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Lexical semantics (also known as lexicosemantics), as a subfield of
linguistic Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...

linguistic
semantics Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another ...
, is the study of word meanings.Pustejovsky, J. (2005)
Lexical Semantics: Overview
' in Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, second edition, Volumes 1-14
Taylor, J. (2017)
Lexical Semantics
'. In B. Dancygier (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics (Cambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics, pp. 246-261). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
It includes the study of how words structure their meaning, how they act in grammar and
compositionality In semantics Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or li ...
, and the relationships between the distinct senses and uses of a word. The units of analysis in lexical semantics are lexical units which include not only words but also sub-words or sub-units such as
affix In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the met ...
es and even
compound word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the met ...
s and
phrase In syntax In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as ...

phrase
s. Lexical units include the catalogue of words in a language, the
lexicon A lexicon is the vocabulary A vocabulary is a set of familiar words In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, pra ...

lexicon
. Lexical semantics looks at how the meaning of the lexical units correlates with the structure of the language or
syntax In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...

syntax
. This is referred to as syntax-semantics interface. The study of lexical semantics looks at: * the classification and decomposition of lexical items * the differences and similarities in lexical semantic structure cross-linguistically * the relationship of lexical meaning to
sentence Sentence(s) or The Sentence may refer to: Common uses * Sentence (law), the punishment a judge gives to a defendant found guilty of a crime * Sentence (linguistics), a grammatical unit of language * Sentence (mathematical logic), a formula not cont ...
meaning and
syntax In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...

syntax
. Lexical units, also referred to as syntactic atoms, can stand alone such as in the case of root words or parts of compound words or they necessarily attach to other units such as prefixes and suffixes do. The former are called
free morpheme In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ph ...
s and the latter
bound morpheme In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the meth ...
s. They fall into a narrow range of meanings (
semantic field In , a semantic field is a lexical set of words grouped (by ) that refers to a specific subject.Howard Jackson, Etienne Zé Amvela, ''Words, Meaning, and Vocabulary'', Continuum, 2000, p14. The term is also used in ,Ingold, Tim (1996). ''Key deba ...
s) and can combine with each other to generate new denotations. Cognitive semantics is the linguistic paradigm/framework that since the 1980s has generated the most studies in lexical semantics, introducing innovations like
prototype theory Prototype theory is a theory of categorization Categorization is the human ability and activity of recognizing shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience of the world (such as Object (philosophy), objects, events, or ...
,
conceptual metaphorIn cognitive linguistics Cognitive linguistics is an interdisciplinary branch of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studyi ...
s, and frame semantics.


Lexical relations: how meanings relate to each other

Lexical items contain information about category (lexical and syntactic), form and meaning. The semantics related to these categories then relate to each lexical item in the
lexicon A lexicon is the vocabulary A vocabulary is a set of familiar words In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, pra ...

lexicon
. Lexical items can also be semantically classified based on whether their meanings are derived from single lexical units or from their surrounding environment. Lexical items participate in regular patterns of association with each other. Some relations between lexical items include hyponymy, hypernymy,
synonym A synonym is a word, morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical item in a language. A morpheme is not a word. The difference between a morpheme and a word is that a morpheme bound and free morphemes, sometimes does not stand alone ...
y, and
antonym In lexical semantics Lexical semantics (also known as lexicosemantics), as a subfield of linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods fo ...
y, as well as
homonym In linguistics, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which are homographs (words that share the same spelling, regardless of pronunciation) or homophones (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of spelling), or both. For example, acc ...
y.


Hyponymy and hypernymy

Hyponymy and hypernymy In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
refers to a relationship between a general term and the more specific terms that fall under the category of the general term. For example, the colors ''red'', ''green'', ''blue'' and ''yellow'' are hyponyms. They fall under the general term of ''color'', which is the hypernym. Hyponyms and hypernyms can be described by using a
taxonomy Taxonomy is the practice and science of categorization Categorization is the human ability and activity of recognizing shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience Experience refers to conscious , an English Par ...
, as seen in the example.


