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English posture verbs An experientially grounded approach. John Newman University of Alberta Conference on “Expressions of posture and motion in Germanic languages” Facultés universitaires Saint-Louis, Brussels, Belgium October 24, 2008. Structure of Talk.

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english posture verbs an experientially grounded approach

English posture verbs An experientially grounded approach

John Newman

University of Alberta

Conference on “Expressions of posture and motion in Germanic languages”

Facultés universitaires Saint-Louis, Brussels, Belgium

October 24, 2008

structure of talk
Structure of Talk
  • Preliminaries - experiential realities
  • SIT, STAND, LIE as cardinal posture verbs
  • Action vs. state meanings
  • Inanimate subjects, including locative use
  • Final remarks – experiential realities
slide3

Preliminaries - experiential realities

  • SIT, STAND, LIE as cardinal posture verbs
  • Action vs. state meanings
  • Inanimate subjects, including locative use
  • Final remarks – experiential realities
basic level categories
Basic-level categories
  • Basic-level categories of things (cf. Lakoff 1987)
    • ‘dog’ and ‘chair’
  • Basic-level categories of events?
    • ‘come’, ‘go’
    • ‘see’, ‘hear’
    • ‘eat’, ‘drink’
    • ‘sit’, ‘stand’, ‘lie’
    • ‘give’, ‘take’
sitting standing lying
Sitting, standing, lying
  • The spatio-temporal domain
    • a strong contrast between the spatial configurations involved:
      • a compact shape associated with sitting
      • an upright, vertical elongation with standing
      • a horizontal elongation in the case of lying
    • a strong sense of the extension of a state through time
sitting standing lying1
Sitting, standing, lying
  • The force-dynamics domain
    • the states are typically entered into through relatively brief movements
    • the states themselves are typically maintained for longer periods
    • there are clear differences between these states in terms of the sensorimotor control which is needed in order to maintain the position.
sitting standing lying2
Sitting, standing, lying
  • The socio-cultural domain
    • sitting is a relatively comfortable position
    • standing allows a greater exercise of physical power, vision over a greater distance and is a prerequisite for walking, running etc.
    • lying is the least compatible with physical action and is associated with rest, sleep, sickness, and death
slide9

Preliminaries - experiential realities

  • SIT, STAND, LIE as cardinal posture verbs
  • Action vs. state meanings
  • Inanimate subjects, including locative use
  • Final remarks – experiential realities
posture verbs and locatives
Posture verbs and locatives
  • Posture verbs are the prototypical verbs which define a language type in the MPI-based research on “basic locative constructions”
revised typology ameka and levinson 2007
“Revised” typology Ameka and Levinson (2007)
  • Type 0: No verb (Saliba)
  • Type I: Single locative verb
    • Ia: Copula (English)
    • Ib: Locative verb (Japanese)
  • Type II: A small contrastive set of locative verbs
    • IIa: Postural verbs (Dutch)
    • IIb: Ground space indicating verbs (Tidore)
  • Type III: Multiverb Positional verbs (German)
revised typology ameka and levinson 20071
“Revised” typology Ameka and Levinson (2007)
  • Type 0: No verb (Saliba)
  • Type I: Single locative verb
    • Ia: Copula (English)
    • Ib: Locative verb (Japanese)
  • Type II: A small contrastive set of locative verbs
    • IIa: Postural verbs (Dutch)
    • IIb: Ground space indicating verbs (Tidore)
  • Type III: Multiverb Positional verbs (German)
sit stand lie
‘sit’, ‘stand’, ‘lie’
  • Posture verbs are the prototypical verbs which define a language type in the MPI-based research on “basic locative constructions”
  • Among the posture verbs, the set {‘sit’, ‘stand’, ‘lie’} can have a special status in a language
sit stand lie in english
SIT, STAND, LIE in English
  • Corpora allow us to study usage
  • Corpus-based study of posture verbs:
    • ‘tell a lie’ sense found with lie(s) and lying
    • transitive vs. intransitive lay
    • both stand and lie are used as nouns
    • numerous idiomatic uses
two corpora
Two corpora
  • SemCor 3.0:
    • 700,000 words of the BROWN corpus
    • all verbs lemmatized and sense-tagged according to Princeton WordNet 3.0
    • written usage of American English
  • The Princeton WordNet Gloss Corpus:
    • more than 1.6 million words of the glosses of the WordNet 3.0 dictionary
    • a “gloss” is understood as the definition of a word and any example sentences
sit stand lie in mbay
‘sit’, ‘stand’, ‘lie’ in Mbay
  • In Mbay (Nilo-Saharan), locational and existential constructions typically involve one of the three verbs ‘sit’, ‘stand’ and ‘lie’ (Keegan 2002)
  • Mbay also has a set of adverbs translating as ‘here’ and ‘there’ which are derived from ‘sit’, ‘stand’ and ‘lie’.
sit stand lie in kxo
‘sit’, ‘stand’, ‘lie’ in Kxoé
  • Kxoé (Khoisan), it is precisely ‘sit’, ‘stand’, and ‘lie’ which function as present tense markers (Köhler 1962; Heine and Kuteva 2002)
sit stand lie in euchee
‘sit’, ‘stand’, ‘lie’ in Euchee
  • Euchee (Amerindian isolate) ‘sit, stay’, ‘stand’, and ‘lie’ form the basis of a three-way noun-classification system

