The linguistic encoding of placement and removal events in Jahai

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This paper explores the linguistic encoding of placement and removal events in Jahai (Austroasiatic, Malay Peninsula) on the basis of descriptions from a video elicitation task. It outlines the structural characteristics of the descriptions and isolates semantically a set of situation types that find expression in lexical opposites: (1) putting/taking, (2) inserting/extracting, (3) dressing/undressing, and (4) placing/removing one’s body parts. All involve deliberate and controlled placing/removing of a solid Figure object in relation to a Ground which is not a human recipient. However, they differ as to the identity of and physical relationship between Figure and Ground. The data also provide evidence of variation in how semantic roles are mapped onto syntactic constituents: in most situation types, Agent, Figure and Ground associate with particular constituent NPs, but some placement events are described with semantically specialised verbs encoding the Figure and even the Ground.


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