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Contrasting two potentiality constructions in Dutch Maria Mos and Ad Backus ( [email protected] ; [email protected] ) Tilburg University, The Netherlands Case study: -BAAR and IS TE BAAR: Derivational affix, more or less equivalent to –able E.g. leesbaar – read-able (legible)

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Contrasting two potentiality constructions in Dutch

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Contrasting two potentiality constructions in dutch l.jpg

Contrasting two potentiality constructions in Dutch

Maria Mos and Ad Backus ([email protected]; [email protected])

Tilburg University, The Netherlands


Case study baar and is te l.jpg

Case study: -BAAR and IS TE

  • BAAR:

  • Derivational affix, more or less equivalent to –able

  • E.g. leesbaar – read-able (legible)

  • Dit handschrift is leesbaar

  • This handwriting is legible

IS TE:

  • Modal infinitive construction, no direct English equivalent (compare: X is hard to find)

  • E.g. is te verdedig-en - is to defend-INF (is defendable)

    Deze opinie is te verdedig-en

    This opinion is to defend-INF

    This opinion is defendable


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Case study: -BAAR and IS TE

  • Very similar meaning: X can be V-ed

  • Questions:

    • Are they really synonyms?

    • Are they productive?


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-BAAR and IS TE: corpus

  • Corpus Gesproken Nederlands (Corpus of Spoken Dutch, CGN)

  • 10 million words

  • Contemporary Dutch

  • 2/3 Netherlands, 1/3 Flanders (Belgium)

  • 14 genres, ranging from telephone conversations to official lectures


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-BAAR and IS TE: corpus

-BAAR:

  • Search for word class = Adj. & form = *BAAR

  • 261 different types

  • 3908 tokens

The most frequent types (obviously fixed units):

Typefrequency Translation

blijkbaar1134 evidently

openbaar306 public

beschikbaar173 available

middelbaar115 secondary

zichtbaar103 visible

onvoorstelbaar81 unimaginable

schijnbaar74 apparently

haalbaar71 feasible

bereikbaar69 within reach

dankbaar63 grateful


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-BAAR and IS TE: corpus

-BAAR:

In infrequent instantiations (N<5, 50 types in the CGN):

  • The meaning is ‘non-Agent argument of the Verb can be V-ed’ (passive, potential)

    • This can be the traditional object in transitive verbs (drinkbaar -drinkable, ondoorprikbaar –unprickable, said of a blister)

    • Or a (usually) implicit argument (adembaar -breathable, roddelbaar -gossipable)

  • The stem is verbal (48/50)

  • The stem is transitive (45/50)


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-BAAR and IS TE: corpus

IS TE:

  • Search for IS (+optional 0=3 words) + TE + INFINITIVE

  • 120 different types

  • 710 tokens

The most frequent verbs:

doen ‘do’161

zien ‘see’105

hopen ‘hope’77

zeggen ‘say’67

geloven ‘believe’ 23

vergelijken ‘compare’18

vinden ‘find’15

merken ‘notice’12

spreken ‘talk’10

lezen ‘read’7

This hides the existence of several more inclusive units, especially with niet:

is niet te doencan’t be done

is niet te gelovenis unbelievable

is niet te vindenis hard to find

is niet te sprekenis not happy

is ver te zoekenis hard to find


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-BAAR and IS TE: corpus

IS TE:

In infrequent instantiations the meaning of the construction is:

  • A predicative comment (the contribution of the copula) on the relative difficulty or ease with which an action can be done

  • with the connotation that this difficulty or ease exceeds what could be expected.

  • stated as the personal opinion of the speaker

  • In many cases, the difficulty or ease is explicitly indicated through an adverb of degree.


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Corpus findings: summary

  • For both constructions we find

  • Large number of types (suggests productivity)

  • Large number of tokens

  • Unequal distribution of tokens over types (some frequent, many occasionally)

  • Entrenchment of both template and many units


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Challenge

  • Observation: many instantiations are familiar (most?)

  • Question: are they ever productively used?

  • Tentative answer: yes, occasionally.

    • Basic observation: we can make up novel instantiations.

  • Question: when do people use the templates? If they have any?


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Productivity vs. lexicalisation

A productive construction is

A pattern with one or more open slots that are available for new forms

The combination of this pattern with (a) new word(s) is a structurally acceptable and meaningful unit

E.g.: The X-er, the Y-er

un-ADJ


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Productivity vs. lexicalisation

  • Tension between elegant (=abstract) description and psychological reality

  • Do speakers have these schema’s in their ‘constructicon’? Or are most instantiations lexicalized expressions?

    • That’s the question

  • Are regular forms always formed by productive use of the schema?

    • Answer: No


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

Magnitude estimation:

  • Comparable to grammaticality judgment task, but

  • Without a fixed scale: participants assign a number to each stimulus, reflecting its acceptability

  • Advantages over traditional grammaticality judgment:

    • No fixed number of points on the scale

    • No ‘middle’ point which may reflect either average acceptability or lack of opinion on a stimulus


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

  • Are these constructions productive?

