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Numerical Expressions in Chinese: Syntax and Semantics  

Chuansheng He and Min Zhang

Numerical expressions are linguistic forms related to numbers or quantities, which directly reflect the relationship between linguistic symbols and mathematical cognition. Featuring some unique properties, numeral systems are somewhat distinguished from other language subsystems. For instance, numerals can appear in various grammatical positions, including adjective positions, determiner positions, and argument positions. Thus, linguistic research on numeral systems, especially the research on the syntax and semantics of numerical expressions, has been a popular and recurrent topic. For the syntax of complex numerals, two analyses have been proposed in the literature. The traditional constituency analysis maintains that complex numerals are phrasal constituents, which has been widely accepted and defended as a null hypothesis. The nonconstituency analysis, by contrast, claims that a complex numeral projects a complementative structure in which a numeral is a nominal head selecting a lexical noun or a numeral-noun combination as its complement. As a consequence, additive numerals are transformed from full NP coordination. Whether numerals denote numbers or sets has aroused a long-running debate. The number-denoting view assumes that numerals refer to numbers, which are abstract objects, grammatically equivalent to nouns. The primary issue with this analysis comes from the introduction of a new entity, numbers, into the model of ontology. The set-denoting view argues that numerals refer to sets, which are equivalent to adjectives or quantifiers in grammar. One main difficulty of this view is how to account for numerals in arithmetic sentences.

Article

Onomasiology in the Romance Languages  

Esme Winter-Froemel

Onomasiology represents an approach in semantics that takes the perspective from content to form and investigates the ways in which referents or concepts are designated in particular languages. In this way, onomasiology can be seen as being complementary to semasiology, which takes the opposite perspective and focuses on form-content relations. From a semiotic perspective, the two perspectives can be more clearly defined and delimited from each other by specifying the basic semiotic entities that represent the key reference points for onomasiological and semasiological investigations, respectively. Previous research has highlighted the contribution of both to a comprehensive understanding of lexical semantics. In this respect, the distinction between meaning change and change of designation appears to be of key importance for the domain of lexical innovation and change. In the history of Romance linguistics, onomasiological perspectives were included in early etymological studies (e.g., Diez, Salvioni, Tappolet, Merlo), and the term “onomasiology” was introduced by Zauner. The research on “Wörter and Sachen” (words and objects), and the research focus on lexical fields then took an explicit focus on onomasiological research questions, with linguistic geography established as a specific subdomain of linguistic research. The linguistic maps and atlases elaborated in this context provided important resources for multiple applications and theoretical discussions of synchronic and diachronic issues of Romance linguistics. In addition, various onomasiological case studies on particular concepts and conceptual domains were conducted, and onomasiological dictionaries elaborated. Moreover, linguistic typology has aimed to identify universal patterns of conceptualization and strategies of designation. With the rise of cognitive semantics, the synchronic relevance of onomasiology has been reinvigorated, as many basic approaches and concepts developed in this framework are inherently based on an onomasiological perspective. Bringing together typological considerations and cognitive semantics, and linking these approaches to the achievements of the prestructuralist and structuralist traditions, diachronic cognitive onomasiology opens up multiple perspectives for further research in lexical semantics. Finally, the potential of onomasiological investigations has also gained interest in language contact research, where issues of borrowability as well as semantic and pragmatic patterns of linguistic borrowing have been studied. A broad range of further research perspectives arises from the focus on the language users and their communicative intentions, these perspectives being strongly linked to the usage-based turn in cognitive linguistics as well as to investigations at the semantics-pragmatics interface.

Article

Verbal Plurality in the Romance Languages  

Patricia Cabredo Hofherr

Verbal plurality is commonly defined as a morphological means of marking event plurality on verbs. However, the definition of verbal plurality in terms of discrete event plurality hides a number of complexities. Firstly, many verbal markers that may mark discrete event multiplicities do not intrinsically mark discrete events, as they also allow durative, intensive, and attenuative readings. This suggests that discrete event multiplicity may emerge from quantity expressions that do not themselves impose discreteness. Secondly, markers of discrete event multiplicities fall into different classes. Additive markers in particular have to be treated as a separate type of event plurality, as they include presupposed and asserted events in the event plurality.

