Ambitransitive verb

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An ambitransitive verb is a verb which can be used either as a transitive verb or intransitive verb without any morphological marking of its valence alternation.

Semantic groups

The main semantic groups of verbs which tend to be labile cross-linguistically are:

1. motion verbs
2. destruction verbs
3. phasal verbs (Bulgarian zapochvam 'begin')
4. sound emission verbs (Russian igrat' 'play', Bulgarian svirja 'play', German spielen 'play', French sonner 'sound, play')

Examples

English:

1) Malcolm is reading a book. (read is transitive)
2) Malcolm is reading. (read is intransitive)

Subtypes

S/A aligned ambitransitive verbs

German:

3) Inge liest ein Buch. || (transitive lesen has A and P)
 ‘Inge is reading a book.’ 
4) Inge liest || (intransitive lesen has an agent-like S)
‘Inge is reading.’ ||
5) *Ein Buch liest. || (intransitive lesen cannot take a patient-like S)
 *‘A book is reading.’ ||

S/P aligned ambitransitive verbs

English:

6) Carl opens the door. (transitive open has A and P)
7) The door opens. (intransitive open has a patient-like S)
8) Carl opens. (intransitive open cannot have an agent-like' S)

Unaligned ambitransitive verbs

German:

9) Dietlind kocht eine Suppe. || (transitive kochen has A and P)
‘Dietlind is cooking a soup.’ ||
10) Dietlind kocht. || (intransitive kochen can have an agent-like S)
‘Dietlind is cooking (something).’ ||
11) Die Suppe kocht. || (intransitive kochen can have a patient-like S)
‘The soup is being cooked (by somebody).’ ||