[Lingtyp] metaphor theory / cognitive grammar explanations for verb and noun argument symmetries

Siva Kalyan sivakalyan.princeton at gmail.com
Sat Mar 19 12:33:41 UTC 2022

Hi Adam,

Langacker’s writings on Cognitive Grammar touch on this, particularly his paper on “reference-point constructions”:

Langacker, Ronald W. 1993. Reference-point constructions. Cognitive Linguistics 4(1): 1–38. Available at https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/cogl.1993.4.1.1/html <https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/cogl.1993.4.1.1/html>

He introduces the concept of “reference points” in the context of his semantic analysis of possessive constructions, and then notes a broad range of parallels in other areas of grammar, including “topic and topic-like constructions, pronoun-antecedent relationships, metonymy, and the discrepancy typically encountered between those entities that figure most directly in a relationship and the explicitly coded relational participants”. He doesn’t use the notion of “reference point” to analyse agenthood or subjecthood—but given that subjects are often grammaticalised topics, there is at least an indirect relation.

One of the early chapters of volume 2 of Foundations of Cognitive Grammar (1991) contains a discussion of nominalised clauses, and in particular the fact that the agent often appears with possessive marking, (Unfortunately, this book is no longer available on Google Books, and I don’t have easy access to my physical copy, so I can’t provide a page reference.)

More generally, analogies between nominal and verbal structure are a recurring theme in Cognitive Grammar (particularly in volume 2 of Foundations; see especially the discussions of “grounding”, “quantification”, and “instantiation”), and in functionalism more generally. (In fact, I think Van Valin & LaPolla 1997 explicitly cite Langacker on this point.)

Hope this helps.


> On 19 Mar 2022, at 9:28 pm, Adam James Ross Tallman <ajrtallman at utexas.edu> wrote:
> Hello all,
> I thought there must be sources on this - but I haven't really found anything specific. I'm looking for sources that discuss potential semantic links between possessors in the nominal domain and agents (A subjects) in the verbal domain. Or just semantic explanations for structural homologies between noun and verb structure in general.
> I am aware of diachronic works that discuss the development of verbal alignment systems from (clausal) nominalizations. For instance, Gildea's work On Reconstructing Grammar gives a good explanation as to why we might find structural similarities between nouns and verbs for diachronic reasons (today's verbal structures were reanalyzed from a nominalized structure).
> Generative works, at least dating back to Chomsky's Remarks, explain structural homologies between noun and verb structure based on abstract formal schema (like X' theory).
> But, I was wondering if there were works in cognitive grammar or metaphor theory that have attempted to give a more synchronic explanation for potential symmetries between noun and verb phrase structure, based on the idea that noun and verb structures might have some common schematic form - or based on the idea that there is some metaphorical mapping between referential and event (verby) domains. 
> The idea would be that somehow possessors in the nominal (referential) domain are at some abstract level like agents in the verbal (event/situation?) domain (and perhaps analogies with other arguments could be made, but those seem less obvious). Maybe there's nothing like this, but I assumed that there must be, given discussions of "transcategoriality" in the literature. Any leads would be appreciated.
> best,
> Adam 
> -- 
> Adam J.R. Tallman
> Post-doctoral Researcher 
> Friedrich Schiller Universität
> Department of English Studies
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