Eventive versus stative causation: the case of German causal von -modifiers

Linguistics and Philosophy 40 (3):279-320 (2017)
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Causation is generally conceived of as a relation that holds between events. Apart from a few cursory remarks, the case of stative causation has been widely neglected. The paper aims at contributing to a more balanced perspective by arguing for a stative variant of causation, on a par with eventive causation. The stative variant is analyzed in terms of Moltmann’s ontological notion of tropes. German causal von-modifiers are taken as a linguistic window into our understanding of causation. The study of von is particularly suited to this endeavor, because von-modifiers are confined to expressing the core notion of “direct causation” :1–48, 2003). The paper develops a compositional semantics of causal von-modifiers that derives their eventive and stative readings from a single lexical entry and allows for coercive adaptions to account for the observed range of interpretive adjustments. Characteristic features of the interpretation such as the inferential behavior of causal von-modifiers and the holistic effect of the stative reading are traced back to independently motivated conceptual assumptions concerning the spatiotemporal grounding of direct causation. The formal analysis is couched in terms of Asher’s type composition logic.



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