Synonymy

Synonymy A synonym is a word, morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical itemIn lexicography, a lexical item (or lexical unit / LU, lexical entry) is a single word, a part of a word, or a chain of words ( catena) that forms the basic el ...
refers to words that are pronounced and spelled differently but contain the same meaning.


Antonymy

Antonymy In lexical semantics, opposites are words lying in an inherently incompatible binary relationship. For example, something that is ''long'' entails that it is not ''short''. It is referred to as a 'binary' relationship because there are two members ...
refers to words that are related by having the opposite meanings to each other. There are three types of antonyms: graded antonyms, complementary antonyms, and relational antonyms.


Homonymy

Homonymy In linguistics, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which are homographs (words that share the same spelling, regardless of pronunciation) or homophones (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of spelling), or both. For example, acc ...
refers to the relationship between words that are spelled or pronounced the same way but hold different meanings.


Polysemy

Polysemy Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple related meanings. Polysemy is thus distinct from homonymy In linguistics, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which are h ...
refers to a word having two or more related meanings.


Semantic networks

Lexical semantics also explores whether the meaning of a lexical unit is established by looking at its neighbourhood in the
semantic net Semantics (from grc, wikt:σημαντικός, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference, Meaning (philosophy), meaning, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct discipline ...
, (words it occurs with in natural sentences), or whether the meaning is already locally contained in the lexical unit. In English,
WordNet WordNet is a lexical databaseIn digital lexicography, natural language processing, and digital humanities, a lexicon, lexical resource is a language resource consisting of one or several dictionary, dictionaries, e.g., in the form of a database. ...
is an example of a semantic network. It contains English words that are grouped into synsets. Some semantic relations between these synsets are
meronymy In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...

meronymy
,
hyponymy In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
,
synonymy A synonym is a word, morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical itemIn lexicography, a lexical item (or lexical unit / LU, lexical entry) is a single word, a part of a word, or a chain of words ( catena) that forms the basic el ...
, and
antonymy In lexical semantics, opposites are words lying in an inherently incompatible binary relationship. For example, something that is ''long'' entails that it is not ''short''. It is referred to as a 'binary' relationship because there are two members ...
.


Semantic fields


How lexical items map onto concepts

First proposed by Trier in the 1930s,Famer, Pamela B.; Mairal Usón, Ricardo (1999). "Constructing a Lexicon of English Verbs". Functional Grammar (in English) 23 (illustrated ed.). Walter de Gruyter. p. 350. .
semantic field In , a semantic field is a lexical set of words grouped (by ) that refers to a specific subject.Howard Jackson, Etienne Zé Amvela, ''Words, Meaning, and Vocabulary'', Continuum, 2000, p14. The term is also used in ,Ingold, Tim (1996). ''Key deba ...
theory proposes that a group of words with interrelated meanings can be categorized under a larger conceptual domain. This entire entity is thereby known as a semantic field. The words ''boil'', ''bake'', ''fry'', and ''roast'', for example, would fall under the larger semantic category of ''cooking''. Semantic field theory asserts that lexical meaning cannot be fully understood by looking at a word in isolation, but by looking at a group of semantically related words. Semantic relations can refer to any relationship in meaning between
lexeme A lexeme () is a unit of lexical meaning that underlies a set of words that are related through inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeol ...
s, including synonymy ''(big'' and ''large),'' antonymy ''(big'' and ''small),'' hypernymy and hyponymy ''(rose'' and ''flower),'' converseness ''(buy'' and ''sell),'' and incompatibility. Semantic field theory does not have concrete guidelines that determine the extent of semantic relations between lexemes. The abstract validity of the theory is a subject of debate. Knowing the meaning of a lexical item therefore means knowing the semantic entailments the word brings with it. However, it is also possible to understand only one word of a semantic field without understanding other related words. Take, for example, a taxonomy of plants and animals: it is possible to understand the words ''rose'' and ''rabbit'' without knowing what a ''marigold'' or a ''muskrat'' is. This is applicable to colors as well, such as understanding the word ''red'' without knowing the meaning of ''scarlet,'' but understanding ''scarlet'' without knowing the meaning of ''red'' may be less likely. A semantic field can thus be very large or very small, depending on the level of contrast being made between lexical items. While cat and dog both fall under the larger semantic field of animal, including the breed of dog, like ''German shepherd,'' would require contrasts between other breeds of dog (e.g. ''corgi'', or ''poodle''), thus expanding the semantic field further.


