Identifying semantic role clusters and alignment types via microrole coexpression tendencies

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In this chapter, we illustrate a method for identifying clusters of semantic roles by cross-linguistic comparison. On the basis of data from 25 languages drawn from the ValPaL (Valency Patterns Leipzig) database, we show how one can visualize coexpression tendencies using quantitative methods (in particular, multidimensional scaling). Traditionally, the coexpression of semantic microroles (such as the breaker and the broken thing of the ‘break’ verb, the helper and the helpee of the ‘help’ verb, etc.) has been studied for particular languages, with generalized macroroles such as “agent”, “actor”, and “undergoer” being compared across languages in a next step. We set up a conceptual space of 87 microroles based on their coexpression tendencies, i.e. the extent to which they are expressed identically (via flagging and indexing) across our languages. The individual coding means (cases, adpositions, index-sets) can then be mapped onto this conceptual space, revealing broader alignment patterns.


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