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Title: The semantic typology of pluractionality
Authors: Wood, Esther
Keywords: Pluractionality
Issue Date: 2007
Publisher: University of California at Berkeley
Abstract: This study examines the linguistic expression of pluractionality (event plurality), bringing together data of several types to develop a synthesis of different perspectives - broad crosslinguistic comparison, detailed studies of individual languages, psychological findings on event perception - and builds these into an account of the semantics of event plurality. In particular, it addresses the contrast proposed by Cusic (1981) between two types of pluractional meaning: event-external (repetition of events) and event-internal (repetition within events). A crosslinguistic survey based on data from a generally and geographically balanced sample is used to identify common parameters of variation in pluractional meaning. Certain features, including particular types of events and arguments, are found to co-occur frequently with event-internal pluractional meaning, and this clustering of features is taken to support the centrality of the event-internal/event-external contrast. The contrast between these two types of pluractional meaning is argued to depend on a conceptual distinction between grouped and ungrouped pluralities, which has its basis in perception. Strong parallels can be seen between characteristics of event-internal pluractionals and characteristics favouring perceptual grouping of object and events (as identified in psychological research beginning with the early Gestalt psychologist and including more recent findings on event segmentation). The proposed conceptual distinction between grouped and ungrouped pluralities is reflected in an analysis which treats the distinction between event-internal and event-external pluractionality as parallel to that between collective and distributive interpretations of plural NPs. This is an extension of Landman's (1996,2000) analysis of collectives and distributives to events. The analysis is examined further in case studies of Yurok (Algic, Northwestern California) and chechen (Nakh-Daghestanian, Northeastern Caucasus). These studies provide detailed descriptions of the use of pluractionals in each language. The findings are largely consistent with the suggested semantics and the results of the crosslinguistic survey, and raise interesting additional questions about the relationship of pluractionality to intensification, habituality and imperfective aspect. This study supports the value of bringing psychological findings to bear on certain linguistic phenomena, and the possibility of making semantic generalisation based on grammatical descriptions of a large number of languages which can then be refined through detailed fieldwork.
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