(Wagner 1933-1938; Watkins 1976; Linn 2000)

  • The three forms function as articles/demonstratives occurring with singular inanimate nouns
sit stand lie1
‘sit’, ‘stand’, ‘lie’
  • SIT, STAND, LIE are the cardinal posture verbs in English
  • ‘sit’, ‘stand’, ‘lie’ can be a distinctive set of verbs in other languages
    • Mbay locational/existential constructions
    • Kxoé tense marking
    • Euchee noun classification system
slide23

Preliminaries - some experiential realities

  • SIT, STAND, LIE as cardinal posture verbs
  • Action vs. state meanings
  • Inanimate subjects, including locative use
  • Summary
from state to location
From state to location
  • Posture verbs which are used with essentially static, at-rest meanings are more likely to lead to locative functions

Dunn, Michael, Anna Margetts, Sergio Meira, and Angela Terrill. (2007). Four languages from the lower end of the typology of locative predication. Linguistics 45.5/6: 873–892.

action and state german
Action and State (German)
  • German sich hinsetzenis an “action” predicate
  • German sitzen is usually a “state” predicate
  • The “state” meaning is nevertheless often contextually salient with sich hinsetzen
german sich hinsetzen
German sich hinsetzen
  • Es kommt vor, daß ich mich dann für einige Augenblicke hinsetze und zu erraten versuche, was gerade passiert.

‘So I sit down [action predicate] for a few moments then and try to guess what just happened.’

[Mannheimer Morgen, 30.04.2002; Lo und Lu Roman eines Vaters]

german sich hinsetzen1
German sich hinsetzen
  • Es kommt vor, daß ich mich dann für einige Augenblicke hinsetze und zu erraten versuche, was gerade passiert.

‘So I sit down [action predicate] for a few moments then and try to guess what just happened.’

[Mannheimer Morgen, 30.04.2002; Lo und Lu Roman eines Vaters]

german sich hinsetzen und
German sich hinsetzen und..
  • keinen freien Augenblick, um sich hinzusetzen und nachzudenken

‘no free moment to sit down and reflect’

  • dachte, die Kinder würden sich hinsetzen und malen

‘thought that the children would sit down and paint’

german sich hinsetzen und1
German sich hinsetzen und..
  • keinen freien Augenblick, um sich hinzusetzen und nachzudenken

‘no free moment to sit down and reflect’

  • dachte, die Kinder würden sich hinsetzen und malen

‘thought that the children would sit down and paint’

german sich hinsetzen um zu
German sich hinsetzen, um...zu
  • habe sich der jetzige Präsident hingesetzt, um sich auszuruhen

‘the current president sat down to rest’

  • jeden Tag, wenn ich mich hinsetzen will, um etwas zu schreiben

‘every day, if I want to sit down to write something’ 

german sich hinsetzen um zu1
German sich hinsetzen, um...zu
  • habe sich der jetzige Präsident hingesetzt, um sich auszuruhen

‘the current president sat down to rest’

  • jeden Tag, wenn ich mich hinsetzen will, um etwas zu schreiben

‘every day, if I want to sit down to write something’ 

slide32

The “sitting” frame

Action is profiled: sich hinsetzen

State is profiled: sitzen

action and state english
Action and State (English)
  • Is SIT an ‘action’ or a ‘state’ verb?
state sit in bible
State SIT in Bible
  • The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that satand begged? John 9:8
  • Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Marysat still in the house. John 11:20
  • But tosit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. Mark 10:40
action sit in bible
Action SIT in Bible

And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. Luke 4:20

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Luke 14:2

And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, andsit down quickly, and write fifty. Luke 16:6

two corpora1
Two corpora
  • The Wellington Corpus of Written New Zealand English(WWC)
    • 1 million words of written New Zealand English (1986 to 1990), comparable to the Brown Corpus of written American English and the Lancaster-Oslo-Bergen corpus (LOB) of written British English
  • The Wellington Spoken Corpus (WSC)
    • 1 million words of spoken New Zealand English collected in the years 1988 to 1994
is english sit action or state
Is English SIT ‘action’ or ‘state’?
  • sit (with or without down) occurs in clauses which range over ‘action’ and ‘state’ meanings
  • stand and lie are probably similar
  • The extension of English sit, stand, and lie to locative usage is presumably compromised by these facts
slide43

Preliminaries - experiential realities

  • SIT, STAND, LIE as cardinal posture verbs
  • Action vs. state meanings
  • Inanimate subjects, including locative use
  • Final remarks - experiential realities
global and local corpus methods
Global and local corpus methods

Search for all the forms of the posture verbs and inspect all results, as in Schönefeld (2006) – “global” [Using a 3 million word newspaper subcorpus of the BNC.]