How lexical items map onto events

Event structure is defined as the semantic relation of a verb and its syntactic properties. Event structure has three primary components: * primitive event type of the lexical item * event composition rules * mapping rules to lexical structure Verbs can belong to one of three types: states, processes, or transitions. (1a) defines the state of the door being closed; there is no opposition in this
predicate Predicate or predication may refer to: Computer science *Syntactic predicate (in parser technology) guidelines the parser process Linguistics *Predicate (grammar), a grammatical component of a sentence Philosophy and logic * Predication (philo ...
. (1b) and (1c) both have predicates showing transitions of the door going from being implicitly ''open'' to ''closed''. (1b) gives the
intransitive In grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clause (linguistics), clauses, phrases, and words. Th ...
use of the verb close, with no explicit mention of the causer, but (1c) makes explicit mention of the
agent Agent may refer to: Espionage, investigation, and law *, spies or intelligence officers * Law of agency, laws involving a person authorized to act on behalf of another ** Agent of record, a person with a contractual agreement with an insuran ...
involved in the action.


Syntactic basis of event structure: a brief history


Generative semantics in the 1960s

The analysis of these different lexical units had a decisive role in the field of "
generative linguistics Generative grammar, or generativism , is a linguistic theory that regards linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying ...
" during the 1960s. The term ''generative'' was proposed by Noam Chomsky in his book
Syntactic Structures #REDIRECT Syntactic Structures #REDIRECT Syntactic Structures#REDIRECT Syntactic Structures ''Syntactic Structures'' is an influential work in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysi ...
published in 1957. The term ''generative linguistics'' was based on Chomsky's
generative grammar Generative grammar, or generativism , is a linguistic theory that regards linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying ...
, a linguistic theory that states systematic sets of rules ( X' theory) can predict grammatical phrases within a natural language. Generative Linguistics is also known as Government-Binding Theory. Generative linguists of the 1960s, including
Noam Chomsky Avram Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928) is an American linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gesture ...

Noam Chomsky
and
Ernst von Glasersfeld Ernst von Glasersfeld (March 8, 1927, Munich – November 12, 2010, Leverett, Massachusetts, Leverett, Franklin County, Massachusetts) was a philosopher, and emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, research associate at ...
, believed semantic relations between
transitive verbs A transitive verb is a verb that accepts one or more object (grammar), objects. This contrasts with intransitive verbs, which do not have objects. Transitivity (grammar), Transitivity is traditionally thought a global property of a clause, by which ...
and
intransitive verbs In grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clause (linguistics), clauses, phrases, and words. Th ...
were tied to their independent syntactic organization. This meant that they saw a simple verb phrase as encompassing a more complex syntactic structure.


Lexicalist theories in the 1980s

Lexicalist theories became popular during the 1980s, and emphasized that a word's internal structure was a question of
morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines *Morphology (archaeology) In archaeology, morphology is the study of the shape of Artifact (archaeology), artefacts and ecofacts. Morphology is a major consid ...
and not of
syntax In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...

