The article deals with the present day problem of linguistic explanation of modulation of verb meaning in various lexico-semantic groups. Based on a number of English lexico-semantic verb groups the authors show in a well-argued manner that certain standard language processes underlie semantic modulations. Modulations of verb meaning are related to such processes as change of cognitive space types, actualization of various functional relations, social relations in particular. Moreover the modulation of meaning is defined by such standard semantic process as abstraction of the predicate from the time axis, shifting of the predicate from a concrete single action in prototypical meaning into an abstract heterogeneous type (the verb
Keywords: Causative constructioncognitive semantic constructionsemantic type of the predicatestandard language processessyntactic constructionverbal lexis
In linguistic studies over the last years a number of priority areas can be distinguished. One can mention standard intralinguistic processes that allow to explain many semantic shifts including the occurrence of polysemy and contextual variants of meaning of verbal lexis in contemporary English.
A number of statements of the semantic theory related to the Construction Grammar makes it possible to explain the occurrence of the so-called nontrivial word meanings (Fillmore, 1985; Fillmore, Kay, & O'Connor, 1988; Goldberg, 1995, 2006; Jackendoff, 1990, 1993, 2013). Within this theory the introduction of a new meaning is caused by getting of the verb into another cognitive semantic and syntactic construction. Such mechanism of meaning modulation is often called a cognitive metaphor or a metonymy without revelation of internal language mechanisms which promote appearance of this new meaning. As early as in 2008 Rahilina (2008) noted that “the changeable nature of constructions allows the language to vary flexibly and continuously (without losing contact with its antecedent time sample)” (p. 338) and in the context of linguistics it is essential to know how the semantic type of the predicate is related to the phenomenon of cognitive metaphor and metonymy.
The effect of these internal language mechanisms closely connected with semantic roles modulation and some other standard language processes will be shown by analysis of semantic mutations in a number of lexico-semantic groups of English verbal lexis.
Insufficient understanding of standard language processes that underlie the modulation of verbs lexical meaning is the cause of lexicographical practice drawbacks when the information about the denotative situations is presented as individual meanings, i.e. the linguistic information about the meaning is substituted by the information about the denotation.
One of the leading theses of the Construction Grammar is the thesis that the meaning of a language unit is influenced by the context, that the cognitive construction turns out to be the leading meaning-generating factor in the verbal meaning formation, it is the construction that determines the true meaning of the verb (Fillmore, 1985; Fillmore et al., 1988; Goldberg, 1995, 2006; Jackendoff, 1990, 1993, 2013), and the last but not the least idea is connected with not a verb centric position of the verb in opposition to a verb centric position (Tener, 1988).
The term “construction” in the frames of this approach is understood not only as a formal-syntactic construction, but also as a cognitive formation that can reveal the systemic relations between the actants of a situation, predict the semantic structure of the verb, its grammatical categories and compatibility. The meaning of the construction affects the semantic parameters of the verb directly. From this perspective of understanding semantic processes it is the construction that is the central figure of the sentence that affects the change of the verb meaning, generating non-trivial meanings with metaphorical meaning. The meaning of a verb inserted into a cognitive construction is determined by the semantic and syntactic parameters of this construction as a whole.
The real meaning of the verb in a particular statement is dependent on the semantics of the structure. At the same time, the verb can both realize its prototypical meaning or modify it in order to function adequately in a given utterance. Consequently, not the verb, but the construction itself will determine which semantic roles will fill the slots of the frame and how the semantic type of the predicate will be changed as a standard language mechanism of a new meaning (Shabanova, Sulejmanova, Shvajko, & Volkova, 2015).
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to reveal standard language processes that underlie the modulation of verb lexical meaning of a number of verb groups of contemporary English.
The leading method used in conducting the research is hypothetical-deductive. It provides a scientifically based research, meets the objectives of the study, allows to formulate hypotheses, to carry out experimental verification, analyze the results and summarize them. In the framework of this method, the analysis of language material was carried out. The language material was obtained by sampling from original texts of English and American classical and modern literature, English advertising texts, as well as on-line National Corpora. Semantic interpretation and component analysis were also used as research methods.
