Semantics circle: Diachrony of an English posture verb

Vortragende(r)Katie Fraser
Institution(en) (UPV/EHU)
Datum 27.02.2020
Uhrzeit 15:00 Uhr
Ort4. Etage, Raum 403 (Seminarraum)


Lexical items which change their meaning and function over time are often connected to the spatial domain: ‘come’ and  ‘go’ are cross-linguistically attested to be used as future markers, posture verbs as progressive ones (Heine, Claudi, Hünnemeyer 1991). To varying degrees in West Germanic languages, posture verbs have developed from their literal posture use to a locational non-posture-entailing use to this progressive aspect marker (e.g., Lødrup 2002 on Norwegian; Breed 2017 on Afrikaans). In English, however, only the first two stages of change have been realised. While there has been some work in the cognitive linguistics literature on the locational, non-posture-entailing use of posture verbs (see especially Newman 2002, Lemmens 2002), as far as I know there is no theoretical literature on this use.

Based on data from the Corpus of Historical American English (Davies), I will discuss in this talk the increase in the locational, non-posture-entailing uses of the English posture verb sit. I will present the preliminary findings of that search where I compare the (static state, i.e., not sat up) instances of posture-entailing (1a) and non-posture-entailing (1b) sit.

(1) a. The man was sitting on the chair.
b. The pillow was sitting on the chair.

To account for these (and other) findings, I will also sketch an analysis for how the non-posture-entailing uses could arise. I will evaluate reanalysis (Eckardt 2006), including whether a “General Invited Inference” (Traugott & Dasher 2002) plays a role, as a possible account for this semantic change. Time-permitting, I will talk about the synchronic picture of English posture verbs.