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LINGUIST List 22.5108

Mon Dec 19 2011

Diss: Historical Ling/English: Miura: 'Middle English Verbs of ...'

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        1.     Ayumi Miura , Middle English Verbs of Emotion and Impersonal Constructions: A diachronic study of the syntax-semantics interface

Message 1: Middle English Verbs of Emotion and Impersonal Constructions: A diachronic study of the syntax-semantics interface
Date: 16-Dec-2011
From: Ayumi Miura <ayumi.miurapostgrad.manchester.ac.uk>
Subject: Middle English Verbs of Emotion and Impersonal Constructions: A diachronic study of the syntax-semantics interface
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Institution: University of Manchester
Program: Linguistics and English Language
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Ayumi Miura

Dissertation Title: Middle English Verbs of Emotion and Impersonal Constructions: A diachronic study of the syntax-semantics interface

Dissertation URL: https://www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/jrul/item/?pid=uk-ac-man-scw:139137

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Nuria Yáñez-Bouza
David Denison

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis investigates the under-discussed question of why certain verbs
are attested in impersonal constructions in the history of English while
others are not, even though they look almost synonymous (e.g. LIKE and
LOATHE: impersonal; LOVE and HATE: non-impersonal). By carefully studying
the behaviour of impersonal verbs and near-synonymous non-impersonal verbs,
this thesis attempts to identify factors that determined the presence,
absence and spread of impersonal usage with Middle English verbs of emotion
and demonstrates that we can make reasonable generalisations about when the
usage was licensed.

The first chapter provides an overview of previous studies, with special
reference to different syntactic-semantic definitions and classifications
of 'impersonals'. The next chapter considers possible methodological
approaches for this thesis by reviewing several case studies of
near-synonymous verbs in early English. It also discusses causation and
aspect, two of the crucial concepts in the literature on psych-verbs in
modern languages. The third chapter introduces the _Historical Thesaurus of
the Oxford English Dictionary_, whose categorisations were adopted in this
thesis. On the basis of the definitions provided in dictionaries of Old and
Middle English, Chapter 4 examines how impersonal usage rose and spread in
each of the seven _HTOED_ 'Emotion' categories which include impersonal
verbs. Common semantic characteristics of these verbs are then established.
Verbs of Fear and Anger turn out to have parallel histories in that they
first developed impersonal usage in early Middle English and that the usage
shifted around the fourteenth century from verbs with a certain sense of
stimulus to those which expressed general fear and anger. No such
systematic change is observed with the other categories, though some of
them experienced minor development around the same time. Chapter 5
carefully analyses the data in the relevant entries of the _Middle English
Dictionary_ according to five factors, namely causation, aspect,
constructional patterns, animacy of the Target of Emotion and argument
alternation. Each of these factors has an effect: most of the impersonal
verbs of emotion are causative and stative, while some non-impersonal verbs
are non-causative or non-stative. These two sets of verbs are also
sometimes distinguished by the availability of Experiencer-subject passive
constructions and apparent cases of the conative alternation. A number of
impersonal verbs favour inanimate Targets, while some frequent
non-impersonal verbs do not. The final chapter concludes that the use or
non-use of Middle English verbs of emotion in impersonal constructions was
affected by causation, transitivity and animacy of the Target of Emotion,
the first two of which undergo diachronic transitions. The findings in this
thesis are shown to receive support in the definitions and classifications
of emotions in psychology.

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