We consider agent-denoting nominalizations like the finder of the wallet, contrasting them with the better-studied action/event-denoting nominalizations. We show that in English, Sakha, and Mapudungun, agent-denoting nominalizations can have none of the verbal/clausal features that event-denoting nominalizations often have: they cannot contain adverbs, voice markers, aspect, or negation. The one apparent exception to this generalization is that (only) Sakha allows accusative-case objects in agentive nominalizations, but we show that this is due to Sakha's special rule of accusative case assignment, not to a difference in the structure. We explain these restrictions by saying that agentive nominalizers have a semantics like that of a Voice head (Kratzer 1996). Given this, the natural order of semantic composition implies that agentive nominalizers, like Voice, must combine directly with a bare VP. We conclude by presenting the results of a seventy-eight-language survey, confirming that human languages in general avoid clause-like syntax inside agentive nominalizations, although it is permitted in reduced relative clauses, which may look superficially similar.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 517-556
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.