Let us consider the mechanisms of standard language processes in a number of examples. In the lexico-semantic group of English verbs of leaving the verb
As it was established in the study, the change in the meaning of
The following sentence can be a vivid example of the influence of these standard language processes on the change of the verb meaning: 2.
The denotate of the predicate expressed by the verb
The semantic-syntactic scheme of the verb
Being localized on the time axis the predicate denotate expresses a specific homogeneous action as the prototypical meaning of the verb. In this case, the verb
Modulation in the meaning of the verb
Thus, this part of the study shows that modulations in the meaning of the verb meaning are associated with changing of the type of space which expresses functional relations, social relations in particular. Moreover, change in meaning is determined by such standard semantic processes as abstraction of the predicate from the time axis, shifting from a specific one-time action of the prototypical meaning to the heterogeneous type of the predicate as a result of abstraction from the time axis.
Let us consider what standard language processes can be the cause of modulation in the meaning of English verbs of the so called “protection” semantic group. Some of the most frequent verbs of this group include:
The dictionary entries for the verb
The analysis of sentences with this verb indicated that the frame structure of the verb
The semantic structure of the verb
In this sentence the Subject (
The semantic model of the verb
This sentence has the information about the fact that the Subject X (
In this sentence the Subject X (
The semantic model of the verb
Thus, the semantic structure of the verb
Shield + [Act (Instr), Oaff, Osource (threat), Instr], where Act is the semantic role of Actor characterized by Controlled Force Application that comes from the Subject or the Instrument; Oaff is the semantic role of the Object affect characterized by the lack of changes in the Object; Osource (threat) is the semantic role of the Object which represents a Threat or a potential Threat; Instr is the semantic role of Instrument.
The dictionary entries data showed that the semantic structure of the verb
Let us consider the situation of separating out individual meanings of the verb
to protect someone or something(Cambridge Dictionary 2019); protect from a danger, risk, or unpleasant experience(Oxford Dictionary, 2019); to protect something, usually from being hit, touched, or seen; to protect someone from something unpleasant(Macmillan Dictionary, 2019)
The semantic modelling of these meanings of the verb
to protect someone or something (Cambridge Dictionary, 2019) – in this meaning the information about the Object Y1 to be protected is emphasized;
to protect from a danger, risk, or unpleasant experience (Oxford Dictionary, 2019) - in this meaning the semantics of the Threat from Y2 is emphasized;
to protect something, usually from being hit, touched, or seen (Macmillan Dictionary, 2019) - in this meaning the semantics of the Object Y1 to be protected and the Threat Y2 is emphasized;
to protect someone from something unpleasant (Macmillan Dictionary, 2019) - in this meaning the information about of the Object Y1 to be protected and the Threat Y2 is emphasized.
Thus, it is impossible to say that these are the individual meanings. They are one and the same meaning presented in different variants. The individual meanings of the verb
The reverse process is observed when while naming the situation certain denotative situation characteristics that require the use of the other verb with protection meaning are focused. Whereas the verb
In this sentence the Subject X (
The prototypical meaning of the verb
In this sentence the change of actant relations is observed. In case the protection semantics isn’t eliminated it becomes a part of presupposition. Benefactive relationship come to the fore: the Subject X (
Thus, the prototypical meaning of the verb
In the semantics of the verb
In this sentence the Subject X (
Thus, such a standard process as focusing on various aspects of a denotative situation can become a source of meaning variability within one meaning of the verb, the introduction of connotations of one verb or “require” the use of the other verb from the “protection” lexico-seamantic group. The differential information of the verbs
The most obvious example of meaning modulation of the verb is the ingress of a verb into the causative construction. The syntactic structure of this construction is closely correlated with a causative situation. Sentences with causative verbs are a common way of representing a causative situation in the language. Causative verbs differ from non-causative transitive verbs at a deep semantic level, their actants are not the subject and an object, but the subject of causation (S1) - the antagonist and the subject of the causable state or action (S2) - the agonist (Apresyan, 1974). Schematically it can be shown as:
V + (S1,S2), where S1 is the subject of causation, S2 is the subject or an object of the causable state or action, and V is the predicate with the semantics of causation, expressed by the transitional so-called "auxiliary" verb, and aimed at changing the state or action of S2. For example:
Let us consider the standard language processes in different types of causative constructions. Modern researchers distinguish several types of the causative construction in English:
