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Aspectual coercion and eventuality structure

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Abstract

The focus of this paper is on the system of aspectual coercion connected with durative adverbials (like for one day), time-span adverbials (like in ten ­minutes), and time-point adverbials (like at seven o’clock) as well as the progressive in English and its roots in the domain of eventualities. Aspectual coercions are regarded as operations which are executed in order to prevent a conflict between the aspects of a verbal expression and the aspectual requirements of the context. The meaning resulting from such an adjustment involves material which is not contributed by the constituents but originates from knowledge of eventualities. Thus, leading questions of the paper are what the overall structure of eventualities is and how this structure determines the aspectual meaning of expressions as well as the way in which it can be contextually shifted. Recurring to prior work in the field of research, several sorts of eventuality and general relations that exist between eventualities of different sorts are distinguished. On this basis, by examining a sample of data, the paper identifies a multitude of operations for systematically transforming the (e.g., iterative coercion, habitual coercion, inchoative coercion, additive coercion, and subtractive coercion). Finally, taking into account that the operations have basically the same formal structure and, therefore, give reason to generalization, a two-stage approach to aspectual coercion is presented. Its most notably features are that, first, the principle of semantic compositionality is entirely maintained in its validity and, second, adjusting by coercion is turned out to be ultimately a pragmatic phenomenon.

References

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