Prices are rising, wages are falling: Argument structure of verbs denoting ‘increase’ and ‘decrease’ in the Russian language

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Syntactic properties of verbs in their metaphorical meanings are often explained as inherited from direct meanings. Using Russian verbs denoting ‘increase’ and ‘decrease’ (‘grow’, ‘fall’, ‘lower’, etc.) as an example, we demonstrate that cognitive factors also influence syntactic properties of metaphorical meanings. The study is based on the data from the Russian National Corpus and RuSkell. We use collocation analysis to compare the semantic and syntactic properties of these verbs in their direct and figurative meanings. We show that in direct meanings their syntactic properties differ, while in figurative meanings they are considerably closer, which excludes inheritance as the primary defining factor. All the verbs have four semantic arguments with the same morphosyntactic realization: parameter (A1), initial value of parameter (A2), final value of parameter (A3) and difference (A4): Oil prices (A1) fell by fifty percent (A4), from one hundred dollars a barrel (A2) to fifty (A3). Frequency analysis reveals a disproportion in the implementation of syntactic arguments, namely, the expression of difference ( increase by fifty percent, decrease by ten times ) prevails over the expression of the initial and final values of the parameter ( increase from forty to one hundred points ). This predominance of the ‘difference’ argument is due to its cognitive advantages. Expressing difference is lexically more economical, while also more illustrative of the scale of the change: The Federal Tax Service has reported that tax collections have doubled . Theoretically, our research shows that semantic proximity alone does not guarantee syntactic homogeneity (for example, Russian synonyms slozhitʹ and pribavit’ ‘to add’ inherit different syntactic properties from their respective direct meanings): similarity of syntactic properties may have a cognitive foundation. Our practical outcome is a lexicographic template for ‘increase’ and ‘decrease’ verbs.

About the authors

Valentina Y. Apresjan

Higher School of Economics (HSE University); Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Author for correspondence.

holds a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Southern California. She is currently an Associate Professor at the School of Linguistics, Higher School of Economics (HSE University). She is also a leading researcher at the Sector for Theoretical Semantics, Vinogradov Russian Language Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Her research interests fall within semantics and pragmatics

Myasnitskaya st., Moscow, 101000, Russia


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