Throughout this book is was assumed that verb phrases describe events such as hitting a ball, laughing, playing chess, and so forth, and that the universal inventory of functional heads makes available an element which can be used to add the individual doing the hitting, laughing, or chess playing to the event description. This view contrasts with that in which the hitter, the laugher, and the chess player are part of the semantics of the verbs hit, laugh, and play, and no additional head is needed to introduce the external argument. The claim that the hitter is not part of the semantics of hit, while the object of hitting is, seems surprising, even counterintuitive, but it has nevertheless become a standard assumption in current Chomskyan syntax. This chapter reviews some of the existing empirical evidence for this claim, and then shows that the properties of applicatives discussed in this book also force us to assume that the external argument is indeed not an argument of the verb.
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