LSA 116: Lexical semantics of verbs

Beth Levin | session 1 | MW 10:30 – 12:15, 2060 Valley Life Sciences Building (VLSB)

This course reviews foundational topics in the lexical semantics of verbs, bringing together insights from a range of theoretical perspectives. Since verbs are predicates of events, a theory of the lexical semantics of verbs must be a theory of which cognitively salient facets of events are relevant to argument realization — the mapping from lexical semantics to syntax. The course reviews the two leading approaches to event conceptualization: one takes events to be conceptualized in terms of their causal structure, the other in terms of their aspectual structure. The theories are assessed in terms of their ability to perspicuously identify semantic determinants of argument realization.

Simultaneously, the course considers the form of a lexical semantic representation which embodies such theories of event conceptualization; it surveys theoretical constructs such as semantic roles, predicate decompositions, proto-roles, and thematic hierarchies. The course also reviews recent theories of semantic representation which incorporate a root/event structure distinction and explores a constraint on the meaning lexicalized by a verb root, manifested in the complementarity of manner and result as components of verb meaning.

Required reading: Selected materials available online.

Recommended reading: Beth Levin and Malka Rappaport Hovav, Argument Realization.

Prerequisites: The course assumes no specific background in lexical semantics, but will assume some familiarity with basic semantic and syntactic concepts.

Areas of linguistics: Syntax, semantics, and morphology

Banner design by Laurie Caird