Putting and Taking in Tamil and Hindi

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Many languages have general or &#8220;light&#8221; verbs used by speakers to describe a wide range of situations owing to their relatively schematic meanings, e.g., the English verb <i>do</i> that can be used to describe many different kinds of actions, or the verb <i>put</i> that labels a range of types of placement of objects at locations. Such semantically bleached verbs often become grammaticalized and used to encode an extended (set of) meaning(s), e.g., Tamil <i>veyyii</i> &#8216;put/place&#8217; is used to encode causative meaning in periphrastic causatives (e.g., <i>okkara veyyii</i> &#8216;make sit&#8217;, <i>nikka veyyii</i> &#8216;make stand&#8217;). But do general verbs in different languages have the same kinds of (schematic) meanings and extensional ranges? Or do they reveal different, perhaps even cross-cutting, ways of structuring the same semantic domain in different languages? These questions require detailed crosslinguistic investigation using comparable methods of eliciting data. The present study is a first step in this direction, and focuses on the use of general verbs to describe events of placement and removal in two South Asian languages, Hindi and Tamil.


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