Seminar Series: Lexical Aspect, Word Categories, and Argument Realization

John Beavers

University of Texas at Austin

Wednesday, October 4, 2023
1:30 p.m.–3 p.m.

Gamble Room, Rush Rhees Library

This seminar series will take place on three days: October 4, 11, 18, 2023 at 1:30pm. In this seminar I explore some issues in theories of the lexical aspect of change of state expressions, including the semantic ingredients needed for such a theory and how lexical aspect relates to grammar. Each week I'll focus on a different ongoing project that touches on various boundary cases of such a theory. I assume a framework that treats change of state as scalar in nature: change is modeled as holding different degrees of some property along a scale of such degrees as the event progresses (Hay et al. 19991, Kennedy and Levin 2008). The aspectual properties of scalar predicates are derived from incremental relationships between the event and the scale of change as well as the mereological properties of the object (Beavers 2012). One case study will explore the verb classes that show middle voice in English, and how they point to a theory of degrees of affectedness (qua how much change something undergoes in an event) that has far more categories than previous approaches have typically assumed. Another case study will explore how verb meanings are related to their corresponding adjectives and how much scalar information is shared by the shared morphological root and how much comes from how the two categories are built. I'll suggest that nearly all aspects of the scalar semantics of adjectives and verbs comes from the shared root. The lexical category simply determines whether degrees on the scale are being compared across times (for verbs) or at a single time (for adjectives). Finally, I'll present a very tentative exploration of what happens when change-of-state verbs describe changes that are not temporal in nature, such as change along a spatial region or across a population of individuals. Building on Gawron (2006) and Koontz-Garboden (2010), I'll suggest that such changes are still the same sort one finds with temporal change, with the only difference being the axis along which change occurs. The aspectual properties of such verb uses the same as with temporal change (Beavers 2011), with any apparent differences instead to do with pragmatics, and not deeper lexical semantic differences.