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Language and Development in Africa

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Academic Paper


Title: The typology of motion expressions revisited
Author: John Beavers
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Author: Beth Levin
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://www-csli.stanford.edu/~beth/
Institution: Stanford University
Author: Shiao Wei Tham
Institution: Wellesley College
Linguistic Field: Typology
Abstract: This paper provides a new perspective on the options available to languages for encoding directed motion events. Talmy () introduces an influential two-way typology, proposing that languages adopt either verb- or satellite-framed encoding of motion events. This typology is augmented by Slobin () and Zlatev & Yangklang () with a third class of equipollently-framed languages. We propose that the observed options can instead be attributed to: (i) the motion-independent morphological, lexical, and syntactic resources languages make available for encoding manner and path of motion, (ii) the role of the verb as the single clause-obligatory lexical category that can encode either manner or path, and (iii) extra-grammatical factors that yield preferences for certain options. Our approach accommodates the growing recognition that most languages straddle more than one of the previously proposed typological categories: a language may show both verb- and satellite-framed patterns, or if it allows equipollent-framing, even all three patterns. We further show that even purported verb-framed languages may not only allow but actually prefer satellite-framed patterns when appropriate contextual support is available, a situation unexpected if a two- or three-way typology is assumed. Finally, we explain the appeal of previously proposed two- and three-way typologies: they capture the encoding options predicted to be preferred once certain external factors are recognized, including complexity of expression and biases in lexical inventories.

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This article appears IN Journal of Linguistics Vol. 46, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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