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Transitivity and verb classes

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Abstract

The received concept of transitivity includes several semantic properties based on the idea that transitive clauses express an action performed by an agent on a patient, and suggest that transitive syntactic structures typically refer to concrete actions. Arguably, a semantic characterization of syntactic transitivity requires independent definitions of semantic and syntactic transitivity and needs more empirical support. This paper is an initial quantitative exploration of semantic verb types and transitive syntactic structures in a Spanish corpus-based syntactic-semantic database (ADESSE) and in a typological valency patterns database (ValPaL), and it somewhat calls into question the hypothesis that transitive syntactic structures are more strongly associated with verbs expressing concrete actions performed by an agent than with verbs expressing certain kinds of mental states.

References

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