Dutch impersonal passives: Beyond volition and atelicity

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Dutch impersonal passives are often considered to be only compatible with atelic volitional verbs, such as werken ‘work’, lachen ‘laugh’, and zwemmen ‘swim’. Two recent corpus studies, however, argue that a wider range of verbs is compatible with the construction, presenting examples of attested impersonal passives with telic and non-volitional verbs. This paper lends further support to this view, by providing an exploratory study of the frequencies of different intransitive verbs appearing in the construction, as well as a discussion of the telicity of attested impersonal passives with vallen ‘fall’ and sterven ‘die’. The paper concludes that also with these telic non-volitional verbs, the impersonal passive merely conveys the occurrence of the type of act described by the verb, without specifying whether this occurrence is constituted by a single or multiple events, or whether it involves one or more participants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
JournalLinguistics in the Netherlands
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • unaccusativity
  • attested examples
  • Dutch
  • impersonal passive
  • telicity
  • volitionality

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