syntax
. Lexicalist theories emphasized that complex words (resulting from compounding and derivation of
affixes In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
) have lexical entries that are derived from morphology, rather than resulting from overlapping syntactic and phonological properties, as Generative Linguistics predicts. The distinction between Generative Linguistics and Lexicalist theories can be illustrated by considering the transformation of the word ''destroy'' to ''destruction'': * Generative Linguistics theory: states the transformation of ''destroy'' → ''destruction'' as the nominal, ''nom'' + ''destroy,'' combined with
phonological rule A phonological rule is a formal way of expressing a systematic phonological or morphophonological process or diachronic Synchrony and diachrony are two different and complementary viewpoints in linguistic Linguistics is the science, scien ...
s that produce the output ''destruction''. Views this transformation as independent of the morphology. * Lexicalist theory: sees ''destroy'' and ''destruction'' as having idiosyncratic lexical entries based on their differences in morphology. Argues that each morpheme contributes specific meaning. States that the formation of the complex word ''destruction'' is accounted for by a set of ''Lexical Rules,'' which are different and independent from syntactic rules. A lexical entry lists the basic properties of either the whole word, or the individual properties of the morphemes that make up the word itself. The properties of
lexical item In lexicography Lexicography is the study of lexicon A lexicon is the vocabulary A vocabulary, also known as a wordstock or word-stock, is a set of familiar words within a person's language. A vocabulary, usually developed with age, ser ...
s include their category selection ''c-selection'', selectional properties ''s-selection'', (also known as semantic selection), phonological properties, and features. The properties of lexical items are idiosyncratic, unpredictable, and contain specific information about the lexical items that they describe. The following is an example of a lexical entry for the verb ''put'': Lexicalist theories state that a word's meaning is derived from its morphology or a speaker's lexicon, and not its syntax. The degree of morphology's influence on overall grammar remains controversial. Currently, the linguists that perceive one engine driving both morphological items and syntactic items are in the majority.


Micro-syntactic theories: 1990s to the present

By the early 1990s, Chomsky's minimalist framework on language structure led to sophisticated probing techniques for investigating languages. These probing techniques analyzed negative data over
prescriptive grammar Linguistic prescription, or prescriptive grammar, is the attempt to establish rules defining preferred or correct usage The usage of a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken lang ...
s, and because of Chomsky's proposed Extended Projection Principle in 1986, probing techniques showed where specifiers of a sentence had moved to in order to fulfill the EPP. This allowed syntacticians to hypothesize that lexical items with complex syntactic features (such as
ditransitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as ...
,
inchoative Inchoative aspect (abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; ...
, and
causative In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages ...
verbs), could select their own specifier element within a
syntax tree Syntax tree may refer to: * Abstract syntax tree In computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practical techniques for their appli ...
construction. (For more on probing techniques, see Suci, G., Gammon, P., & Gamlin, P. (1979)). This brought the focus back on the syntax-lexical semantics interface; however, syntacticians still sought to understand the relationship between complex verbs and their related syntactic structure, and to what degree the syntax was projected from the lexicon, as the Lexicalist theories argued. In the mid 1990s, linguists Heidi Harley, Samuel Jay Keyser, and Kenneth Hale addressed some of the implications posed by complex verbs and a lexically-derived syntax. Their proposals indicated that the predicates CAUSE and BECOME, referred to as subunits within a Verb Phrase, acted as a lexical semantic template. ''Predicates'' are verbs and state or affirm something about the subject of the sentence or the argument of the sentence. For example, the predicates ''went'' and ''is here'' below affirm the argument of the subject and the state of the subject respectively. The subunits of Verb Phrases led to the Argument Structure Hypothesis and Verb Phrase Hypothesis, both outlined below. The recursion found under the "umbrella" Verb Phrase, the VP Shell, accommodated binary-branching theory; another critical topic during the 1990s. Current theory recognizes the predicate in Specifier position of a tree in inchoative/
anticausative An anticausative verb (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is an intransitive verb that shows an event affecting its subject, while giving no semantic or syntactic indication of the cause of the event. The single verb argument, argument of ...
verbs (intransitive), or causative verbs (transitive) is what selects the
theta role In generative grammar Generative grammar is a concept in generative linguistics, a linguistic theory that regards linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of lan ...
conjoined with a particular verb.


