Seeing the lexical profile of Swedish through multilingual corpora

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The typological distinction between verb-framed and satellite-framed languages is informative but is today regarded rather as a continuum and needs to be supplemented with more fine-grained distinctions. This paper presents a corpus-based contrastive study of Swedish verbs describing motion in a vehicle and their correspondents in a multilingual parallel corpus consisting of Swedish original texts and their translations into English, German, French and Finnish. In Swedish, there is in principle an obligatory contrast between motion on foot and motion in a vehicle when the subject is human. The Swedish verb gå can only be used with reference to bodily locomotion on foot, whereas another verb, primarily åka, must be used to refer to motion in a vehicle (e.g. åka bil ‘go by car’, åka tåg ‘go by train’). There is also a contrast between åka which refers to traveling in a vehicle as a passenger and köra which refers to traveling in a vehicle as a driver and operating the vehicle. Languages differ with respect to the inventory of vehicle verbs, the degree to which a certain contrast is obligatory and the semantic extension of individual verbs. In addition, a number of more far-reaching usage-based differences are identified showing that languages tend to favour certain perspectives or alternative ways of coding a certain type of situation, which means – in principle – that verbs with different meanings can be favoured in two languages even in cases where close semantic equivalents exist.


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