Utrecht Theoretical Linguistics


12 December 2022
11:00 - 12:00
Trans 10, 0.19, online

ELITU Talk: Imke Kruitwagen

Imke Kruitwagen (Utrecht) will give a talk on December 12, with the title Alternate categorization: a formal-conceptual semantics of reciprocal alternations

All invited!


In this talk, we present an experimental study that investigates how the different forms of a reciprocal verbs are connected to each other. Reciprocal verbs as hugfight and collide alternate between a unary collective form (1), a “with” form (2) and a binary form (3):

  1. Wendy and Pete are fighting.
  2. Wendy fights with Pete.
  3. Pete fights against Wendy.

Currently, there is no general account of the semantic relations between these forms. In this talk, we present a threshold-based model of those relations and discuss experimental data that allow us to evaluate the model. For instance, our model predicts – in contrast to the dominant view in the literature – that if (2) is true, it is not necessarily the case that (3) is true as well. We conducted a series of experiments in which participants were asked to give truth-value judgements on sentences with either a unary, “with” or binary form of a reciprocal verb, all combined with non-symmetric situations. We tested the Dutch verbs knuffelen ‘hug’, vechten ‘fight’, appen ‘text’, botsen ‘collide’ and praten ‘talk’. Our results support the threshold model, according to which the different forms of lexical reciprocals are connected to each other by shared conceptual properties, which originate in their verb roots.

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