Transitivity & Grounding

Paul J Hopper ph1u+ at ANDREW.CMU.EDU
Sat Jan 9 12:57:12 UTC 1999

Dear Funknetters,

A brief addendum to George's posting.  Work presenting cognitive models
of transitivity has indeed provided valuable additions to our
understanding of transitivity at the clause level.  At the same time, we
note that in our 1980 paper we presented a two-fold theory of
transitivity: one part was a componential analysis of transitive
clauses, the other an attempt to find a basis for the transitivity
components in discourse grounding. The two parts were for us inseparable.

In this sense, work that "goes beyond" the early work might be not so
much work that abandons the original communicative perspective while
continuing to look at the componential analysis of clauses, but rather
work which would examine a wider variety of discourse genres, especially
conversation, and find out more about the communicative functions of
argument structure in general, of which transitivity might actually turn
out to be a just one manifestation.

We are beginning to do this for English.  Other research that moves in
this direction includes the by now considerable body of work on
'preferred argument structure' (Du Bois in LANGUAGE, 1987), such as the
volume of papers forthcoming with Benjamins called PREFERRED ARGUMENT
STRUCTURE: THE NEXT GENERATION, edited by Ashby, Du Bois, Kumpf, as well

Fox, Barbara A.  1995.  The category 'S' in English conversation.  In
Werner Abraham, T. Givon, and Sandra A. Thompson, eds., Discourse
grammar and typology, 153-178.  Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Karkkainen, Elise.  1996.  Preferred argument structure and subject role
in American English conversational discourse.  Journal of Pragmatics

Other examples include:

Cooreman, Ann.  1987.  Transitivity and discourse continuity in Chamorro
narrative.  Berlin: Mouton.

Tao, Hongyin. 1996.  Units in Mandarin conversation: prosody, discourse
and grammar. Amsterdam: Benjamins.


Paul and Sandy
Excerpts from mail: 7-Jan-99 Re: Transitivity & Grounding by George
Lakoff at COGSCI.BER
> Hi,
> Please take a look at Sally Rice's superb 1987 UCSD dissertation:
> Participants and Nonparticipants: Toward a Cognitive Model of Transitivity.
> It goes well beyond Hopper and Thompson's fine earlier work.
> She also has a paper-- Transitivity and the Lexicon -- in the CRL Newsletter
> 2.2, 1987, available online I think from the Center for Research on
> Language at UCSD.
> Hope you enjoy it.
> George Lakoff

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