Article

Non-passive Verbal Periphrases in the Romance Languages  

Brenda Laca

Verbal periphrases combine two verbal forms that share their arguments. One of the forms, [V2], lexically determines most of the argument structure of the whole construction, whereas the other, [V1], contributes the sort of abstract meaning usually associated with functional categories in the realms of tense, aspect, and modality and is often classified as a (semi-)auxiliary. In most cases, [V2] appears in a fixed nonfinite form (infinitive, gerund, or participle), whereas the inflection on [V1] is variable; the periphrastic pattern may also include a preposition introducing the nonfinite form. Research on verbal periphrases has concentrated on the differences between periphrastic patterns and free patterns of complementation or adjunction involving nonfinite clauses, on the syntactic analysis of those patterns, and on their semantic classification. The renewed interest in the field in recent years has two sources. On the one hand, research on grammaticalization has emphasized the importance of periphrases for our understanding of the way in which exponents for grammatical meanings emerge diachronically from lexical constructions. On the other hand, work in generative syntax (in the so-called cartographic approach) has taken periphrases as evidence for the postulated existence of highly articulated functional layers above a core verb phrase headed by a lexical verb. The bulk of nonpassive verbal periphrases either modify Aktionsart or express viewpoint aspect or relative tense. Research has revealed considerable differences in their inventory and in the status of cognate periphrases across Romance, as well as some parallel or convergent developments.

Article

Perfects in the Romance Languages  

Gerhard Schaden

This article is devoted to the description of perfect tenses in Romance. Perfects can be described as verbal forms which place events in the past with respect to some point of reference, and indicate that the event has some special relevance at the point of reference ; in that, they are opposed to past tenses, which localize an event in the past with respect to the moment of utterance. Romance is an interesting language family with respect to perfect tenses, because it features a set of closely related constructions, descending almost all from the same diachronic source yet differing in interesting ways among each other. Romance also provides us with a lesson in the difficulty of clearly pinning down and stating a single, obvious and generally agreed upon criterion of defining a perfect.

Article

Collectives in the Romance Languages  

Wiltrud Mihatsch

Just like other semantic subtypes of nouns such as event nouns or agent nouns, collectives may be morphologically opaque lexemes, but they are also regularly derived in many languages. Perhaps not a word-formation category as productive as event nouns or agent nouns, collective nouns still represent a category associated with particular means of word formation, in the case of the Romance languages by means of derivational suffixes. The Romance languages all have suffixes for deriving collectives, but only very few go directly back to Latin. In most cases, they evolve from other derivational suffixes via metonymic changes of individual derived nouns, notably event nouns and quality nouns. Due to the ubiquity of these changes, series of semantically and morphologically equivalent collectives trigger functional changes of the suffixes themselves, which may then acquire collective meaning. Most of these suffixes are pan-Romance, in many cases going back to very early changes, or to inter-Romance loans. The different Romance languages have overlapping inventories of suffixes, with different degrees of productivity and different semantic niches. The ease of transition from event or quality noun to collective also explains why only few suffixes are exclusively used for the derivation of collective nouns.

Article

The Semantics of Chinese Noun Phrases  

Xuping Li

Chinese nominal phrases are typologically distinct from their English counterparts in many aspects. Most strikingly, Chinese is featured with a general classifier system, which not only helps to categorize nouns but also has to do with the issue of quantification. Moreover, it has neither noncontroversial plural markers nor (in)definite markers. Its bare nouns are allowed in various argument positions. As a consequence, Chinese is sometimes characterized as a classifier language, as an argumental language, or as an article-less language. One of the questions arising is whether these apparently different but related properties underscore a single issue: that it is the semantics of nouns that is responsible for all these peculiarities of Mandarin nominal phrases. It has been claimed that Chinese nouns are born as kind terms, from which the object-level readings can be derived, being either existential or definite. Nevertheless, the existence of classifiers in Chinese is claimed to be independent of the kind denotation of its bare nouns. Within the general area of noun semantics, a number of other semantic issues have generated much interest. One is concerned with the availability of the mass/count distinction in Mandarin nominal phrases. Another issue has to do with the semantics of classifiers. Are classifiers required by the noun semantics or the numeral semantics, when occurring in the syntactic context of Numeral/Quantifier-Classifier-Noun? Finally, how is the semantic notion of definiteness understood in article-less languages like Mandarin Chinese? Should its denotation be characterized with uniqueness or familiarity?

