Text-based contrastive linguistics
  • ISSN 1387-6759
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9897
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From a typological perspective, the verbs of sitting, standing and lying have been described relatively extensively. Against this background, the present paper provides a contrastive study of the lexical semantics of the Swedish posture verbs sitta ‘sit’, stå ‘stand’ and ligga ‘lie’ based on the Multilingual Parallel Corpus (MPC), which contains extracts from Swedish novels and their published translations into English, German, French and Finnish. Since the corpus is a very rich data source, the study is focused on the use of posture verbs as locative verbs. It turns out that it is possible to arrange the languages along a continuum with respect to the use of posture verbs versus the copula to describe the location of inanimate objects. In Finnish the copula dominates completely, in English there is more of a balance (in this kind of written text), whereas the posture verbs dominate in German and Swedish. French stands out as a completely different type in this comparison, since the copula is used very little and posture verbs hardly at all. Actually, there is a tension in French between the use of a small number of verbs with a general locative meaning as translations and the use of a large variety of reflexive verbs and resultative constructions with past participles (e.g. être fixé ‘be attached’) which convey fine-grained information about the placement. Among the languages that use posture verbs as locative predicates, there is a general similarity with respect to the factors that condition the choice between lie and stand, whereas even closely related Germanic languages differ with respect to the semantic factors that condition the choice of sit as a locative predicate.


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