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LINGUIST List 19.2928

Fri Sep 26 2008

Diss: Lexicography/Semantics/Text/Corpus Ling: Nordlund: 'From ...'

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        1.    Marie Nordlund, From Physical to Mental Acquisition: A corpus-based study of verbs


Message 1: From Physical to Mental Acquisition: A corpus-based study of verbs
Date: 26-Sep-2008
From: Marie Nordlund <Marie.Nordlundltu.se>
Subject: From Physical to Mental Acquisition: A corpus-based study of verbs
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Institution: LuleƄ University of Technology
Program: Linguistics in the Midnight Sun
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Marie Nordlund

Dissertation Title: From Physical to Mental Acquisition: A corpus-based study of verbs

Dissertation URL: http://epubl.ltu.se/1402-1544/2008/34/

Linguistic Field(s): Lexicography
                            Semantics
                            Text/Corpus Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Cathrine Norberg
Heidi Hansson

Dissertation Abstract:

Based on the hypothesis that the frame to which a verb is linked influences
how easily that verb can be extended into the mental domain, the aim of
this thesis is to carry out a lexico-semantic analysis of the six verbs
acquire, buy, gather, grasp, receive and seize. These verbs were chosen
because they can express physical as well as mental acquisition and because
they are linked to frames of varying complexity. Frames contain not only
linguistic (syntactic and semantic) information, but also language users'
knowledge of how society and its values affect the use of verbs. The
complexity of a frame involves, among other things, the number and nature
of necessary participants, circumstances under which the action may be
successfully carried out and institutionalised rules imposed or sanctioned
by society. Prior to the analyses, it was assumed in this work that the
verbs gather, grasp and seize are used as mental verbs to a higher extent
than acquire, buy and receive. This is so, because the simplicity of the
former verbs' frames facilitates meaning extension from the physical to the
mental domain. Specific questions addressed in the study are: (i) To what
extent are the verbs used as mental verbs? (ii) What other usages do the
verbs display? (iii) What is the relative frequency of different usages for
each verb? (iv) Are any of the verbs better suited to express mental
acquisition than others? And, if so, in what way?

The analyses of the verbs are based on material collected from the British
National Corpus (BNC), a 100 million word electronic corpus containing both
spoken (10%) and written (90%) British English. The material retrieved from
the corpus suggests that it is possible to claim that frames exert a
considerable influence on the circumstances, contextual or otherwise, under
which the verbs may be appropriately put to use. It is shown that
experience-based and uncomplicated verbs such as gather and grasp, which
are tied to minimalist unspecified frames, are used to a much greater
extent within the mental domain than acquire, buy and receive, which are
linked to more complex and institutionalised frames. The analyses further
reveal that most instances of seize are linked to a more complex frame than
was assumed. As a result, extensions of the verb into the mental domain are
very rare. On the whole, grasp is the one verb that more than any of the
others lends itself to mental usages: almost every second instance of grasp
found in the BNC expresses mental grasping. The results suggest that
although English is full of expressions pointing towards a
conceptualisation of ideas and other mental entities as concrete objects -
the IDEAS ARE OBJECTS metaphor - it might be the case that ideas are
conceptualised as entities that are close enough to be grasped or gathered
rather than bought or acquired. As demonstrated here, then, a vocabulary
for mental activities and cognition is more commonly borrowed from verbs
that involve direct bodily movement.



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