Article

Structural Semantics in the Romance Languages  

Miguel Casas Gómez and Martin Hummel

Structural semantics is a primarily European structural linguistic approach to the content level of language which basically derives from two historical sources. The main inspiration stems from Ferdinand de Saussure’s Cours de linguistique générale (1916), where the Genevan linguist also formulates the fundamental principles of semantic analysis: the twofold character of the linguistic sign, the inner determination of its content by the—allegedly autonomous—linguistic system, the consequent exclusion of the extralinguistic reality, the notion of opposition inside the system, and the concept of “associative relations” in the domain of semantics. This tradition was later refined by Hjelmslev and Coseriu, who introduced theoretical and methodological strength and rigor, suggesting systematic analyses in terms of semantic features linked by (binary) opposition. The second source of inspiration was the more holistic concept elaborated by Wilhelm von Humboldt, who saw language as a means of structuring the world. In the second half of the 20th century, structural semantics was mainstream semantics (to the extent that semantic analysis was accepted at all). A long series of authors deepened these historical traditions in theoretical and empirical studies, some of them suggesting secondary and/or partial models. Finally, prototype semantics and cognitive semantics strove to downgrade structural semantics by turning back to a more holistic conception of meaning including the speakers’ knowledge of the world, although not without introducing the alternative structural notion of “network.”

Article

Attributive Compounds  

Anton Karl Ingason and Einar Freyr Sigurðsson

Attributive compounds are words that include two parts, a head and a non-head, both of which include lexical roots, and in which the non-head is interpreted as a modifier of the head. The nature of this modification is sometimes described in terms of a covert relationship R. The nature of R has been the subject of much discussion in the literature, including proposals that a finite and limited number of interpretive options are available for R, as well as analyses in which the interpretation of R is unrestricted and varies with context. The modification relationship between the parts of an attributive compound also contrasts with the interpretation of compounds in other ways because some non-heads in compounds saturate argument positions of the head, others are semantically conjoined with them, and some restrict their domain of interpretation.

Article

Verb Concatenation in Asian Linguistics  

Benjamin Slade

Across a large part of Asia are found a variety of verb-verb collocations, a prominent subset of which involves collocations typically displaying completive or resultative semantics. Such collocations are found in Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages of South Asia, Turkic and Iranian languages of Central Asia, and in Chinese languages. In South and Central Asian languages, verb-verb collocations usually involve some added aspectual/Aktionsart element of meaning, frequently (though not exclusively) indicating completion of an event and sometimes involving speaker evaluation of the event (e.g., surprise, regret). Thus Hindi Rām-ne kitāb paṛh diyā, literally “John read-gave the book,” with the sense “John read the book out.” In Chinese languages, many verb-verb collocations involve a resultative sense, similar to English “Kim ran herself/her shoes ragged.” However, earlier Chinese verb-verb collocations were agent-oriented, for example, She-sha Ling Gong“(Someone) shot and killed Duke Ling,” where she is “shoot” and sha is “kill.” In Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, and Central Asian languages, we find verb-verb collocations that evolve from idiomaticization and grammaticalization of constructions involving converbs, for example, a collocation meaning “he, having eaten food, left” acquires the meaning “he ate food (completely).” Similarly, the Chinese verb-verb resultatives derive from earlier verb-verb “co-ordinate” constructions (originally with an overt morpheme er: ji er sha zhi “struck and killed him”), which functionally is similar to the role of converbs in South and Central Asian languages. While these Asian verb-verb collocations are strikingly similar in broad strokes, there are significant differences in the lexical, semantic, and morphosyntactic properties of these constructions in different languages. This is true even in closely related languages in the same language family, such as in Hindi and Nepali. The historical relation between verb-verb collocations in different Asian languages is unclear. Even in geographically proximate language families such as Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, there is evidence of independent development of verb-verb collocations, with possible later convergence. Central Asian verb-verb collocations being very similar in morphosyntactic structure to South Asian verb-verb collocations, it is tempting to suppose that for these there is some contact-based cause, particularly since such collocations are much less prominent in Turkic and Iranian languages outside of Central Asia. The relation between South and Central Asian verb-verb collocations and Chinese verb-verb collocations is even more opaque, and there are greater linguistic differences here. In this connection, further study of verb-verb collocations in Asian languages geographically intermediate to Central and South Asia, including Thai, Vietnamese, and Burmese, is required.