Hale & Keyser 1990

Kenneth Hale and Samuel Jay Keyser introduced their thesis on lexical argument structure during the early 1990s. They argue that a predicate's argument structure is represented in the syntax, and that the syntactic representation of the predicate is a lexical projection of its arguments. Thus, the structure of a predicate is strictly a lexical representation, where each phrasal head projects its argument onto a phrasal level within the syntax tree. The selection of this phrasal head is based on Chomsky's Empty Category Principle. This lexical projection of the predicate's argument onto the syntactic structure is the foundation for the Argument Structure Hypothesis. This idea coincides with Chomsky's
Projection Principle The projection principle is a stipulation proposed by Noam Chomsky Avram Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928) is an American linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of commun ...
, because it forces a VP to be selected locally and be selected by a Tense Phrase (TP). Based on the interaction between lexical properties, locality, and the properties of the EPP (where a phrasal head selects another phrasal element locally), Hale and Keyser make the claim that the Specifier position or a complement are the only two semantic relations that project a predicate's argument. In 2003, Hale and Keyser put forward this hypothesis and argued that a lexical unit must have one or the other, Specifier or Complement, but cannot have both.


Halle & Marantz 1993

Morris Halle Morris Halle (; July 23, 1923 – April 2, 2018) was a Latvian-born Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites Israeli ...

Morris Halle
and introduced the notion of distributed morphology in 1993. This theory views the syntactic structure of words as a result of morphology and semantics, instead of the morpho-semantic interface being predicted by the syntax. Essentially, the idea that under the Extended Projection Principle there is a local boundary under which a special meaning occurs. This meaning can only occur if a head-projecting morpheme is present within the local domain of the syntactic structure.Marantz, Alec. 1997.
No escape from syntax: Don't try morphological analysis in the privacy of your own Lexicon
' Proceedings of the 21st Annual Penn Linguistics Colloquium: Penn Working Papers in Linguistics
The following is an example of the tree structure proposed by distributed morphology for the sentence ''"John's destroying the city"''. ''Destroy'' is the root, V-1 represents verbalization, and D represents nominalization.


Ramchand 2008

In her 2008 book, ''Verb Meaning and The Lexicon: A First-Phase Syntax'', linguist Gillian Ramchand acknowledges the roles of lexical entries in the selection of complex verbs and their arguments. 'First-Phase' syntax proposes that event structure and event participants are directly represented in the syntax by means of binary branching. This branching ensures that the Specifier is the consistently subject, even when investigating the projection of a complex verb's lexical entry and its corresponding syntactic construction. This generalization is also present in Ramchand's theory that the complement of a head for a complex verb phrase must co-describe the verb's event. Ramchand also introduced the concept of Homomorphic Unity, which refers to the structural synchronization between the head of a complex verb phrase and its complement. According to Ramchand, Homomorphic Unity is "when two event descriptors are syntactically Merged, the structure of the complement must unify with the structure of the head."


Classification of event types


Intransitive verbs: unaccusative versus unergative

The unaccusative hypothesis was put forward by David Perlmutter in 1987, and describes how two classes of intransitive verbs have two different syntactic structures. These are
unaccusative verbIn modern linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis incl ...
s and
unergative verb An unergative verb is an intransitive verb that is distinguished semantically by having just an agent argument In logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, label=none, lit=possessed of reason, intelle ...
s.Lappin, S. (Ed.). (1996). Handbook of contemporary semantic theory. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers. These classes of verbs are defined by Perlmutter only in syntactic terms. They have the following structures underlyingly: * unaccusative verb: __ sub>VP V NP * unergative verb: NP sub>VP V The following is an example from English: In (2a) the verb underlyingly takes a direct object, while in (2b) the verb underlyingly takes a subject.