1. Analytical type.
Analytical causative constructions contain two separate lexical elements corresponding to two events of the causal situation. The first lexical element is a linking (auxiliary) verb (let, make, have, get) that expresses the reason why the subject performs a certain action or process, for example:
Causative constructions are the most frequent in advertising texts. Let us consider the analytical causative constructions in the advertising text of the products of
In the formation of such analytical constructions, the prototypical meaning of the full lexical verb is transformed under the following process: the focus is on the subject's intention and expression of the will is manifested. Lexically meaningful prototypical meaning of these verbs is eliminated or becomes presupposed. The expression of the will is presented in the form of permissiveness
2. Lexical type.
The main expressions of the lexical type of causative constructions are words and derivational affix morphemes. Words that express the causation structurally can be:
a) the causative words which are formed with the help of suffixes -en, -ize, -(i)fy –ate. For example: 11. The gusto of her favour
b) causative words which are formed with the help of using the prefixes dis-, un-, em-, en, for example: embelish, unbutton, discolour, discourage, enslave, enliven, encourage: 14. And although she knew he talked to
The difference between the lexical way of expressing causation and analytical type is that the prototypical meaning of the verbs in the lexical type remains, only the addition seme of causation is added, thus focusing the attention on the causational aspect of the denotative situation.
In a real use of language, the position of S1 and S2 may change. For example, in sentence 16. Mary stared at the corpse in disgust, the position of the subject of causation changes, as the corpse will be the subject that causes the subject Mary to stare. This can be proved by tests (Shabanova et al., 2015). For example, at the initial stage of the predicate it is impossible to say *Stare at the corpse in disgust!, but we can say Don't stare at the corpse in disgust! Since the imperative construction is a test for the controllability of the action on the part of the subject, it proves that the causative subject of the action is the object the corpse, but not the subject Mary, i.e. the quality of the object the corpse causes the process stare.
The following sentence is a vivid example of acquisition of causative semantics of a non-causative verb: 17. He started him into action. Non-causative verb stare gets into the causative construction in this sentence and confers a causative meaning due to the quality of view (power of sight, tension, intensity) which are understood in the aspect of causation due to the vivid result (action). The semantic core of the whole causative construction is the second proposition (him into action). In this case, the verb stare can be considered as a contextual synonym of causative verbs make, get, have.
Thus the appearance of causative meaning in non-causative verbs is considered a standard linguistic process of transforming of non-causative verbs into contextually causative ones under the influence of focusing on a causational aspect of the situation while getting into the causative construction.
Thus, the study of modulation in the meaning of verbs of different lexico-semantic groups shows that the semantic modulations are based on system standard language processes:
changing of the type of space, the elimination of the semantics of physical space and emergence of the functional relations;
abstraction of the denotate of the predicate from the time axis, shifting from a specific one-phase action in the prototypical meaning to different types of heterogeneous predicates as a result of abstraction from the time axis;
-focusing on various aspects of a denotative situation can become a source of meaning variability within one meaning of the verb;
modulation in the relations between actants;
acquisition of new meaning due to getting into a different lexical and semantic structure (semantic type of the predicate, various types of semantic and syntactic structures).
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15 November 2020
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Shabanova, T., Dautova, A., Garaeva, I., & Saubanova, L. (2020). Processes That Underlie Modulation Of English Verb Meaning. In & I. Murzina (Ed.), Humanistic Practice in Education in a Postmodern Age, vol 93. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1139-1148). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.11.118