Re: EN of the personal agent

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Sat Oct 09 1999 - 14:13:21 EDT

What by the way is the distinction between an agent and an instrument?
Off the top of my head I would say that an agent must be animate whereas
an instrument can be inanimate. Someone else can perhaps improve on

In my mind the distinction between agent/instrument has nothing what so
ever to do with the EN + Dative. What Wallace and those like him are
observing is that there seems to be a disproportionate distribution of
EN + Dative constructions in relation to semantic features
agent/instrument. This disproportionate distribution is perhaps
intriguing but I don't think it tells us a blessed thing about the

I would drastically discount any sort of argument which hinged on the
"observation" that a given EN + Dative construction was instrumental as
opposed to agentive. There is IMHO a fundamental flaw in this kind of
argument. The flaw being that EN + Dative does not possess the qualities
agent/instrument. EN + Dative just limits the range of semantic
possibilities and those semantic possibilities are realized by the
higher level constituents like clauses and paragraphs.

I know this is an old topic but I keep hearing this mystical talk as if the
 EN + Dative meant this or that and it gets me going again.

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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