Transitivity alternations: the inchoative/causative alternation

The change-of-state property of Verb Phrases (VP) is a significant observation for the syntax of lexical semantics because it provides evidence that subunits are embedded in the VP structure, and that the meaning of the entire VP is influenced by this internal grammatical structure. (For example, the VP ''the vase broke'' carries a change-of-state meaning of the vase becoming broken, and thus has a silent BECOME subunit within its underlying structure.) There are two types of change-of-state predicates:
inchoative Inchoative aspect (abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; ...
and
causative In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages ...
. Inchoative verbs are
intransitive In grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clause (linguistics), clauses, phrases, and words. Th ...
, meaning that they occur without a direct object, and these verbs express that their subject has undergone a certain change of state. Inchoative verbs are also known as
anticausative An anticausative verb (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is an intransitive verb that shows an event affecting its subject, while giving no semantic or syntactic indication of the cause of the event. The single verb argument, argument o ...
verbs. Causative verbs are transitive, meaning that they occur with a direct object, and they express that the subject causes a change of state in the object. Linguist
Martin Haspelmath Martin Haspelmath (; born 2 February 1963 in Hoya, Germany, Hoya, Lower Saxony) is a German linguistics, linguist working in the field of linguistic typology. He is a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig ...
classifies inchoative/causative verb pairs under three main categories: causative, anticausative, and non-directed alternations. Non-directed alternations are further subdivided into labile, equipollent, and suppletive alternations.
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
tends to favour labile alternations, meaning that the same verb is used in the inchoative and causative forms. This can be seen in the following example: ''broke'' is an intransitive inchoative verb in (3a) and a transitive causative verb in (3b). As seen in the underlying tree structure for (3a), the silent subunit BECOME is embedded within the Verb Phrase (VP), resulting in the inchoative change-of-state meaning (y become z). In the underlying tree structure for (3b), the silent subunits CAUS and BECOME are both embedded within the VP, resulting in the causative change-of-state meaning (x cause y become z). English change of state verbs are often de-adjectival, meaning that they are derived from adjectives. We can see this in the following example: In example (4a) we start with a stative intransitive adjective, and derive (4b) where we see an intransitive inchoative verb. In (4c) we see a transitive causative verb.


Marked inchoatives

Some languages (e.g.,
German German(s) may refer to: * Germany (of or related to) **Germania (historical use) * Germans, citizens of Germany, people of German ancestry, or native speakers of the German language ** For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law **Ger ...

German
,
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
, and
French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of co ...

French
), have multiple morphological classes of inchoative verbs. Generally speaking, these languages separate their inchoative verbs into three classes: verbs that are obligatorily unmarked (they are not marked with a
reflexive pronoun In general linguistics, a reflexive pronoun, sometimes simply called a reflexive, is an anaphoric pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication use ...
,
clitic In morphology and syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of Sentence (linguistics), sentences (sentence structure) in a given Natural language, language, usually including word ...
, or
affix In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the met ...
), verbs that are optionally marked, and verbs that are obligatorily marked. The causative verbs in these languages remain unmarked.
Haspelmath Martin Haspelmath (; born 2 February 1963 in Hoya, Germany, Hoya, Lower Saxony) is a German linguistics, linguist working in the field of linguistic typology. He is a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig f ...
refers to this as the
anticausative An anticausative verb (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is an intransitive verb that shows an event affecting its subject, while giving no semantic or syntactic indication of the cause of the event. The single verb argument, argument o ...
alternation. For example, inchoative verbs in
German German(s) may refer to: * Germany (of or related to) **Germania (historical use) * Germans, citizens of Germany, people of German ancestry, or native speakers of the German language ** For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law **Ger ...

German
are classified into three morphological classes. ''Class A'' verbs necessarily form inchoatives with the reflexive pronoun ', ''Class B'' verbs form inchoatives necessarily without the reflexive pronoun, and ''Class C'' verbs form inchoatives optionally with or without the reflexive pronoun. In example (5), the verb ' is an unmarked inchoative verb from ''Class B'', which also remains unmarked in its causative form. In contrast, the verb ''öffnete'' is a ''Class A'' verb which necessarily takes the reflexive pronoun ''sich'' in its inchoative form, but remains unmarked in its causative form. There has been some debate as to whether the different classes of inchoative verbs are purely based in morphology, or whether the differentiation is derived from the lexical-semantic properties of each individual verb. While this debate is still unresolved in languages such as
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
,
French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of co ...

French
, and
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
, it has been suggested by linguist Florian Schäfer that there are semantic differences between marked and unmarked inchoatives in
German German(s) may refer to: * Germany (of or related to) **Germania (historical use) * Germans, citizens of Germany, people of German ancestry, or native speakers of the German language ** For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law **Ger ...

German
. Specifically, that only unmarked inchoative verbs allow an unintentional causer reading (meaning that they can take on an "''x unintentionally caused y''" reading).


