A Corpus Investigation of English Cognition Verbs and their Effect on the Incipient Epistemization of Physical Activity Verbs

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Abstract


In the spirit of NSM accounts that attempt to build up a language’s full expressivity from a small set of lexical primitives, we have investigated the usage in English of basic verbs of ideation ( think, know ) and physical activity ( strike, hit, go, run ) as they take on new epistemic meanings and functions, all the while calcifying in their inflectional range. It is well known that certain verbs of cognition in English such as remember , forget , and think are grammaticalizing into pragmatic particles of epistemic stance and, consequently, 1st person singular (1sg) forms account for the majority of usages. Likewise, we have carried out systematic queries and hand-tagging of corpus returns and have found that many verbs and phrasal expressions, ideational or not, seem to be associated with rather narrow collocational patterning, argument structure, and inflectional marking in almost idiom-like and constructional fashion. Moreover, we find that expressions associated with 1sg and 2nd person “cognizers” are, to a large extent, in complementary distribution, giving rise to fairly strong semantic differences in how I and you “ideate”. In this study, we demonstrate the extent of inflectional and collocational specificity for verbs of cognition and physical activity and discuss implications this lexico-syntactic idiosyncracy has for cognitive linguistics.

About the authors

Sally Rice

University of Alberta

Email: sally.rice@ualberta.ca
116 St. and 85 Ave., Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2R3
Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Alberta. Her research spans multiple sub-disciplines, including lexical semantics, comparative Athapaskan, corpus linguistics, cognitive linguistics, and multimodality in language. She conducts fieldwork on Dene Sųłiné and Tsuut’ina, two northern Athapaskan languages, and has been an active proponent and practitioner of community-university research alliances - community-based corpus-building in particular. She was a co-founder of the Canadian Indigenous Languages and Literacy Development Institute (CILLDI), an annual summer school for speakers of indigenous languages, which trains community language activists in linguistic analysis, language pedagogy, and revitalization project development and advocacy.

John Newman

University of Alberta; Monash University

Email: john.newman@ualberta.ca
116 St. and 85 Ave., Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2R3
Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Alberta and an Adjunct Research Fellow in the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University. His research focus has been mainly in areas of cognitive linguistics, especially cognitive linguistic approaches to basic verbs. His research interests also include corpus linguistics, quantitative methods in linguistics, and historical linguistics. He has published research on Germanic, Sinitic, Austronesian, and Papuan languages. He is currently the Outgoing Editor-in-Chief of the journal “Cognitive Linguistics”.

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