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‘Relevance verbs in English, French and Dutch’. Bart Defrancq University College Ghent UCCTS2010, Edge Hill, 28 July 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "‘Relevance verbs in English, French and Dutch’. Bart Defrancq University College Ghent UCCTS2010, Edge Hill, 28 July 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 ‘Relevance verbs in English, French and Dutch’. Bart Defrancq University College Ghent UCCTS2010, Edge Hill, 28 July 2010

2 1.Introduction verbs of relevance (Karttunen 1978; Lahiri 2002) matter & periphrastic forms verbs of indifference (Hoeksema 1994; Leuschner 2005, 2006) bother, care, matter, mind & periphrastic forms in common: govern embedded interrogatives, negation different: origo-identification, argument- function mapping here: bother, care, count, interest, matter, mind

3 1.Introduction What makes them so… relevant for contrastive studies? Interplay between pragmatic, semantic and syntactic properties of the verbs. Differences between languages regarding the frequencies of these properties and their distribution over the lexical items. EN: bother, care, count, interest, matter, mind FR: compter, s’en foutre, s’en ficher, importer, intéresser NL: geven, interesseren, schelen (2), tellen, (ertoe) doen, uitmaken

4 1.Introduction (1)Maar het scheelt nu eenmaal of je tegen Portugal of Cyprus speelt. (TwNC) (2)Het kan het publiek niet schelen wie ik ben. (TwNC)

5 1.Introduction Data EN: BNC ( ) FR: Le Monde, La Croix (2000) and Valibel ( ) NL: Twente Nieuws Corpus ( ) All occurrences of relevance verbs + embedded interrogative with wh-element in a span up to 9 words before and up to 5 words behind the verb. EN: 2231 occ. FR: 152 occ. NL: 635 occ.

6 2. Properties 2.1. Pragmatics/semantics Relevance = property of linguistic stimuli, thoughts, internal representations (Wilson & Sperber 2004); the extent to which a linguistic stimulus or an internal representation allows the receiver to retrieve a positive cognitive effect through a process that is based on inferences (Sperber & Wilson 1986) > the lexical expression of relevance, i.e. the relevance verb, should present the linguistic stimulus, i.e. the embedded interrogative, as a premise for inferential processes.

7 2. Properties 2.1. Pragmatics/semantics (1)He said I neglected things, it didn't matter what I did it was never good enough. (BNC EG0) inference: I did some spectacular things that would have been good enough for normal people. compare with: (2)He said I neglected things, nothing of what I did was ever good enough.

8 2. Properties 2.1. Pragmatics/semantics Relevance involves: - a linguistic stimulus (mostly clausal form) - a receiver Relevance verbs will have an argument structure composed of: - a subordinate clause - an experiencer or ‘ origo’ (Leuschner 2005, 2006) Origo may be omitted (when it is the speaker or communis opinio) Both arguments can be mapped to subject and object (with or without a preposition)

9 2. Properties 2.2. Pragmatics/semantics Relevance is presupposed. Stating that something is relevant is therefore not informative (not relevant). Stating that something is not relevant is informative. > relevance verbs combine frequently with negation (Hoeksma 1994)

10 2. Properties 2.3. Pragmatics/syntax Relevance is presupposed. Relevance verbs used affirmatively tend to appear in sentence structures which mark them as presupposed : relative clauses of clefts.

11 2. Properties 2.4. The interplay relevance polarityargument structure arg/function mapping sentence structure

12 3. Results 3.1. Argument structure

13 3. Results 3.1. Argument structure - significant difference between English on the one hand and French and Dutch on the other; - individual verbs: sharp distinction between verbs that allow origo- identification and verbs that do not:origo-identification in 98% of occ. EN count matterbother, care, interest, mind FRcompter importers’en ficher, s’en foutre intéresser NLertoe doen uitmakeninteresseren, K schelen schelen, tellen geven

14 3. Results 3.1. Argument structure

15 3. Results 3.1. Argument structure - significant differences between the three languages: EN priviliges the mapping of the origo to the subject; NL seems barely to allow it. - individual verbs: origoorigo origo as as subjectas objectsubject of pass. ENbother, care, bother, matter bother, interest mind FRs’en ficher, importerintéresser* s’en foutre intéresser NLgeven*interesseren interesseren K schelen uitmaken

16 3. Results 3.2. Polarity

17 3. Results 3.2. Polarity - significant differences between FR, on the one hand, and NL and EN on the other. Partly due to the existence of FR verbs that are inherently negative; partly also to ‘peu importe’ - individual verbs: <15% positive< 15% negative ENbother, care*, count, interest matter, mind FR importer* compter, s’en ficher* s’en foutre*, importer*, intéresser NLgeven, K schelen tellen schelen ertoe doen, uitmaken interesseren

18 3. Results 3.3. Sentence structure

19 3. Results 3.3. Sentence structure - same tendencies in all three languages: frequency of canonical structures higher when polarity is negative; no marked structures when polarity is negative. On the other hand, the languages differ a lot in the extent to which they use the canonical structures with positive polarity: English in less than 20% of the cases, Dutch in more than 50%.

20 3. Results 3.3. Sentence structure -individual verbs: unmarkedunmarked unmarkedmarked passive marked pass ENbother, interest care, count*mind matter FRintéressercompter*, importers’en foutre, s’en ficher NLinteresserenK schelen, tellengeven, ertoe doen, schelen, uitmaken

21 4. Discussion 1. EN: - frequent origo-identification and preferential mapping to subject function; - predominantly used with negative polarity, strict divide between verbs regarding polarity; - strong association of sentence structure with polarity. 2. FR:- optional origo-identification either with subject or with object; - negative polarity uncommon: inherently negative verbs and use of quantifying adverbs; - correlation between sentence structure and polarity. 3. NL:- optional origo-identification and preferential mapping to object function; - predominantly used with negative polarity, but no strict divide between verbs regarding polarity; - correlation between sentence structure and polarity, but canonical structures are always preferred. Properties of relevance verbs or typical of the language?

22 Thank you


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