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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.


Extensional range for general reciprocal constructions in Jahai (top left), Savosavo (top right), English (bottom left) and Khoekhoe (bottom right).
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Figure 7: Extensional range for general reciprocal constructions in Jahai (top left), Savosavo (top right), English (bottom left) and Khoekhoe (bottom right).

Mentions: Most of the languages did not have constructions with anything like this broadness of application. The majority of constructions analyzed here excluded asymmetrical two-participant events, but included the majority of the remaining clips, as exemplified by Jahai, Khoekhoe, English, and Savosavo in Figure 7. Notice for example that all these languages regularly include chaining and non-saturated scenes, but get picky when just two or three participants are involved in asymmetric events. The plots (setting aside Jahai for a moment) suggest why the formal semantics approach has failed to nail down reciprocal meanings – there appears to be an impressionistic filter, of the kind that legitimates general collective involvement in an exchange of actions. Jahai is the most permissive, but excludes a static saturated state (four sticks leaning against each other) presumably because of the specific properties of its distributive construction, as used for this domain.


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

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

Extensional range for general reciprocal constructions in Jahai (top left), Savosavo (top right), English (bottom left) and Khoekhoe (bottom right).
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

Figure 7: Extensional range for general reciprocal constructions in Jahai (top left), Savosavo (top right), English (bottom left) and Khoekhoe (bottom right).
Mentions: Most of the languages did not have constructions with anything like this broadness of application. The majority of constructions analyzed here excluded asymmetrical two-participant events, but included the majority of the remaining clips, as exemplified by Jahai, Khoekhoe, English, and Savosavo in Figure 7. Notice for example that all these languages regularly include chaining and non-saturated scenes, but get picky when just two or three participants are involved in asymmetric events. The plots (setting aside Jahai for a moment) suggest why the formal semantics approach has failed to nail down reciprocal meanings – there appears to be an impressionistic filter, of the kind that legitimates general collective involvement in an exchange of actions. Jahai is the most permissive, but excludes a static saturated state (four sticks leaning against each other) presumably because of the specific properties of its distributive construction, as used for this domain.

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.