Linguistics/Psychology 315/515
Prof. Suzanne Kemmer
Spring 2009

Course information
Reading list
Links to research

Last Problem assignment
(called Problem #4 -- there is no 3)

The Semantics of English Motion Verbs

Posted:Saturday April 4, 2009
Due:Tuesday April 14 11:50 p.m.

Submit all assignments to the Assignments module on Owlspace.

Honor Code: As before, you can discuss the assignment with others in the class (but not with linguists, former Ling/Psych 315/515 students, or anyone else who has studied linguistics), up until you start diagramming or writing. From then on, work alone. Don't use a dictionary, other linguistic reference tools, or other published or unpublished works about these terms, in print or online. For this assignment, collect/construct your set of data yourself.

Motion verbs in English

The English verbs of motion tend to incorporate certain specific kinds of semantic features or components. For example, many motion verbs make reference to a path: Ascend and descend both designate motion along a path: the path leads upward in the case of ascend and downwards in the case of descend. Similarly, advance specifies movement along a path extending forward in front of the mover.

Based on the cases below, what semantic properties do English motion verbs systematically make reference to? You can add other words to complete sets or pairs, although there still won't be a single neat paradigm like in the dimensional terms problem.

dive, cross, arrive, ascend, leave, descend, enter, walk,
lope, stride, go, bound, scurry, crawl, glide, slither, bolt,
dart, plunge, move, plod, wade, slog, meander, circle, dash,

Treat this as a semantic field analysis. You do not need to exhaustively specify all semantic properties for each word. Look for similarities among the words and divide them into classes characterized by specific properties. You can then differentiate the words in your classes with more specific properties. Find all the systematic contrasts that you can, providing a little bit of data to demonstrate each contrast.

Remember to be explicit about what properties link and differentiate the various classes of verbs you have identified, using concepts from the Talmy reading and any other concepts from the course you find useful. The Talmy reading is just a springboard for this semantically rich assignment. You will probably find more specific properties than the schematic ones that Talmy is concerned with, and will perhaps find yourself dividing up one or more of his semantic properties into subtypes.

Your verb classes need not be mutually exclusive, and some subsets might have more internal structure than others. ('internal structure' means systematic lexical relationships among the words.)

Limit yourself to about 5 pages doublespaced. (There is no ABSOLUTE limit, but if you write more, check over what you have written to be sure you are being concise.)

© 2009 Suzanne Kemmer