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

Juergen Bohnemeyer jb77 at buffalo.edu
Sat Mar 19 13:52:13 UTC 2022

Hello Adam — Seiler (1973) explores the idea of participial perfect constructions being licensed as predicative possessive constructions via the metaphor of agent as ‘possessor of an act’. In Seiler (1981), he writes:

> From case marking, two paths can in principle be traced
> in the program. One leads straight toward full verbs and
> the phenomena connected with "transitivity and possession"
> (see Allen 1964:337 ff.). The facts are manifold and have
> received a great deal of attention. As areminder, I shall
> just cite the Armenian example from E. Benveniste's well-
> known study on the transitive perfect (1952:52 ff.):
> ( 11 4 ) (i) nora
> e gorcea (z-gorc)
> be:AUX make-PTC (OBJ-work)
> " e ius est factum (operam)"
> = he has made (the work)
> (ii) nora e handerj
> PRON. be :AUX garment
> "eius est vestimentum"
> = he has a dress

> Typically, the genitive (or dative - in Armenian the two
> coincide except in the pronominal inflection - ) represents
> the agent of the transitive verb, as in (i); and the same
> genitive (dative) represents the POSSESSOR, as in (ii). One
> may then, with regard to construction (i), speak of a "poss-
> essor of an act" (Seiler 1973:836 ff.). It is a predominantly
> establishing procedure of POSSESSION where the agent is cre-
> dited with an act. The expression is clearly predicativei
> it is the type of "mihi est Nil and "habeo NI! to be dis-
> cussed below (5.6.). Beyond that, it does not add any new
> feature to the spectrum or dimension of POSSESSION. An in-
> teresting question, which has not yet been properly raised,
> let alone been answered, is to know why languages in the
> course of their history should, again and again, replace
> simple perfect forms by such periphrastic constructions and
> why a function like the transitive perfect should be re-
> presented as being "the possessor of an act". This, how-
> ever, is a problem to be solved within the framework of the
> dimension of valence.

This could have been a good jump-off point for a fuller exploration of the actor-possessor parallels, but I’m not sure whether that ever happened. People more familiar with Seiler’s work may have to fill in the gaps.

Best — Juergen

Seiler, Hansjakob. 1973. On the semanto-syntactic configuration 'Possessor of an Act.’ In: Issues in Linguistics. Papers in Honor of Henry and Renee Kahane. Ed. by Braj Kachru et als Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 836-853.

—— 1981. POSSESSION as an Operational Dimension of Language. ARBEITEN DES KÖLNER UNIVERSALIEN - PROJEKTS. Nr. 42.

> On Mar 19, 2022, at 7:28 AM, 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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Juergen Bohnemeyer (He/Him)
Professor, Department of Linguistics
University at Buffalo 

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