To ‘put’ or to ‘take’?

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This paper examines the verbs and other spatial vocabulary used for describing events of ‘putting’ and ‘taking’ in Tzeltal (Mayan). I discuss the semantics of different ‘put’ and ‘take’ verbs, the constructions they occur in, and the extensional patterns of verbs used in ‘put’ (Goal-oriented) vs. ‘take’ (Source-oriented) descriptions. A relatively limited role for semantically general verbs was found. Instead, Tzeltal is a ‘multiverb language’ with many different verbs usable to predicate ‘put’ and ‘take’ events, with verb choice largely determined by the shape, orientation, and resulting disposition of the Figure and Ground objects. The asymmetry that has been observed in other languages, with Goal-oriented ‘put’ verbs more finely distinguished lexically than Source-oriented ‘take’ verbs, is also apparent in Tzeltal.


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