LINGUIST List 24.1620

Tue Apr 09 2013

Diss: Cognitive Science/Linguistic Theories/Pragmatics/Psycholing/Semantics/Text/Corpus Ling/Chinese, Mandarin/English/Spanish: Rissman: 'Event Participant Representations and the Instrumental Role...'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <>

Date: 09-Apr-2013
From: Lilia Rissman <>
Subject: Event Participant Representations and the Instrumental Role: A cross-linguistic study
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Institution: Johns Hopkins University Program: Department of Cognitive Science Dissertation Status: Completed Degree Date: 2013

Author: Lilia Rissman

Dissertation Title: Event Participant Representations and the Instrumental Role: A cross-linguistic study

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science                             Linguistic Theories                             Pragmatics                             Psycholinguistics                             Semantics                             Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin (cmn)                             English (eng)                             Spanish (spa)
Dissertation Director:
Kyle Rawlins Barbara Landau
Dissertation Abstract:

We represent events as composed of participants. In Joan was eating lasagnain the lecture hall, for example, this eating event is 'partitioned' into participants,including at least Joan, the lasagna, and the lecture hall. In this dissertation, Iaddress two questions about events and the participants that populate them:first, to what extent do we represent event participants as tokens of abstractroles such as Agent? Second, what is the role of the verb in partitioning eventsinto participants? I address these questions through the case study ofinstrumental participants, as in Joan was eating lasagna with a fork. In acomparison of the semantic properties of instrumental with and use, I argue thatInstrument is not a semantic primitive, but that with and use each encodedifferent instrumental properties. Specifically, with requires that the instrumentbe part of a minimal instance of an event, whereas use specifies that acting onthe instrument satisfies the agent's goals. I then address whether verbs such asslice require that events of this type contain an instrument, and whether thisrequirement indicates that an instrument is an argument of slice. In a novelexperimental task, subjects reported their judgments about verbs and the eventparticipants they require. The results from this experiment suggest thatinstruments are not arguments, but that properties of verbal meaning bias theagent to be interpreted as having subparts. In a second set of studies, Iinvestigated the cross-linguistic generality of these findings. Although theinstrument does not appear to be an argument of slice, there may be languageswhere a verb with a similar meaning as slice does have an instrument argument.To test this hypothesis, I conducted the judgment study described above withspeakers of Spanish and Mandarin. The results were strikingly similar acrossEnglish, Spanish and Mandarin, suggesting that in this domain, concepts aboutevents correspond to language-specific lexicalizations in uniform ways. Thesestudies converge on the same broad understanding of the nature of theinstrumental role: a participant that is an extension of the agent.

Page Updated: 09-Apr-2013