Identifying Participation of Individual Verbs or VerbNet Classes in the Causative Alternation

  • Esther Seyffarth (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)


Verbs that participate in diathesis alternations have different semantics in their different syntactic environments, which need to be distinguished in order to process these verbs and their contexts correctly. We design and implement 8 approaches to the automatic identification of the causative alternation in English (3 based on VerbNet classes, 5 based on individual verbs). For verbs in this alternation, the semantic roles that contribute to the meaning of the verb can be associated with different syntactic slots. Our most successful approaches use distributional vectors and achieve an F1 score of up to 79% on a balanced test set. We also apply our approaches to the distinction between the causative alternation and the unexpressed object alternation. Our best system for this is based on syntactic information, with an F1 score of 75% on a balanced test set.

Keywords: causative alternation, verb alternation, diathesis alternation, syntax-semantics interface, automatic verb classification, English verbs

How to Cite:

Seyffarth, E., (2019) “Identifying Participation of Individual Verbs or VerbNet Classes in the Causative Alternation”, Society for Computation in Linguistics 2(1), 146-155. doi:

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Published on
01 Jan 2019