Marked causatives

Causative morphemes are present in the verbs of many languages (e.g.,
Tagalog Tagalog may refer to: Language * Tagalog language Tagalog (, ; ) is an Austronesian languages, Austronesian language spoken as a first language by the ethnic Tagalog people, who make up a quarter of the population of the Philippines, and as a se ...
,
Malagasy Malagasy may refer to: *Someone or something from Madagascar *Malagasy people *Malagasy language *Malagasy Republic *Related to the culture of Madagascar See also

*Madagascar (disambiguation) {{disambiguation Language and nationality disambi ...
,
Turkish Turkish may refer to: * of or about Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country straddling Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. It shares borders with Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), offi ...

Turkish
, etc.), usually appearing in the form of an affix on the verb. This can be seen in the following examples from
Tagalog Tagalog may refer to: Language * Tagalog language Tagalog (, ; ) is an Austronesian languages, Austronesian language spoken as a first language by the ethnic Tagalog people, who make up a quarter of the population of the Philippines, and as a se ...
, where the causative prefix ''pag-'' (realized here as ''nag'') attaches to the verb ''tumba'' to derive a causative transitive verb in (7b), but the prefix does not appear in the inchoative intransitive verb in (7a).
Haspelmath Martin Haspelmath (; born 2 February 1963 in Hoya, Germany, Hoya, Lower Saxony) is a German linguistics, linguist working in the field of linguistic typology. He is a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig f ...
refers to this as the
causative In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages ...
alternation.


Ditransitive verbs


Kayne's 1981 unambiguous path analysis

Richard Kayne proposed the idea of unambiguous paths as an alternative to c-commanding relationships, which is the type of structure seen in examples (8). The idea of unambiguous paths stated that an antecedent and an anaphor should be connected via an unambiguous path. This means that the line connecting an antecedent and an anaphor cannot be broken by another argument.Kayne, R. (1981). Unambiguous paths. In R. May & F. Koster (Eds.), Levels of syntactic representation (143-184). Cinnaminson, NJ: Foris Publications. When applied to ditransitive verbs, this hypothesis introduces the structure in diagram (8a). In this tree structure it can be seen that the same path can be traced from either DP to the verb. Tree diagram (7b) illustrates this structure with an example from English. This analysis was a step toward binary branching trees, which was a theoretical change that was furthered by Larson's VP-shell analysis.


Larson's 1988 "VP-shell" analysis

Larson posited his Single Complement Hypothesis in which he stated that every complement is introduced with one verb. The Double Object Construction presented in 1988 gave clear evidence of a hierarchical structure using asymmetrical binary branching. Sentences with double objects occur with ditransitive verbs, as we can see in the following example: It appears as if the verb ''send'' has two objects, or complements (arguments): both ''Mary'', the recipient and ''parcel'', the theme. The argument structure of ditransitive verb phrases is complex and has undergone different structural hypothesis. The original structural hypothesis was that of ternary branching seen in (9a) and (9b), but following from Kayne's 1981 analysis, Larson maintained that each complement is introduced by a verb. Their hypothesis shows that there is a lower verb embedded within a VP shell that combines with an upper verb (can be invisible), thus creating a VP shell (as seen in the tree diagram to the right). Most current theories no longer allow the ternary tree structure of (9a) and (9b), so the theme and the goal/recipient are seen in a hierarchical relationship within a binary branching structure. Following are examples of Larson's tests to show that the hierarchical (superior) order of any two objects aligns with a linear order, so that the second is governed (c-commanded) by the first. This is in keeping with X'Bar Theory of Phrase Structure Grammar, with Larson's tree structure using the empty Verb to which the V is raised. Reflexives and reciprocals (anaphors) show this relationship in which they must be c-commanded by their antecedents, such that the (10a) is grammatical but (10b) is not: A pronoun must have a quantifier as its antecedent: Question words follow this order: The effect of negative polarity means that "any" must have a negative quantifier as an antecedent: These tests with ditransitive verbs that confirm c-command also confirm the presence of underlying or invisible causative verbs. In ditransitive verbs such as ''give someone something'', ''send someone something'', ''show someone something'' etc. there is an underlying causative meaning that is represented in the underlying structure. As seen in example in (9a) above, ''John sent Mary a package'', there is the underlying meaning that 'John "caused" Mary to have a package'. Larson proposed that both sentences in (9a) and (9b) share the same underlying structure and the difference on the surface lies in that the double object construction "John sent Mary a package" is derived by transformation from a NP plus PP construction "John sent a package to Mary".


