Linking meaning to language: linguistic universals and variation


To use natural language, speakers must map the participants in events or states in the world onto grammatical roles. There remains considerable disagreement about the nature of these so-called linking rules (Levin & Rappaport Hovav, 2005). In order to probe the nature of linking rules, we investigate verbs of psychological state, which demonstrate complex linking patterns both within and between languages. We find that the typical duration of the psychological state guides the application of linking rules to novel verbs in both English and Japanese, consistent with a universal constraint. Nonetheless, there are marked differences in the baseline preferences for the individual linking rules across the two languages. We discuss these findings both in terms of theories of exceptionless linking rules and accounts on which linking rules are governed by probabilistic biases as well as cross-linguistic variation.

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