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Semantic-role prominence is contingent on referent prominence in discourse: Experimental evidence from impersonals and passives in Polish

  • The present paper reports two acceptability-rating experiments and a supporting corpus study for Polish that tested the acceptability and frequency of five verb classes (WATCH, SEE, HATE, KNOW, EXHIBIT), entailing different sets of agentivity features, in different syntactic constructions: a) the personal passive (e.g. zachód słońca był oglądany ‘the sunset was watched’), b) the impersonal -no/-to construction (e.g. oglądano zachód słońca ‘people/they/one watched the sunset’), and c) the personal active construction (e.g. niektórzy oglądali zachód słońca ‘some (people) watched the sunset’). We asked whether acceptability ratings would show identical acceptability clines across constructions affected by agentivity, as predicted from Dowty’s (1991) prototype account of semantic roles with feature accumulation as its central mechanism, or whether clines would vary depending on syntactic construction, as predicted from Himmelmann & Primus’ (2015) prominence account that uses feature weighting to describe role-related effects. In contrasting the applicability of these two accounts, we also investigated whether previous research findings from German replicate in Polish, thereby revealing cross-linguistic stability or variation. Our results show that the five verb classes yield different acceptability clines in all three Polish constructions and that the clines for Polish and German passives show cross-linguistic variation. This pattern cannot be explained by role prototypicality, so that the experiments provide further evidence for the prominence account of role-related effects in sentence interpretation. Moreover, our data suggest that experiencer verbs interact differently with the animacy of the subject referent, yielding different results for perception verbs (SEE), emotion verbs (HATE), and cognition verbs (KNOW).

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Author:Franziska KretzschmarORCiDGND, Maria Katarzyna PrennerORCiD, Beatrice PrimusORCiDGND, Daniel BunčićORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):Glossa: a journal of general linguistics
Publisher:Open Library of Humanities
Place of publication:London
Document Type:Article
Year of first Publication:2022
Date of Publication (online):2022/03/15
Publishing Institution:Leibniz-Institut für Deutsche Sprache (IDS)
Tag:acceptability judgements; agent prominence; agentivity; patientivity; sentience; volition
GND Keyword:Agens; Korpus <Linguistik>; Patiens; Polnisch; Verb
Page Number:44
First Page:1
Last Page:44
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 400 Sprache, Linguistik
Open Access?:ja
Leibniz-Classification:Sprache, Linguistik
Linguistics-Classification:Kontrastive Linguistik
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International