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General and Specific Aspects of Verb Meanings: the light verb SAY (talk recording available)
Dr. Jane Grimshaw
Tuesday, February 25, 2014, 01:00pm - 02:00pm
Rutgers University, Department of Linguistics and Center for Cognitive Science
A skeletal verb meaning determines core grammatical properties of verbs of saying. Verbs built on this light verb are of three types. The verb say realizes the light verb. Verbs like assert, ask, comment add information about the discourse event that they report. Verbs like mutter, grunt, write add information about the means employed in the event: they are formed from independent means verbs.
The light verb say entails the general characteristics of verbs of saying. The specific aspects are encoded by individual morphemes: assert, mutter etc. Principles of verb composition entail that no verb encodes both discourse event type and means, and that all eligible means verbs conflate with the say schema. The resulting picture is a novel perspective on the acquisition of verbs, distinguishing sharply between that which is specific to a morpheme and learned piece by piece; that which is a property of a grammar and learned once for the target language; and that which is a property of universal grammar and not learned at all.