Hélène de Penanros

Cause’ in question: about three ways of starving to death in Lithuanian

The phrases mirti bad-u (‘to die hunger-ins.sg’), mirti iš bad-o (‘to die hunger-gen.sg’), mirti nuo bad-o (‘to die nuo hunger-gen.sg’) are generally considered to be synonymous ways to express a cause of death. Still, if the instrumental case, the preposition and the preposition nuo may be interchangeable without a difference of interpretation in this expression out of context, these three syntactic constructions cannot be considered equivalent: precise analysis of the contexts where these constructions occur shows that each construction corresponds to a specific semantic value, which distinguishes it from the other two. In sum, these the syntactic constructions provide three different representations of the event ‘die of hunger’, hence, in some contexts, the substitution of one construction for another is not possible. The analysis of this micro phenomenon will enable us to extend our study to other expressions involving a cause, to propose definitions of the semantics of the instrumental case and of the prepositions and nuo and finally to observe that ‘cause’ is a complex label covering very different situations which arise directly from the forms constructing them.

Keywords: semantics, syntax, morphology, case, preposition, synonymy, cause, instrumental, relator