LINGUIST List 4.1082

Tue 21 Dec 1993

Qs: Transitivity, Problems and Mysteries

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Transitivity
  2. "Barbara.Abbott", Query -- problems vs. mysteries

Message 1: Transitivity

Date: Tue, 21 Dec 93 16:17 CST
From: <>
Subject: Transitivity

In the early 1980's there was a great deal of activity on the topic of
transitivity, stimulated largely by Hopper & Thompson's article in
Language (Hopper, Paul J. and Sandra A Thompson. 1980. Transitivity
in grammar and discourse. Lg. 56. 251-299) . Though there's still work
being published in this area, most of the activity seems to have died
away. This seems, therefore, like the appropriate time to ask what
professional linguists think about this concept. I'd be very interested to
hear your opinions on some of the following questions:

 1. Is there a consensus on what transitivity is, what causes it, and
what its nature is? If so, what dou you think it is?

 2. Is transitivity a useful concept, and, if it is, in what
ways? Is it a derived concept or a primitive? Could we subsume
transitivity under something else?

 3. How widely accepted today is the Hopper & Thompson
formulation? What is accepted and what rejected? Do you believe other
articles deal with the topic better? What are these articles?

 4. How does aspect relate to transitivity? Referentiality? "Animacy,"
however we define this concept?

If there's enough response to make it worthwhile, I'll summarize to the

My thanks!
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Message 2: Query -- problems vs. mysteries

Date: Tue, 21 Dec 93 14:39 EST
From: "Barbara.Abbott" <>
Subject: Query -- problems vs. mysteries

I have a vague memory of being told that Chomsky somewhere made a
distinction between problems (potentially solvable with human
brain power) and mysteries (beyond our ken in some essential way).
These may not have been his exact terms. Can anybody help me out
with a reference?
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