Article published in:Woorden in het vreemde-talenonderwijs
[Toegepaste Taalwetenschap in Artikelen 11] 1981
► pp. 145–157
Cherchez Les Valences
One of the aims of every linguistic theory is to provide an exact and systematic description of the meaning of any sentence. The notion of "valence" is widely used in West- and East-European linguistics (Tesnière, Helbig/Schenkel, Apresjan, Mel'cuk, etc.) in order to account for the connection between syntactic structures and word meanings. So, in John saw the children it is due to the inherent valences of SEE that John is under-stood as 'seeing' and the children as 'seen': the referents of these two sentence elements carry specific meaning aspects of the verb. They only function in this way if they meet the formal characteristics set by the verb. In this paper I furnish a definition of "valence" and a corresponding discovery procedure. This procedure yields an explicit set of valences of any particular word. Valences are considered aspects of the meaning of a (set of) word(s) X, carried by the referent of a (set of) word(s) Y; as a corrolary, the meaning of this Y cannot be completely understood without taking into account the functioning of its referent as the carrier of the valence meaning. The discovery procedure does not assign a specific valence meaning to a verb if the functioning of the corresponding sentence element can be (completely) accounted for on the grounds of its own form. To illustrate this point, a valence labelled "price" which is claimed by Apresjan for the Russian verb ARENDOVAT' (='to lease'), would be rejected by the procedure because the corresponding sentence element has a form and a meaning which are not in function of its being dependent to ARENDOVAT', but would have the same form and meaning in other contexts. An analysis of the syntax and semantics of the Dutch verb WACHTEN (='to wait') illustrates the procedure. A short contrastive analysis of Russian and Dutch 'wait' shows some interesting differences in their comparable valences and in the syntactic peculiarities of adjuncts to these verbs.
Published online: 24 March 2014