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Bookmark and Share Paper 3298

The Semantic Contribution of Idiosyncratic Roots in Ditransitive Verbs
John Beavers and Andrew Koontz-Garboden
70-80 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Verb meanings are often thought to consist of an "event structure" composed of two semantic primitives: an "event template" built recursively from basic eventive predicates defining the broad temporal and causal nature of the event, and an idiosyncratic "root" that fills in the real world details of a given verb's template (Dowty 1979, Levin and Rappaport Hovav 1995, Harley 2003, inter alia). However, an open question is whether an ontological semantic distinction between roots and templates is justified, and in particular whether a verb's idiosyncratic root can also directly encode basic eventive notions (contra the Root Hypothesis of Arad 2005 and the Bifurfaction Thesis of Embick 2009). This paper argues that roots can in fact encode templatic information, considering as a case study English ditransitive verbs, which exhibit two argument frames that reflect their association with two distinct event templates: caused motion in the "to" frame and caused possession in the double object frame. The paper shows that these templates are highly underspecified semantically, and the roots that occur in them flesh out many basic eventive details that include filling in specific types of changes of state, an otherwise templatic notion. The paper proposes a compositional analysis of roots and templates in which their meanings do not differ ontologically but only in degree of specificity—templates encode general eventive meanings, and roots encode specific eventive meanings that may entail the more general meanings, with the verb's ultimate meaning arising from subsumption and augmentation relationships between the two. This keeps with findings in unrelated empirical domains, where the roots of some change of state verbs have been shown to introduce templatic entailments of change (Koontz-Garboden and Beavers 2016) and where the roots of manner of killing verbs introduce a templatic entailment of causation (Beavers and Koontz-Garboden 2012). Nonetheless, the paper still argues that there are reasons to assume the ontological distinction between roots and templates, even if the reasons are not truth-conditional in nature.

Published in

Proceedings of the 34th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Aaron Kaplan, Abby Kaplan, Miranda K. McCarvel, and Edward J. Rubin
Table of contents
Printed edition: $410.00