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Semantics and Morphosyntactic Variation: Qualities and the Grammar of Property Concepts

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Book Series: Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics ISBN: 9780198744580 Year: Pages: 192 DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198744580.001.0001 Language: English
Publisher: Oxford University Press Grant: RCUK
Subject: Linguistics
Added to DOAB on : 2017-04-27 11:01:52
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Systematic variation in form between semantic equivalents across languages is a key explanandum of linguistic theory. Two contrasting views of the role of lexical semantics in the analysis of such variation can be found in the literature: (1) uniformity, whereby lexical meaning is universal, and morphosyntactic variation arises from idiosyncratic differences in the inventory and phonological shape of language-particular functional material, and (2) transparency, whereby systematic variation in form arises from systematic variation in the meaning of basic lexical items. This volume contrasts these views as applied to the empirical domain of property concept sentences—sentences expressing adjectival predication and their translational equivalents across languages. Demonstrating that property concept sentences vary systematically between possessive and predicative form, the authors propose a transparentist analysis of this variation that links it to the lexical denotations of basic property concept lexemes. At the heart of the analysis are qualities: mass-like model-theoretic objects that closely resemble scales. The authors contrast their transparentist analysis with uniformitarian alternatives, demonstrating its theoretical and empirical advantages. They then show that the proposed theory of qualities can account for interesting and novel observations in two central domains of grammatical theory: the theory of lexical categories, and the theory of mass nouns. The overall results highlight the importance of the lexicon as a locus of generalizations about the limits of crosslinguistic variation.

The Roots of Verbal Meaning

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Book Series: Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics ISBN: 9780198855781 Year: Pages: 288 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198855781.003.0001 Language: English
Publisher: Oxford University Press Grant: University of Manchester||National Science Foundation - BCS-1451765
Subject: Linguistics
Added to DOAB on : 2020-03-29 11:21:06
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This book explores possible and impossible word meanings, with a specific focus on the meanings of verbs. It adopts the now common view that verb meanings consist at least partly of an event structure, made up of an event template describing the verb’s broad temporal and causal contours that occurs across lots of verbs and groups them into semantic and grammatical classes, plus an idiosyncratic root describing specific, real world states and actions that distinguish verbs with the same template. While much work has focused on templates, less work has addressed the truth conditional contributions of roots, despite the importance of a theory of root meaning in fully defining the predictions event structural approaches make. This book addresses this lacuna, exploring two previously proposed constraints on root meaning: The Bifurcation Thesis of Roots, whereby roots never introduce the meanings introduced by templates, and Manner/Result Complementarity, which has as a component that roots can describe either a manner or a result state but never both at the same time. Two extended case studies, on change-of-state verbs and ditransitive verbs of caused possession, show that neither hypothesis holds, and that ultimately there may be no constraints on what a root can mean. Nonetheless, the book argues that event structures still have predictive value, and it presents a new theory of possible root meanings and how they interact with event templates that produces a new typology of possible verbs, albeit one where not just templates but also roots determine systematic semantic and grammatical properties.

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