Sprach- und literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät - Antonio Machicao y Priemer

Change of State Verbs – Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives

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Invited Speakers

Meeting Description

This workshop is part of the 44th annual meeting of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS 2022) to be held at the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen from 23rd to 25th February 2022.

The compositional semantics of change of state (CoS) verbs –e.g. to wet, to dry, to lengthen– has commonly been approached in terms of gradability. Scalar analyses focus on the degree of a property (e.g. wetness) that an object undergoing a CoS has at the end of the event, and to what extent this degree counts as manifesting the property specified at the semantic core (e.g. the adjective wet) of such particular verb (cf. Kennedy & Levin 2008). These analyses lead to a finer distinction of scale structures encoded at the lexical level, e.g. as open vs. closed scale verbs (cf. Kennedy & McNally 2005). Yet, empirical studies have also tested these scales with respect to the different implicature readings and polarity effects specific items yield (Gotzner et al. 2018; Solt 2018). CoS verbs are also puzzling due to their different telicity readings (Rappaport Hovav 2014). For instance, telicity variation in transitive CoS has been attributed to the properties of the object undergoing a change. In this case, the object is described as an 'incremental theme', establishing a homomorphism from object to event. Alternatively, other analyses assume a relation between scale structure and telicity. In a nutshell, predicates specifying a maximal degree on a scale allow a telic interpretation, whereas if there is no specification of a maximal degree, they are atelic. Besides telicity, analyses on event structure have centered on the type of changing "process" these predicates denote, e.g. durative vs. punctual (Beavers 2013).

At the syntax-semantics interface, three main issues arise (cf. Rappaport Hovav & Levin 1998; Martin 2020):

  • to which extent is the (complex) event structure of CoS verbs better mapped onto (or is a consequence of) the syntactic structure vs. a lexicalist approach,

  • can the morphosyntactic structure tell us about the combinatory potential of CoS verbs with specific degree phrases, modifiers and PPs (e.g. 5 cm, to 5 degrees) and the corresponding inferences drawn,

  • is there a correlation between the morphosyntactic structure (viz. external vs. internal causer) and the semantics of CoS verbs (e.g. entailment of a result state).

This workshop brings together scholars working on semantic, pragmatic or morphosyntactic aspects of CoS verbs from theoretical or empirical perspectives. It addresses (but is not limited to) the following questions:

  • Which role do features of gradable adjectives play for the analysis of CoS verbs?

  • What are the criteria to account for the relation between telic/atelic interpretations and scalar structure?

  • What are the limits between durative and punctual readings and how can they be accounted for?

  • Which (cross-linguistic) morphosyntactic mechanisms can be used to alter CoS readings?

  • What is the impact of morphosyntactic structure in processing different scalar readings?

  • How does the structural complexity of (causative) CoS verbs interact with theta roles and the (gradual) achievement of a result state?

  • How can we model the (in-)compatibility of degree modifiers and measure phrases with CoS verbs?

  • To which extent can positive and negative environments affect the implicatures/entailments of degree phrases and modifiers?

  • What are the effects of vagueness or polarity in language use and how can they be captured?


Beavers, John. 2013. Aspectual classes and scales of change. Linguistics 51(4). 681–706. DOI

Gotzner, Nicole, Stephanie Solt & Anton Benz. 2018. Scalar diversity, negative strengthening and adjectival semantics. Frontiers in Psychology, Research Topic Scalar Implicature 9, Article 1659. DOI

Kennedy, Christopher & Louise McNally. 2005. Scale structure, degree modification, and the semantics of gradable predicates. Language 81(2). 345–381. DOI

Kennedy, Christopher & Beth Levin. 2008. Measure of change: The adjectival core of degree achievements. In Louise McNally & Christopher Kennedy (eds.), Adjectives and adverbs: Syntax, semantics and discourse, 156–182. Oxford: OUP.

Martin, Fabienne. 2020. Aspectual differences between agentive and non-agentive uses of causative predicates. In Elitzur Bar-Asher Siegal & Nora Boneh (eds.), Perspectives on causation selected papers from the Jerusalem 2017 workshop, 257–294. Cham: Springer Nature Switzerland. DOI

Rappaport Hovav, Malka. 2014. Building scalar changes. In Artemis Alexiadou, Hagit Borer & Florian Schäfer (eds.), The syntax of roots and the roots of syntax, 259–281. Oxford: Oxford University Press. DOI

Rappaport Hovav, Malka & Beth Levin. 1998. Building verb meanings. In Miriam Butt & Wilhelm Geuder (eds.), The Projection of Arguments: Lexical and Compositional Factors, 97–133. Stanford: CSLI.

Solt, Stephanie. 2018. Multidimensionality, subjectivity and scales: Experimental evidence. In Elena Castroviejo, Louise McNally & Galit Weidman Sassoon (eds.), The Semantics of Gradability, Vagueness, and Scale Structure: Experimental Perspectives, 59-91. Cham: Springer. DOI

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