Publication details [#9910]

Shank, Christopher. 2007. Figurative language, transitivity, and the development of epistemicity: A cognitive linguistic case study of the English verbs of tactile perception. Albuquerque, N.Mex.. 481 pp.
Publication type
Ph.D dissertation
Publication language


This study explores the semantic extensions and conceptual organization of four tactile verbs of perception: touch, handle, hold, and feel. The methodological and analytical approach guiding this research integrates elements from both cognitive and functional, usage-based approaches in linguistics in order to develop a framework for exploring the relationships between polysemy and figurative extension on the one hand and frequency and argument structure on the other. The study uses corpora of spoken conversational English data to explore the continuum from literal/physical meanings associated with the verbs to more abstract and figurative uses, from the expression of physical manipulation to the expression of intellectual understanding. The interactional data is also used to examine the relationship between the argument structure of these tactile verbs of perception and their use with literal/physical versus figurative meanings. The results show that transitive figurative constructions do exhibit certain traits associated with high transitivity - while kinesis is often lower in figurative constructions, measures on the parameters of individuation and referentiality parameters do vary with figurativity. Therefore kinesis and the features of individuation and referentiality of the object turn out to be features of particular interest in the study of transitivity. These findings have clear implications in regard to construal and scanning that support a Cognitive Grammar approach to understanding the complex dynamics of transitive constructions. These results also support the argument that conversation, in general, is more figurative than it is literal, just as it is more intransitive than transitive (Thompson and Hopper 2001). This study also shows that the relationship between transitivity and figurativity vary according to the semantic roles. The results indicate that verbs which cover similar semantic ranges (tactile manipulation) can vary widely in their uses in figurative and/or subjective expression. Finally, and most importantly, this study also supports the argument that transitivity and figurative language use are verb dependent, as well as clause and discourse dependent, and the importance of local vs. global patterns in discourse. (Dissertation Abstracts)