Schönefeld, Doris. (2006). From conceptualization to linguistic expression: Where languages diversify. In Stefan Th. Gries and Anatol Stefanowitsch (eds.), Corpora in Cognitive Linguistics: Corpus-based Approaches to Syntax and Lexis, pp. 297- 344. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Search for a specific inanimate subject with a specific posture verb – “local”.

a local approach
A “local” approach
  • Corpus of Contemporary American English, COCA (Mark Davies), 375 million words +
  • Restrict verbs to the forms {sit, sits, sitting, sat} and {stand, stands, standing, stood}
  • The verbs occur within a window of three words to the left or right of HOUSE.
  • HOUSE functions as the head of the subject of the verb
  • This search yielded more than 500 hits which were subsequently inspected item by item
refining the search
Refining the search

Excluded:

a. So the White House is sitting tight.

b. Well, the White House is still standing by Rove and his comments.

Included:

c. The 1758 Cupola House sits on South Broad Street in the heart of the business district.

d. The hill on which the Santa Fe Opera House stands…

expected and observed
Expected and Observed

expected

observed

zero vs single vs multiple2
Zero vs. single vs. multiple
  • the majority of SIT uses (167/196) occur with single modifier types
  • the majority of STAND uses (186/292) occur with multiple modifier types
  • the zero modifier type is found only with STAND
zero modifier
zero modifier
  • Poor-white St. Bernard Parish had hardly a house standing.
  • Once they knew the houses were standing and no one had been injured, they talked on for half an hour
still
still
  • When STAND occurs with a temporal modifier type, the most common recurring temporal expression is the adverb still.
slide59
big
  • There is tendency for STAND, but not SIT, to occur in contexts where HOUSE is qualified by big, tall, large, sturdy
  • No tendency for SIT to occur in contexts where HOUSE is qualified by small, tiny, etc.
slide60
big
  • At wide intervals in the valley stood big houseswith white columns.
  • and the tall old housesstanding in the sand on the shore looked like beached vessels.
slide61
high
  • She had pictured a big fine country house standing high over the ground on concrete pillars with a sunburst carving in the gable.
  • The market had started out as an adjunct to their shotgun house that stood high on brick pillars.
slide62

The house sits high

The house stands high

multiple factors with stand
Multiple factors with stand
  • and that big white house stood high in them dark rivers for the next half century.
big house stand
BIG HOUSE + STAND
  • and that big white house stood high in them dark rivers for the next half century.
stand high
STAND + HIGH
  • and that big white house stoodhigh in them dark rivers for the next half century.
stand locative
Stand + locative
  • and that big white house stood high in them dark rivers for the next half century.
stand temporal especially persistence despite adversity
STAND + TEMPORAL (especially persistence despite adversity)
  • and that big white house stood high in them dark rivers for the next half century.
multiple factors
Multiple factors
  • With STAND (more than SIT), multiple factors within the clause are relevant to its use
  • It’s not enough to look at head noun of the subject and prepositions to understand why the verb STAND is used in a clause

(cf. Schönefeld 2006)

simple vs other tenses
Simple vs. Other Tenses
  • Simple tenses:
    • Simple Present sit, sits, stand, stands
    • Simple Past sat, stood
  • Other tenses:
    • Progressive is sitting, is standing, etc.
    • Perfect has stood, have stood etc.
    • Participial –ing forms without any accompanying auxiliary verb) sitting, standing
tenses x modifier x verb
Tenses x Modifier x Verb

L = Locative

M = Manner

T = Time

slide73

Preliminaries - experiential realities

  • SIT, STAND, LIE as cardinal posture verbs
  • Action vs. state meanings
  • Inanimate subjects, including locative use
  • Final remarks – experiential realities
experiential grounding 1
Experiential grounding (1)
  • An intuition that sitting, standing, and lying are “basic” experiential categories
    • helps us to appreciate why SIT, STAND, and LIE are the most frequent posture verbs in usage-based data (from corpora)
    • leads us to search for other data supporting the distinctiveness of these verbs in languages
experiential grounding 2
Experiential grounding (2)
  • Reflecting on the whole experience (“frame”) associated with postures leads to
    • Understanding that ‘action’ and ‘state’ of postures are closely interrelated, even in languages which formally distinguish such verbs
    • In English, usage data reveal a persistent vagueness about ‘action’ and ‘state’ meanings of the posture verbs
experiential grounding 3
Experiential grounding (3)
  • Reflecting on the spatio-temporal aspects and force dynamics of sitting vs. standing leads us to
    • Understand why SIT/STAND are associated with particular subject phrases and other collocating phrases
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