LINGUIST List 29.4029

Wed Oct 17 2018

Confs: General Linguistics/Germany

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

Date: 15-Oct-2018
From: Roberta Mastrofini <>
Subject: The Concept of Lightness: New Perspectives and Applications
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The Concept of Lightness: New Perspectives and Applications

Date: 21-Aug-2019 - 24-Aug-2019
Location: Leipzig, Germany
Contact: Roberta Mastrofini
Contact Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics

Meeting Description:

(Session of 52nd Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea)

The term lightness was first coined by Jespersen in relation to English verbal constructions formed by “an insignificant verb, to which the marks of person and tense are attached, before the really important idea” (Jespersen, 1954: 117-118). In other words, lightness was first detected as a property of general English predicates (i.e. to make, to have, to give, to take) when found in combination with a nomen actionis (Nickel, 1968) or, following a more recent definition, an eventive deverbal noun (Kiefer & Gross, 1995; Kiefer, 1998), as in the case of to make a call, to give a talk, to take a walk, to have a row. These examples represent a verbal construction in which the predicate is devoid of its literal meaning through a process of “predicate bleaching” (Szabolsci, 1986). As a consequence, the verb turns into a mere syntactic device (sometimes serving as an aspectual element too), while the noun undertakes the main semantic content of the construction (i.e. to make a call means “to call”; to give a talk means “to talk”, and so forth).

There have been many varied approaches to the study of LVCs, ranging from morphology (Helbig 1979, 1984) to syntax (Cattell, 1984; Grimshaw & Mester, 1988; Kearns, 2002), and semantics (Wierzbicka, 1982, 1988; Stein, 1991), just to name a few. Nevertheless, many aspects seem to be unsolved.

Our workshop proposal wants to bring together scholars working on lightness from any type of perspective ranging from syntax to semantics, in English, or even better in a cross-linguistic perspective. Diachronic, typological, and corpus-based approaches are welcome. The aim is to find an answer to the following unsolved questions:
What is a LVC and what is not? Should we consider “light” only the prototypical instances retrieved by Jespersen or postulate different degrees of lightness in verbal constructions? And, if so, how, and by which parameters is lightness assessed?
Would it be plausible to say that any lexical predicate may turn “light” under specific syntagmatic conditions? If so, which ones?
Is lightness only a verbal property?
Can lightness in LVEs be the result of a metaphorical shift? If so, could a semantic cognitive approach be relevant?
How can lightness be considered from a Cognitive Linguistics approach? Is it a matter of conceptual metaphor extension (Lakoff, 1990; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999, 2003)?
When did lightness emerge, in a diachronic perspective? Can we apply Prototype Theory to distinguish LVCs from LVEs?

Keywords: Light Verb Extensions, Cognitive Semantics, Prototype Theory, Light nouns, Scale of nouniness/verbiness.

Call for Papers:

Deadline for sending a 300-word abstract: Oct 31, 2018

Abstracts should be sent to:


Roberta Mastrofini,
Jodi L. Sandford,
Marco Bagli (University of Perugia, Italy).

Contact Person: Roberta Mastrofini

Page Updated: 17-Oct-2018