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

Daniel Ross djross3 at gmail.com
Sun Mar 20 03:48:00 UTC 2022

Thanks, everyone, for an interesting discussion. My reply here may not be
very insightful, certainly not especially theoretical, but I wanted to
share it anyway.

I remember this coming up when I took a Quechua class, and at the time I
felt like it simply made sense, e.g. from the perspective of formal
features: 1SG (for example) is the same in two locations, which seems both
convenient for the language learner, and also efficient in terms of
grammatical organization.

But yes, it's a bit of a leap from that abstract perspective (that the
person features would by default be realized in different places
identically, and that's certainly not the case in general across languages).

So I wonder if this isn't just a simple explanation via grammaticalization:
subject pronouns are often juxtaposed with verbs, and similarly (though
perhaps less often, or with some other marker, e.g. case) posessors may be
juxtaposed with posessees. The shared forms are a historical accident. And
perhaps with a little analogy between them (from the perspective of
grammatical consistency, along the lines of formal features), the
correspondence (including reduction corresponding to morphologization)
would be maintained.

Cognitive explanations are ultimately diachronic, either that certain usage
is more frequent and grammaticalizes, or because certain grammaticalized
usage is maintained through continued usage. Here in both cases the
identity in some languages would seem to be explained without need for
cognitive principles, beyond simply having the same forms in both contexts
being somewhat convenient.

(As for explaining why they sometimes differ, it would simply be because
they came from different syntactic sources. We also can find examples
within either domain that are split, such as the prefixing vs. suffixing
conjugation patterns in Semitic languages that have distinct, although
somewhat overlapping, forms, presumably all grammaticalized from pronouns,
but at different diachronic stages and in different positions.)


On Sat, Mar 19, 2022 at 8:30 PM William Croft <wcroft at unm.edu> wrote:

> Semantic/cognitive parallelism between referring phrase and clause
> structure in general were proposed by formal semanticists such as Emmon
> Bach (1986); see also the layered structure of the phrase and clause in RRG
> and Dik’s Functional Grammar as well as the cognitive linguistic versions
> found in Langacker (1991) mentioned by Siva, or in Croft (1990, 2007).
> The empirical relationship between possessors and verbal arguments, and
> hence its explanation, is much more complex than “possessor = subject”; see
> Siewierska (1998) (she starts from Seiler’s hypothesis that inalienable =
> P/O and alienable = A, but finds it needs at best to be revised).
> Bill
> Bach, Emmon. 1986. Natural language metaphysics. *Logic, Methodology and
> Philosophy of Science VII*, ed. R. Barcan-Marcus, G. J. W. Dorn & P.
> Weingartner, 573-95. Amsterdam: North-Holland.
> Croft, William. 1990. A conceptual framework for grammatical categories
> (or, a taxonomy of propositional acts). *Journal of Semantics* 7.245-79.
> Croft, William. 2007. The origins of grammar in the verbalization of
> experience. *Cognitive Linguistics *18.339-82*.*
> Langacker, Ronald W. 1991. *Foundations of cognitive grammar, vol II:
> descriptive application.* Stanford: Stanford University Press.
> Siewierska, Anna. 1998. On nominal and verbal person marking. *Linguistic
> Typology* 2.1-55.
> On Mar 19, 2022, at 10:04 AM, Yury Lander <yulander at yandex.ru> wrote:
> *  [EXTERNAL]*
> Dear all,
> Just a small note. I believe that Langacker's idea of "reference-point
> constructions" was anticipated by Edward Keenan in his:
> Keenan, Edward L. 1974, 'The Functional Principle: Generalizing the Notion
> of "Subject of''', Papers from the Tenth Regional Meeting of the Chicago
> Linguistic Society, Chicago, pp. 298-309.
> (Also reprinted in his book "Universal Grammar: 15 essays")
> As far as I remember, there he draws parallels between the
> possessor/possessum and the subject/predicate relations in terms of the
> dependency of interpretation. (Note that for Keenan in 1974 the typical
> subject was definitely S/A.) But maybe I am wrong in details...
> Kind regards,
> Yury
> 19.03.2022, 15:34, "Siva Kalyan" <sivakalyan.princeton at gmail.com>:
> 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
> 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.
> Siva
> 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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> Yury Lander
> HSE University, Linguistics
> http://www.hse.ru/staff/yulander
> http://www.hse.ru/en/staff/yulander
> https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Yury-Lander
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