[Lingtyp] semantic role of participant that needs something

Maia Ponsonnet maia.ponsonnet at uwa.edu.au
Sat Jul 2 11:50:55 UTC 2022


Sorry to jump in, it is possible that I haven't completely understood the original question.

In line with Jess's suggestion about the desiderative, I'm not sure why a subject of a verb/aux meaning "need" should not be an EXPERIENCER?

Of course this does not entirely solve the question of the modal projection operated by "need". But it seems to me that the question of the participant's semantic role pertains to the event described, rather than the one being modally projected?

Very interested to hear otherwise!

Dr Maïa Ponsonnet

Chargée de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Laboratoire Dynamique Du Language

Adjunct Researcher, Discipline of Linguistics, The University of Western Australia

From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of Jess Tauber <tetrahedralpt at gmail.com>
Sent: Saturday, 2 July 2022 12:36 PM
To: Volker Gast <volker.gast at uni-jena.de>
Cc: list, typology <lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
Subject: Re: [Lingtyp] semantic role of participant that needs something

In Yahgan (recently extinct genetic isolate from Tierra del Fuego), suffix -apisiu: (colon marks tenseness of the vowel preceding it) means 'without, not having, so for example simapisiu: ('there is no water' sima potable (fresh) water''. apitvpa (v schwa) is glossed as 'having no things, poor'. The compiler of the dictionary, the British missionary Thomas Bridges, defines this as based on api 'body' and -tvpan 'only', but my own sense is that *ap(i) here is more at 'have'. But 'need(s)' is variously ta:pvna, ta:pu:ku:, where ta:pvna is more at 'needs to survive' (as a child its mother's milk, or a person water), while ta:pu:ku: means 'to need but be too afraid, hesitant, or reluctant to try to get'.  It is my belief that these forms are derivatives of the same underlying root shared with -a:pisiu: (-iu: by itself was a productive suffix meaning 'not yet' when appended to verb stems. There are other words along the 'needs/wants' spectrum, more usually dealing with intentions, planning, and such, desire, liking and love, etc. For example, tama:na means 'be hesitant, reluctant to do, careful'. But there is no sense of 'need' in the gloss laid out in the dictionary. kuru: is 'want, like, desire' generally, and has also found (in addition to the free lexeme) grammaticalized as an enclitic present tense form kush as a desiderative.

Jess Tauber

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On Sat, Jul 2, 2022 at 5:51 AM Volker Gast <volker.gast at uni-jena.de<mailto:volker.gast at uni-jena.de>> wrote:

Dear Christian,

I think a central question here is whether 'lack' is a predicate with in-built negation, assigning a possessor role to its higher argument and negating the Possessor relation, or whether it is a predicate that assigns the role of a non-Possessor (or would-be-Possessor) to that argument.

As far as I know, 'lack' licenses NPIs, e.g.:

(1) He lacks any sense of humour.

That seems to show that 'lack' essentially means 'not have', just like 'being dead' means 'not being alive'.

I do not think that 'need' implies 'not have':

(2) I can't lend you my computer, I need it.

I would still maintain that this means "in the best of all worlds, I have a computer".

Perhaps Sebastian is right and the modal always has wide scope, i.e., 'I need a computer' simply means 'I need to have a computer' (though the feeling of not actually having a computer seems to be stronger in the latter case).

I wonder if evaluations should be factored into semantic roles. They seem to be located at a different level of interpretation. A semantic role is a relation between an event and a participant. An evaluation is a relation between an evaluator (the speaker or a participant) and a proposition. There are certainly predicates that encode both semantic relations and some type of evaluation; but then I would rather say that a predicate encodes some type of semantic role and, in addition, some type of evaluation (rather than including the evaluation in the semantic role).

I think those problems have been discussed in the context of the adversative passive in Japaneses and related constructions (e.g. external possessors in European languages). For instance, 'Du stehst mir auf dem Fuß' also implies some negative evaluation, as opposed to 'Du stehst auf meinem Fuß'.


On 02.07.22 10:05, Christian Lehmann wrote:
Dear everybody,

many thanks for your help. At least some of the discussion seems to converge on the following points:

Fillmore-style semantic roles (i.e. semantic relations between a referent and a situation core, conceived at a level of generality that can cover different situation cores [coded by different verbs]) are best analyzed in terms of primitive predicates. (I could have known this; s.:
Lehmann, Christian 2006, “Les rôles sémantiques comme prédicats”. Bulletin de la Société de Linguistique de Paris 101/1:67-88.[télécharger[https://www.christianlehmann.eu/fundus/pdf.gif]<https://www.researchgate.net/publication/251003441_Les_roles_semantiques_comme_predicats>])

Then the meaning of 'X lacks Y' may boil down to 'X does not have Y'.
The meaning of 'X needs Y' would include this proposition and another one like 'for X not to have Y affects X negatively' or alternatively 'for X to have Y would be positive for X' (with obvious choices for more formalization). This would encompass Volker's notion of 'modalized possessor'.

Now assuming that lack has the meaning indicated, then 'for X not to have Y affects X negatively' may be a conversational implicature. On this basis, a language (maybe Yankunytjatjara) may have 'lack' and lack 'need'. On the other hand, there are languages like German and Cabecar which have 'need', but lack 'lack'.

Returning to semantic roles: Given 'X does not have Y', X clearly has the possessor role. However, 'X does not have Y' is not the "point" in the meaning of 'need'; the point is that it would be better for X to have Y. Then the question remains whether there is any semantic role (already known) which covers this relation of X. Randy argues that the case is analogous to 'love', so the role is experiencer. It is also true that the role of X in 'X needs Y' is often coded as some sort of dative dependent, which would fit the experiencer interpretation. However, it also fits the possessor interpretation, so this may not be decisive. On the basis of Jürgen's paraphrase, X would be affected. This would be covered by the role of patient. However, no data have been adduced where X in 'X needs Y' would be in some kind of undergoer role.

Maybe the affectation of X here is not the immediate affectation of a patient, but rather the mediate affectation undergone by the participant bearing a benefactive role. Then the role of X in 'Z is (not) good for X' would be the malefactive role; if it is converted into 'it would be good for X if Z were the case', it is the benefactive role. This would again be compatible with the dative often associated with 'need'.

It remains to say that the experiencer and the benefactive roles are not entirely disjunct, as far as definitions known to me go.


Prof. em. Dr. Christian Lehmann
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