Article published in:Current trends in analyzing syntactic variation
Edited by Ludovic De Cuypere, Clara Vanderschueren and Gert De Sutter
[Belgian Journal of Linguistics 31] 2017
► pp. 165–194
Scales or features in verb meaning?
Verb classes as predictors of syntactic behavior
Several syntactic properties of verbal heads are accounted for through their semantic properties. Verbal features such as agentivity, volitionality, stativity etc. have been proven a useful tool for predicting several aspects of their syntactic behavior such as passivization, auxiliary selection etc. In the context of the empirical turn in current linguistics, the assumption of discrete features is questioned by studies based on corpora or speakers’ intuitions showing that the diagnostics of semantic features involve gradience. These findings are challenging for grammatical theory: are we justified to assume the existence of discrete verb classes or do the established properties indicate scalar dimensions of meaning? Based on two empirical studies – an acceptability study and a corpus study – the present article examines the role of agentivity in distinguishing verb classes and in predicting the syntactic behavior of verbs in German. Acceptability data show that the diagnostics of agentivity involve gradience, which cannot be reduced to random sources of variation. However, a comparison of scalar vs. categorical models of agentivity based on these diagnostics reveals that the syntactic variation in word order found in written corpus data is best accounted for through a model that assumes a binary division into a ±agentive and a non-agentive verb class.
Published online: 23 April 2018
Belletti, Adriana, and Luigi Rizzi
Bornkessel, Ina, Stefan Zysset, Angela D. Friederici, D. Yves von Cramon, and Matthias Schlewewsky
2015 “Gespaltene Stimulus-Argumente bei Psych-Verben. Quantitative Verteilungsdaten als Indikator für die Dynamik sprachlichen Wissens über Argumentstrukturen.” In Argumentstruktur – Valenz – Konstruktionen, ed. by S. Engelberg, Meike Meliss, Kristel Proost, and Edeltraut Winkler, 469–492. Tübingen: Narr.
Hartigan, John A., and Pamela M. Hartigan
Haupt, Friederike S., Matthias Schlesewsky, Dietmar Roehm, Angela D. Friederici, and Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky
Holisky, Dee A.
Horvath, Julia, and Tal Siloni
Institut für Deutsche Sprache
1991–2017 COSMAS I/II Corpus Search, Management and Analysis System. Mannheim: Institut für Deutsche Sprache. http://www. ids-mannheim.de/cosmas2/.
2010 Deutsches Referenzkorpus / Archiv der Korpora geschriebener Gegenwartssprache 2010-I (Release vom 02.03.2010). Mannheim: Institut für Deutsche Sprache. http://www.ids-mannheim.de/DeReKo.
Keller, Frank, and Antonella Sorace
Klein Katharina, and Silvia Kutscher
Levin, Beth, and Malka Rappaport Hovav
Martin, Fabienne, and Florian Schäfer
Pijpops, Dirk, and Dirk Speelman
Reinhart, Tanya, and Tal Siloni
Scheepers, Christoph, Barbara Hemforth, and Lars Konieczny
Temme, Anne, and Elisabeth Verhoeven
Van Valin, Robert D., Jr., and Randy LaPolla
Van Valin, Robert D., Jr., and David P. Wilkins
Cited by 1 other publications
Fritz-Huechante, Paola, Elisabeth Verhoeven & Julian A. Rott
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