Periphrastic causatives

Causative constructions (CC) describe a situation involving two events: (1) the causing event, in which the causer does or initiates something; and (2) the caused event, in which the causee carries out an action, or undergoes a change of condition or state as a result of the causer’s action. Causation can be expressed one of three ways: lexically[1], morphologically, or syntactically (also known as analytically or periphrastically). This parameter considers only periphrastic strategies for expressing causation.

Periphrastic causatives (also known as analytic or syntactic) fulfill the following three criteria:

1. The predicates referring to the causing event and caused event [as well as their predicates] each appear in a separate clause.

2. The noun phrase and predicate of the causing event appear in a higher grammatical position than the caused event. This may be expressed in either or both of the following ways: (1) the agent of the causing event appears as the grammatical subject of the sentence[2]; (2) the clause referring to the caused event is marked as subordinate, in some cases (languages) with the verb appearing in some languages in a nonfinite form or as a finite verb in the tense, aspect, or mood triggered by its subordinate position.[3]

3. The predicate used to express the causative function fulfills no other semantic purpose in the sentence.[4]


NoPfrCC: The language does not have non-periphrastic causatives.[5]

RarePfrCC: Although the dominant strategy for expressing causatives is non-periphrastic, the rare periphrastic causative can also be found.[6]

SeqPfrCC: Causatives are expressed through the juxtaposition of the clauses expressing the causing event and caused event, with no explicit grammatical marker of the causative function. This type is known as a sequential causative construction.[7]

IntPfrCC: Causatives are expressed through the use of a nonfinite verb form, special verbal mood, and either a verbal case affix or a special particle in the clause expressing the caused event. This type is known as an intentional causative construction.

When a language displays more than one type, multiple values can be listed. If one type is dominant, a slash (/) can separate the two values, with the dominant value appearing first; if neither is dominant, they are listed with an ampersand (&) separating the two. The use of parentheses indicates that the strategy is not obligatory.


[1] Lexical causatives are those words that simultaneously express the causing event and caused event, such as kill (‘cause to die’) and push (‘cause to move’). In some cases, causative and non-causative verb pairs may differ only in terms of internal flexion or other phonological contrast (for example, English  fall fell). However, these contrasts are generally not systematic. All languages use lexical causatives in addition to relying on either morphological or periphrastic strategies to form new causatives. For this reason, only morphological and periphrastic strategies are worth considering for typological classification.

[2] In non-nominative languages, in whatever grammatical shape or position in which the agent of a transitive verb usually appears.

[3] Causative constructions should not be confused with reason clauses (‘..., because...’), in which the caused event appears in the main clause and the causing event in the subordinate clause. Causative constructions are also distinct from reason adverbials, such as I was late because of my wife. In the latter type of construction, the causative function does not appear in a separate predicate.

[4] Main-clause verbs such as demand, instruct, and convince, for example, fail to meet this criterion, because their meaning extends beyond causation.

[5] If this value applies, the value NoNonpfrCC cannot apply for the parameter Non-periphrastic causatives, nor NoMorphCC for Morphological causatives.

[6] If this value applies, the value NoMorphCC cannot apply for the parameter Morphological causatives.

[7] In this type, neither clause is marked for causation. For example, both may display the syntactic structure agent + verb (“he did (and) I left” = “he made me go”). These structures may or may not use a conjunction to join these two sentences; this has no significance from a typological perspective.