[Lingtyp] semantic role of participant that needs something

Sergey Say serjozhka at yahoo.com
Sat Jul 2 12:08:25 UTC 2022

 Dear all,I think I can adduce some empirical evidence in support of the idea that‘need’ holds an intermediate position between predicates involving prototypicalpossessors and prototypical experiencers. My evidience comes from fromBivaltyp, a typological database of bivalent verbs and their encodingframes (www.bivaltyp.info).
(Note that the actual context that was used for eliciting the meaning of“Need” for the database was as follows: “Peter’s house was burglarisedwith all the valuables taken. As a consequence, Peter needs money.”)“Need” turns out to be extremely heterogeneous in terms of codingpossibilities observed in the 90 languages of the database (unfortunately, theyare mostly spoken in the Northern Eurasia, though). In particular, it is easilycompatible with the transitive encoding (e.g., in the Western Europe, see thered points on the map below). At the same time, it often displays otherpatterns that differ in terms of what I refer to as the “locus ofintransitivity”, including: 
-       “X-locus”(blue points), where the “needer” is encoded as an oblique (e.g., Dative or thelike, as already mentioned in this thread);-       “Y-locus”(yellow points), where the thing needed is encoded as an oblique (e.g. Genitive/ Partititve in the Circum-Baltic area) and even
-       “XY-locus”(black points), where both arguments are encoded as obliques

Other predicate types mentioned in this thread (and almost otherpredicate types covered by the database) display less variation in terms oftheir encoding. For example, “have” (at least in the mainly Eurasian languages of thedatabase) is basically split between the transitive pattern in the WesternEurope and X-locus (Stassen’s “Oblique (=Locational + Genitive) possessive”) inthe rest of Nporthern Eurasia, as well known from the literature on predicativepossession.“Lack” (which is labeled “be short” in the database) is strongly biasedin favour of the X-locus, except for Germanic where it is often transitive, andthe Circum-Baltic area where it often displays the otherwise rare XY-pattern –a feature that is common for “lack” and “need”.“Want” displays a strong transitive bias (there are occasional languageswhere the thing wanted is encoded in an oblique position, though; there is alsoa hotbed of languages of the Caucasus where the “wanter” is encoded as anoblique).Finally, the various predicates involving undoubtful experiencers arenot homogeneous, but they most vary in whether they do or do not involve anoblique experiencer. 
My empirical conclusion is that “need” can be conceptualizeddifferently, with the possibilities reflecting either the fact that the thingneeded is not attained (oblique encoding of the thing needed, possibly relatedto some internal negation), or some mental involvement of the needer (itsdative-like encoding), which echoes some semantics-based claims earlier in thisthread.
[My theoretical conclusion is that discrete semantic roles are not viable,but I would not try to defend this stance here].
Sergey Say

    On Saturday, July 2, 2022, 02:51:09 PM GMT+3, Maia Ponsonnet <maia.ponsonnet at uwa.edu.au> wrote:  
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! Maïa  

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> 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])

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
Rudolfstr. 4
99092 Erfurt

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