    If:

    We make stimuli (novel forms) productively, that differ with respect to verb category,

    And

    Participants distinguish consistently in the acceptability between items of different categories

    Then we know that

  • they have some form of (abstract) mental representation)

  • the categories are psychologically real.


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

Magnitude estimation:

  • Item variables:

    • CONSTRUCTION TYPE:

      IS TE (N=24), -BAAR (N=24), fillers (N=36)

    • VERB CATEGORY:

      Semantic roles and argument structure (5 different categories)


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

  • V opt. transitive Agent Patient (N=8) drogen-dry

    E.g.: Een wollen trui is niet droogbaar in de machine (a wool sweater is not dry-able in the machine)


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

  • V opt. transitive Agent Patient (N=8) drogen-dry

    E.g.: Een wollen trui is niet droogbaar in de machine (a wool sweater is not dry-able in the machine)

  • V transitive Agent Patient (N=12) maaien-mow

    E.g.: Die jungle die de buren hun achtertuin noemen is niet te maaien

    (that jungle that the neighbours their backyard call is not to mow –it’s impossible to mow that jungle the neighbours call their back garden)


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

  • V opt. transitive Agent Patient (N=8) drogen-dry

    E.g.: Een wollen trui is niet droogbaar in de machine (a wool sweater is not dry-able in the machine)

  • V transitive Agent Patient (N=12) maaien-mow

    E.g.: Die jungle die de buren hun achtertuin noemen is niet te maaien

    (that jungle that the neighbours their backyard call is not to mow –it’s impossible to mow that jungle the neighbours call their back garden)

  • V intransitive, implied obj./patient (N=8) zingen-sing

    E.g.: De tekst van dit liedje is zo lastig dat het bijna niet zingbaar is

    (the text of this song is so difficult that it almost not sing-able is)


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

  • V transitive Stimulus Experiencer (N=16)

    two subgroups:

    passive ungrammatical (N=8) lukken-succeed

    E.g. Het is een ambitieus plan, maar als iedereen helpt is het zeker lukbaar

    (it is an ambitious plan, but if everyone helps it is sure succeed-able)

    Het is me gelukt vs. *Ik word gelukt.

    (Es ist mir gelungen vs. *Ich werde gelungen)


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

  • V transitive Stimulus Experiencer (N=16)

    two subgroups:

    • passive ungrammatical (N=8) lukken-succeed

      E.g. Het is een ambitieus plan, maar als iedereen helpt is het zeker lukbaar

      (it is an ambitious plan, but if everyone helps it is sure succeed-able)

      Het is me gelukt vs. *Ik word gelukt.

      (Es ist mir gelungen vs. *Ich werde gelungen)

    • passive marginally acceptable (N=8) afschrikken-deter

      E.g. Ongewenst bezoek is af te schrikken met een alarmsignaal (unwanted visit is off to scare with an alarm signal - unwanted visitors can be deterred with an alarm signal)

      De menigte schrikte me af vs. ?Ik werd afgeschrikt door de menigte

      (The crowd scared me off vs I was scared off by the crowd.)


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

Setup of the experiment:

  • Procedure: online experiment, introduction + test phase. Duration main experiment: 15-20 minutes

  • Participants:

    • 69 adults

    • 138 children, grade 6 (11-12 yrs)


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

Main results: adults

  • Reliable test (Cronbach’s α = .85)

  • Difference between construction types: IS TE > BAAR (Anova, df = 2, p.39), fillers not different from either type

  • Difference between verb categories: Experiencer verbs < all Agent-Patient verbs (Anova, df = 4, p.000. Post-hoc Bonferroni: V Exp < others, p<.007)

    1. V opt. transitive Agent Patient (mean Z =.391)

    2. V transitive Agent Patient (mean Z =.229)

    3. V intransitive, implied obj./patient (mean Z = .201)

    4. V transitive Experiencer subject –pass (mean Z =-.705)

    5. V transitive Experiencer subject +pass (mean Z =-.533)


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

IS TE and BAAR over different verb types: adults


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

Main results: children

  • Reliable test (Cronbach’s α = .93)

  • No significant difference between construction types (Anova, df = 2, p.39),

  • Difference between verb categories: Experiencer verbs < all Agent-Patient verbs

  • Mean Z-scores:

    • V opt. transitive Agent Patient : .296

    • V transitive Agent Patient : .087

    • V intransitive, implied obj./patient .091

    • V transitive Experiencer –pass:-.374

    • V transitive Experiencer +pass:-236


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

IS TE and BAAR over different verb types: children


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-BAAR and IS TE: experiment

IS TE and BAAR over different verb types: adults

Acceptable passive = higher acceptability of IS TE (compared to BAAR)


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Experiment: summary

  • Stimulus Experiencer verbs are clearly worse than other categories

    • Speakers have a mental representation of the constructions, which includes information about the types of verbs preferred.

    • Both constructions are productive

  • On Stimulus Experiencer verbs with a (marginally) acceptable passive, IS TE scores much higher than BAAR

    • Constructions are not entirely synonymous


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Thank you!

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, do not hesitate to get in touch

[email protected], [email protected]


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