences between FI and FP, including the previously untreated "obligation" requirement in FI, absent in FP. Our analysis also accounts for another subtle restriction on the formation of FP: the existence of an animacy requirement on the subject of fare, absent in FI. Finally, we argue that only FP can undergo passivization; this accounts for a previously unobserved asymmetry inpassivizability of causatives of unergative and unaccusative intransitive verbs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-238
Number of pages42
JournalLinguistic Inquiry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Agent
  • Case
  • Causative
  • Italian
  • Passive
  • Unaccusative
  • Unergative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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