Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Linguistics Program

Committee Chair

Irene Appelbaum

Commitee Members

Leora Bar-el, Tully Thibeau


affectedness, agentivity, animacy, causative, ergative, eventive, implied agent, inchoative, reflexive, stative and thematic relations.


University of Montana


The focus of this thesis is the ergative behavior of the verb get in the passive construction in English, e.g., 'Mary got paid'. I argue that get in the passive shows the properties of ergative verbs, such as break and open, and that it is therefore best analyzed as an ergative verb in this construction. Ergatives are transitive, non-stative verbs that have intransitive properties because they have only one internal argument to which they assign a theta role. They are interesting in the sense that, unlike other verbs in English, they retain their “active” morphology when their grammatical subject position is occupied by their internal argument. I argue that get, like ergative verbs, has the same morphological form when used as a transitive verb as when used as an intransitive. In the passive construction, get only assigns one internal theta role to the Small Clause complement following it; it does not assign accusative Case to the noun phrase of the Small Clause, according to Haegeman (1985). According to Burzio’s Generalization, these are the characteristics of ergative verbs. In my synchronic analysis, I show that the semantic properties of get-passive support the argument that get in this construction is an ergative verb. Haegeman (1985) provides additional evidence for my claim by presenting a syntactic analysis of the ergative behavior of get in the passive construction.

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