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The grammar of exchange: a comparative study of reciprocal constructions across languages.

Majid A, Evans N, Gaby A, Levinson SC - Front Psychol (2011)

Bottom Line: Statistical analyses revealed that many languages do, in fact, share a common conceptual core for reciprocal meanings but that this is not a universally expressed concept.The recurrent pattern of conceptual packaging found across languages is compatible with the view that there is a shared non-linguistic understanding of reciprocation.But, nevertheless, there are considerable differences between languages in the exact extensional patterns, highlighting that even in the domain of grammar semantics is highly language-specific.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Language and Cognition Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics Nijmegen, Netherlands.

ABSTRACT
Cultures are built on social exchange. Most languages have dedicated grammatical machinery for expressing this. To demonstrate that statistical methods can also be applied to grammatical meaning, we here ask whether the underlying meanings of these grammatical constructions are based on shared common concepts. To explore this, we designed video stimuli of reciprocated actions (e.g., "giving to each other") and symmetrical states (e.g., "sitting next to each other"), and with the help of a team of linguists collected responses from 20 languages around the world. Statistical analyses revealed that many languages do, in fact, share a common conceptual core for reciprocal meanings but that this is not a universally expressed concept. The recurrent pattern of conceptual packaging found across languages is compatible with the view that there is a shared non-linguistic understanding of reciprocation. But, nevertheless, there are considerable differences between languages in the exact extensional patterns, highlighting that even in the domain of grammar semantics is highly language-specific.

No MeSH data available.


Configuration types manipulated in the reciprocals video stimuli.
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Figure 1: Configuration types manipulated in the reciprocals video stimuli.

Mentions: We began with the “canonical reciprocal event” (as in Nedjalkov, 2007), such as “John and Mary hugged each other”: There are just two participants (John and Mary), the subevents are simultaneous (John embraces Mary at the same time as Mary embraces John), and symmetrical (what John does to Mary, Mary does to John). Additional parameters were then varied in order to determine how far reciprocal constructions extend out to various conditions which relax the features of the canonical reciprocal situation. The crucial parameters are the number of participants, configuration, symmetry, temporal organization, and event-type (see Table 1; Figure 1). Note that Dalrymple et al. (1994) claim that languages have the same reciprocal semantics over these parameters, so their inclusion in our stimulus set is highly pertinent. Let us take each of these parameters in turn.


The grammar of exchange: a comparative study of reciprocal constructions across languages.

Majid A, Evans N, Gaby A, Levinson SC - Front Psychol (2011)

Configuration types manipulated in the reciprocals video stimuli.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3110972&req=5

Figure 1: Configuration types manipulated in the reciprocals video stimuli.
Mentions: We began with the “canonical reciprocal event” (as in Nedjalkov, 2007), such as “John and Mary hugged each other”: There are just two participants (John and Mary), the subevents are simultaneous (John embraces Mary at the same time as Mary embraces John), and symmetrical (what John does to Mary, Mary does to John). Additional parameters were then varied in order to determine how far reciprocal constructions extend out to various conditions which relax the features of the canonical reciprocal situation. The crucial parameters are the number of participants, configuration, symmetry, temporal organization, and event-type (see Table 1; Figure 1). Note that Dalrymple et al. (1994) claim that languages have the same reciprocal semantics over these parameters, so their inclusion in our stimulus set is highly pertinent. Let us take each of these parameters in turn.

Bottom Line: Statistical analyses revealed that many languages do, in fact, share a common conceptual core for reciprocal meanings but that this is not a universally expressed concept.The recurrent pattern of conceptual packaging found across languages is compatible with the view that there is a shared non-linguistic understanding of reciprocation.But, nevertheless, there are considerable differences between languages in the exact extensional patterns, highlighting that even in the domain of grammar semantics is highly language-specific.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Language and Cognition Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics Nijmegen, Netherlands.

ABSTRACT
Cultures are built on social exchange. Most languages have dedicated grammatical machinery for expressing this. To demonstrate that statistical methods can also be applied to grammatical meaning, we here ask whether the underlying meanings of these grammatical constructions are based on shared common concepts. To explore this, we designed video stimuli of reciprocated actions (e.g., "giving to each other") and symmetrical states (e.g., "sitting next to each other"), and with the help of a team of linguists collected responses from 20 languages around the world. Statistical analyses revealed that many languages do, in fact, share a common conceptual core for reciprocal meanings but that this is not a universally expressed concept. The recurrent pattern of conceptual packaging found across languages is compatible with the view that there is a shared non-linguistic understanding of reciprocation. But, nevertheless, there are considerable differences between languages in the exact extensional patterns, highlighting that even in the domain of grammar semantics is highly language-specific.

No MeSH data available.