Beck & Johnson's 2004 double object construction

Beck and Johnson, however, give evidence that the two underlying structures are not the same. In so doing, they also give further evidence of the presence of two VPs where the verb attaches to a causative verb. In examples (14a) and (b), each of the double object constructions are alternated with NP + PP constructions. Beck and Johnson show that the object in (15a) has a different relation to the motion verb as it is not able to carry the meaning of HAVING which the possessor (9a) and (15a) can. In (15a), Satoshi is an animate possessor and so is caused to HAVE kisimen. The PP ''for Satoshi'' in (15b) is of a benefactive nature and does not necessarily carry this meaning of HAVE either. The underlying structures are therefore not the same. The differences lie in the semantics and the syntax of the sentences, in contrast to the transformational theory of Larson. Further evidence for the structural existence of VP shells with an invisible verbal unit is given in the application of the adjunct or modifier "again". Sentence (16) is ambiguous and looking into the two different meanings reveals a difference in structure. However, in (17a), it is clear that it was Sally who repeated the action of opening the door. In (17b), the event is in the door being opened and Sally may or may not have opened it previously. To render these two different meanings, "again" attaches to VPs in two different places, and thus describes two events with a purely structural change.


See also

*
Content word Content words, in linguistics, are words that possess semantic content and contribute to the meaning of the sentence in which they occur. In a traditional approach, nouns were said to name objects and other entities, lexical verb, lexical verbs to i ...
*
Lexical chain The sequence between semantic related ordered words is classified as a lexical chain. A lexical chain is a sequence of related words in writing, spanning short (adjacent words or Sentence (linguistics), sentences) or long distances (entire text). A ...
*
Lexical markup framework Language resource management - Lexical markup framework (LMF; ISO 24613:2008), is the ISO International Organization for Standardization The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international s ...
*
Lexical verb In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic bra ...
*
Minimal recursion semantics Minimal recursion semantics (MRS) is a framework for computational semantics. It can be implemented in typed feature structure formalisms such as head-driven phrase structure grammar and lexical functional grammar. It is suitable for computational l ...
*
Ontology Ontology is the branch of philosophy that studies concepts such as existence, being, Becoming (philosophy), becoming, and reality. It includes the questions of how entities are grouped into Category of being, basic categories and which of these ...
*
Polysemy Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple related meanings. Polysemy is thus distinct from homonymy In linguistics, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which are h ...
*
Semantic primes Semantic primes or semantic primitives are a set of semantic concepts that are argued to be innately understood by all people but impossible to express in simpler terms. They represent words or phrases that are learned through practice but cannot ...
*
Semantic satiation Semantic satiation is a psychology, psychological phenomenon in which Repetition (rhetorical device), repetition causes a word or phrase to temporarily lose meaning (linguistics), meaning for the listener, who then perceives the speech as repeated ...
*
SemEval SemEval (Semantic Evaluation) is an ongoing series of evaluations of Semantic analysis (computational), computational semantic analysis systems; it evolved from the Senseval word sense evaluation series. The evaluations are intended to explore th ...
* Thematic role *
Troponymy In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ph ...
*
Word sense In linguistics, a word sense is one of the meanings of a word. Words are in two sets: a large set with multiple meanings (word senses) and a small set with only one meaning (word sense). For example, a dictionary may have over 50 different senses of ...
*
Word sense disambiguation Word-sense disambiguation (WSD) is an open problemIn science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and Taxonomy (general), organizes knowledge in the form o ...


References


External links

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Lexical Semantics Semantics (linguistics) Formal semantics (natural language) Syntax–semantics interface