Skip to main content

Hazel Mitchley passes her dissertation defense

A hearty congratulations to Hazel Mitchley, who successfully defended her dissertation on Jan. 23!

Here are the details of her dissertation:


Title: The Introduction and Thematic Licensing of the External Argument

Committee: Ken Safir (chair), Mark Baker, Troy Messick, Heidi Harley (external member, U Arizona)


A variety of linguistic functions are often attributed to Voice: it has been credited with introducing the θ-role for the external argument (‘θ-licensing’ the external argument), merging the external argument in its specifier, delimiting a phase boundary and checking accusative case on the internal argument. However, a close examination of a wide variety of constructions across different languages reveals that the θ-licensing of the external argument does not seem to go hand-in-hand with the other three functions attributed to Voice. This dissertation therefore argues for the bifurcation of VoiceP into two distinct projections. The lower one, which I call the θ-Licensing Phrase (LP) is responsible for θ-licensing the external argument – i.e. it introduces a lambda bound variable associated with a θ-role. The higher projection, VoiceP, is where this variable is then either lexically saturated (a DP merges in the specifier of active VoiceP) or existentially bound (by the passive Voice head).

As a starting point for this argument, I introduce data from transitivization, and show that the transitivizing head cannot be a realization of Voice, not under a Kratzerian view, where Active and Passive Voice are different versions of Voice, nor under a Voice-layering analysis of Voice, à la Alexiadou et al. (2015), where Active Voice retains all of the functions traditionally attributed to it, but instead of alternating with Passive Voice, is selected by a Passive head when the verb is passivized. I also show that the transitivizing head is not v or Cause, and therefore conclude that it must be the realization of a distinct head which is responsible for thematically introducing the external argument. Finally, drawing on data from productive causatives, I argue that phasehood does not come concomitant with the θ-licensing the external argument, and that delimiting a phase boundary should remain the purview of a higher head.


🎉Congratulations, Dr. Mitchley! 🎉